Do Your Research
Before you even start talking to individual contractors, you should do your research behind the scenes. Use the internet to your advantage and see what others have to say about specific contractors. Use reputable sites, such as the Better Business Bureau to do this research so that you know what you are reading is legitimate.
Ask for Credentials
When you do start talking to contractors and determining if they will be a good fit for the job, ask for their credentials. It’s not enough for them to say they are licensed and insured, though. Ask them for proof of both. You want to see for yourself that they have the credentials necessary to do the job. Anyone can hang a shingle outside their home and claim they are a contractor, but only those that are truly contractors will be licensed and insured.
Get Everything in Writing
Don’t accept verbal estimates or promises to do the work. Everything must be in writing. You need a formal contract that dictates the scope of the work, how it will be done, when it will be done, and what it costs.
Make sure your contract is properly broken down and doesn’t have just one lump sum fee listed. You need to know exactly how much each step costs and the approximate dates each step will be completed. If you don’t have it in writing, don’t expect it to be done. You can’t take a contractor to court on the basis that he told you something – if it’s in writing, though, it’s another story.
Talk About Your Budget
Don’t be shy about talking to contractors about your budget. The more honest you are upfront about what you can afford the more honest answers the contractor can provide you. If a contractor knows that your budget isn’t enough to cover the scope of the work you want done, he/she can tell you that.
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If you don’t disclose your budget though, you could find yourself in over your head once the project starts. Letting the contractor know what you are working with will help him tailor his services to meet your budget. While you may have to cut out some things you wanted done, keeping it within your budget is the most important way to protect yourself financially.
Have a Contingency Fund
Even the best contractor cannot predict what will happen when he starts the job. If there are issues behind the walls, the contractor won’t know that until he breaks the walls down. If there’s more work that needs to be done, that means more money. If you set aside 10% – 15% of the cost of the work ahead of time, you can prevent yourself from getting financially overwhelmed when unexpected things do come up.
Don’t Pay Large Deposits up Front
If a contractor seems to be ‘all about the money,’ you may want to move onto another contractor. Typically, contractors will ask for a small deposit to ensure that you want the work done and to help them get the materials. Beyond that small deposit, though, contractors shouldn’t ask for too much upfront.
If you find a contractor that wants half or even all of the cost of the work up front, walk the other way. These are usually scams. The contractors collect the funds and then leave town, never starting the work or ordering the materials for your project.
Consult With an Attorney
If you are having a large job done on your home, it’s not a bad idea to have an attorney look over your contract. While it’s another expense you’ll incur, it’s meant to protect you. The attorney can review the contract and let you know if he sees any issues or loopholes that could leave you with an unpleasant surprise when it’s all done.
Take these tips to help protect you from a contractor that isn’t honest or doesn’t offer the quality work he claims to offer. The more steps you take to protect yourself, the happier you may be with the outcome of the renovations on your home.