How do you recognize a good remodeler? Responsible, professional remodelers share these good qualities:
• They return phone calls promptly.
• They arrive for appointments on time – or call in plenty of time to explain and reschedule.
• They are polite, considerate and careful around your home and furnishings.
• They have vehicles and equipment that reflect positively on their professionalism and work ethics.
• They carry contractor’s liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance if they have employees.
• They can provide references and examples of previous work.
• They will be able to give you before the job starts, a schedule of when it will start and approximately when it will end.
• They will provide written specifications and a contract that spell out the scope of work.
• They will not proceed with any work outside the contract without a written change order that includes a description of the changes, the cost, and the impact of the changes on the schedule.
• Their contract should include a procedure to resolve disputes between the owner and the contractor.
So, where do you find someone like that? Your friends and neighbors are your best resource. Try to find homeowners whose projects were similar to yours. Most homeowners are more than happy to recommend a remodeler that did a good job for them. And they are also happy to warn you about contractors that they would not hire again, and why! Ask specific questions: Did the remodeler show up on time and complete the job at the agreed-upon price? Was there a problem that needed correcting and did it get done in a timely manner? Was the workmanship satisfactory? Did the contractor honor the warranty? For how long and how quickly did they respond?
For more recommendations, call the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of New Hampshire (603-228-0351) or the one in your area. Ask for a list of members in your area. Association membership, while not a guarantee, is an indicator that the remodeler is a serious professional. Lumberyards, real estate agents, interior decorators and bankers are other sources to contact for recommendations.
Choose several remodelers and make appointments to discuss your project. The conventional, but flawed, wisdom is to get at least threes bids or estimates. We think that this method for choosing a contractor almost always backfires. In fact, a big difference between bids usually means that one of the bidders has misunderstood something important or made a major mathematical error. Choosing a contractor with a very low bid is just asking for trouble down the road and may lead to an unsuccessful, premature conclusion of your project. I’ll write more about this in another post.
Many established contractors, including a large percentage of design/build firms, don’t bid on jobs at all. Why not? Preparing a detailed bid takes many, many hours of unpaid work, not only for the contractor, but for all of the subcontractors as well. The companies that you would like to construct your project, the ones with the great references and high standards, are almost never the low bidders. Sometimes, you really do get what you pay for! These contractors generally provide ballpark estimates, then negotiate an agreement after the design has been completed.
In the final analysis, choose a remodeler that you feel comfortable with and can trust. You will have a long term relationship with this firm, so make sure that they will pay attention to your concerns and respond to your personal style.