Secret #1: You cannot always rely on the Better Business Bureau to determine whether a contractor is qualified or not
Many people feel that if the Better Business Bureau does not have any complaints against a company, they must be a reputable firm. Unfortunately this just is not true. You cannot rely on the Better Business Bureau to determine whether you are dealing with a competent contractor. Just because a contractor has not had any complaint logged with the Better Business Bureau does not mean he is competent or that he will do a good job! All that it means is that the Better Business Bureau does not have a file on him at this time. In fact, according to a recent issue of Money Magazine, the Better Business Bureau does not do a very good job of reporting offending companies at all. So, just because a contractor does not have any complaints with the BBB you are not assured your working with someone who is reputable.
Secret #2: The company that offers you the lowest price is not necessarily the company you should hire
Here are some important points to consider:
On a low estimate, you must ask yourself what is being left out or what short cut is being taken. Be careful of choosing your remodeler based solely upon the lowest price. The price you see offered may not be for the services you want performed.
One of the most common signs of trouble ahead in your project is someone offering to do the work for much less money than other contractors or a contractor asking for large sums of money up front. This could be a tip-off that the contractor is not financially stable and that could spell trouble ahead for you.
Though price is a consideration, you should be more concerned with value, that is, getting the best contractor you can find and the highest quality work for your money.
Secret #3: Doing it yourself does not always save money
Sometimes the "weekend warrior" can undertake small projects like painting, hanging wallpaper, routine repairs, etc. But beware of undertaking larger, more complicated projects. What starts out as an attempt to save money can turn into a money pit. All too often the job is botched and it costs more to have a professional come in and fix what is been done. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, less than 20% of these do-it-yourself jobs work out. If you want to be assured your project will turn out the way you want it, call a qualified professional.
Secret #4: If a person claims to have many years of experience, it does not necessarily mean they do quality work
I cannot tell you how many people receive bad workmanship from contractors who’ve claimed to be in business or the trade for twenty years or more. Take experience claims with a grain of salt. Do not believe just because a person has twenty years’ experiences, he will do a good job. He could have done a poor job for twenty years. Investigate further to ensure you are dealing with a qualified professional.
Secret #5: Today only discounts
If a contractor ever tells you that the price is available for "today only," it’s time to show him the door. Quite often they’ll provide you a story that by signing today you’re entitled to a "model home" or "advertising discount." The story centers around the need to use your home as a model to advertise their services in the neighborhood. They mark their prices up just to give you this false discount. Don’t be fooled. This is an old trick used to pressure homeowners into making a quick decision. This is your money we are talking about! Quickly show these salesmen the door!
Secret #6: Avoid high-pressure salespeople
You should never feel pressured into making a decision about choosing your contractor. If you ever feel that a contractor or salesman is pressuring you, ask them to back off. If they persist, its time to look for another contractor. High pressure usually leads to a bad decision when remodeling. A qualified professional would never have to pressure anyone into a project.
Secret #7: Listening to the wrong people
It never ceases to amaze me how many people take advice on their construction and remodeling project from people who are totally unqualified to give this critical advice. Quite often, when I see construction messes, and I ask where they got the idea to do this or that, I inevitably hear things like:
My brother-in-law told me to do that. He used to do work like this on the side when he was a in college.
I asked the guy in the office next to mine. He did the same thing to his home when he lived in Wisconsin.
I read an article by so-and-so that said we should…
Everyone has an opinion on what you should do with your remodeling dollars. "Do it yourself" or "Hire the sub-contractors and run the project yourself," etc. Just because someone is your relative, friend, or thinks they know construction, doesn’t mean they know the answers to your remodeling questions or problems.
Secret #8: Appearance
Now that you have met the contractor, make sure he has a neat appearance.
This may sound silly but it’s not. A coat and tie are not necessary, but neatness does count in this business. During construction your home should be kept as neat and tidy as possible. So, make sure his truck is clean, he is clean and his shoes should not be caked with mud!
Secret #9: Communication
When discussing your project with a contractor make sure that you can communicate well. You are going to be involved in an important project together. You should feel that your contractor listens to your needs and ideas, answers your questions and he should be accessible. This avoids miscommunication and costly errors.
Secret #10: Completion
Will your contractor give you a reasonable estimate for how long the project will take to complete. A good contractor will do this. Remember, you want to hire a good contractor, not get a new roommate! Nothing is more frustrating and irritating than a remodel job that drags on and on.
Bonus Secret #11: Down Payment
If the contractor asks for a big chunk of money up front, this could be a tip-off that they are not in good financial shape and you could be in for a rocky experience. A fair down payment should not exceed one third, unless custom ordered items are needed in the beginning stage of construction. As the work progresses, you should expect to pay out additional funds to match the prescribed, completed stages.
By following these recommendations, you will gain all the information you need to make an informed, intelligent decision.
Larry Goins is a regular guest speaker at CT REIA. Go here for the current list of upcoming real estate investing seminars in Connecticut.