Selecting A Remodeler

Home Selecting A Remodeler

Selecting A Remodeler

Make sure you are informed when you select a contractor! But how do you really know if they’re honest or qualified? What questions do you ask? Unfortunately, many homeowners are flying blind because they don’t know the right questions to ask a contractor.

Here are a few examples:

  1. Best Places to Look for Contractors

    Ask… friends, work associates or fellow church, club or homeowner association members for recommendations.

    Contact… a well-known local or reputable national referral organization, such as

    Check… with the closest Chamber of Commerce

    Ask… the state chapters or national headquarters of professional trade associations for candidates, such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), or Remodelers Council.

    Don’t… assume that a company with a big display ad in the Yellow Pages is qualified or reputable.

    Be Skeptical… of any company that telemarkets or knocks on your door claiming to be “doing work in your neighborhood

  2. Why Check References? To Avert Catastrophe!

    Before hiring a contracting company, checking its references thoroughly is the single Smartest thing you can do to protect yourself. It’s time-consuming but not difficult. And it could prevent a catastrophe. The chances of recovering a dime of money lost to a fraudulent, abusive or incompetent contractor through a lawsuit or criminal action are slim-to-none. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of hard-earned money could be saved if every homeowner took this important step.

    Too busy to check references yourself? No problem! That’s why Smart Consumer Services created the Contractor Reference Check & Report. Surprisingly, if you ask, most reputable contractors are actually happy to deduct the $49.95 for the Reference Check from your contract. So, there’s no excuse NOT to be a better informed, Smart Consumer. But if you’re ready to tackle your own Reference Check, follow these steps carefully.

  3. Reference Check Roadmap

    Road Rules. Make your FIRST call to the office of your State Attorney General for free Consumer Protection information about hiring remodeling contractors or home builders. All states offer this info. It should tell you about state licensing requirements or if any additional local city or county licenses, insurance or bonding is required. (If required, a company must have them to be in business.) In addition, find out what your local recourse or consumer complaint office may be. Start a phone number, web address and e-mail file of everyone you speak to during this process.

    Next Stop, the BBB. Your second call should be to the closest Better Business Bureau or Consumer Affairs office to determine if there have been any complaints filed against the contracting company, or in the name of the owner or a principal.

    Your License, Please. Next, contact the various licensing entities (they may be city, county and/or State) to confirm that your prospective contracting company has an up-to-date license.

    Bogus ID? If the company paperwork or advertising ads or materials include the logo of a national organization, such as NARI or NAHB… sure to confirm with those organizations that the contractor is still a member. It is NOT an uncommon trick for a company to claim on-going affiliation with a reputable organization when it is no longer a member in good standing.

    Proof of Insurance. You’ll need to get a copy of the company’s most current liability policy. Be sure to check the dates; amount and name of the insured to be certain that it isn’t out-of-date or in the name of someone else, which would render it ineffective in the event someone was injured during the project. Look closely to see that the same name appears on the policy as the owner or principal or company name. Close doesn’t count. A family member’s name isn’t good enough unless they own the company. Pay close attention to this detail! Name switching is a stunt pulled by companies in trouble.

    If the company has any employees you need to get a current copy of their Workers Compensation insurance form. Ask for the agent’s name & contact info if you have any doubts.

    Customers Enjoyed the Ride? Get a list of at least four previous customers from the company whose jobs are at least one year old and be sure to call all of them, to find out: How the job is holding up; how the company performed (were there any job interruptions; did they return calls promptly; did they clean up daily; were there any problems with unfinished work or call-backs? Any warranty problems?

    Are the Bills Paid? Ask the contractor for at least two commercial supplier references. Call the Accounts Receivable department. Ask how long the company has held an account, and whether or not it pays its bills on time. Any payment irregularities suggest that the company has made artificially low bids in the past… a definite red flag.

  4. How to Compare Bids

    Pick from the Same Menu. Make sure that all bids you accept for the project will be apples-to-apples and not apples-to-oranges. Decide exactly what quality level of paints and finishes and brand/model appliances you want, first, so that everyone is bidding on the same specifications. That way you’ll be making an informed decision and negotiating with greater strength.

    Dodge the “Low Ball.” Be skeptical of low bids. Unusually low bids are tempting but dangerous. “Low-ball” bids can be a warning sign that the contractor is in financial difficulty, and is desperate to get your deposit money in order to complete a previous job. (See Commercial References above)

  5. Get ALL Contracts Reviewed

    Smart Consumer Services urges homeowners to have all of their legal agreements, including the remodeling or repair agreement, reviewed by an attorney prior to signing. In addition, Smart Consumer Services offers the Contract Advocacy Review, a low-cost, in-depth review & report for clarity and fairness, made prior to signing the estimate or proposal.

    All too often, both homeowner and contractor are so anxious to get started that they forget to ask each other important questions, or fail to to put details into writing. Once the project’s underway, those missing details can cause confusion or create major conflicts. The Contract Advocacy Review helps to ensure that everyone’s questions are answered BEFORE the job begins, so you can avoid nasty surprises later.

    Most reputable contracting companies are happy to deduct the cost of the Advocacy Review ($49.95) from a homeowners contract total, if asked, because they know that an informed customer is a happy customer. That’s the company’s best source of future business: a positive referral.

Let’s Work Together.