Once you have a short list of people to contact, how do you choose the right one? As always, there are a number of factors to consider:
It is best to choose someone that has completed similar projects to yours, hopefully with several years of experience doing so. You also want to make sure your architect is familiar with local city codes and building permit requirements. Does the architect have a track record of getting approved building permits in your city without a large number of required changes? Also if green building practices are important to you, find out how much experience the person has with green building design and construction.
Price is often the driving factor, though you must be careful not to select on price alone. Price can also be very difficult to compare. Depending on the scope of your project, you may get bids that each include different things or are based on different assumptions. See how to compare bids. In addition, some contractors have a pattern of escalating costs during the remodeling process through change orders. Find out how often this person tends to go over budget, and what the factors are.
It’s not a cliché that there is often a trade-off between price and quality. You want to be sure that the person you select will deliver the quality results you are looking for.
Make sure this person has a legitimate state contractor license. Also check how long this person has been in business under the current business name, looking for at least a few years of track record. You can find this information on the website for your Contractors State License Board. Ask the contractor the name of his insurance carrier and contact them to validate active liability and worker’s comp insurance coverage.
The longer your project takes, the more it will cost you in terms of inconvenience, expenses or both. Find out how long the work is estimated to take. You also want to evaluate if the person you choose has a track record of delivering results on schedule.
For a large scale project you will spend many hours speaking with your contractor on the phone, meeting in person, and exchanging possibly hundreds of emails. It may seem hard to imagine up front, but effective communication is critical to the success of your project. Make sure the person you hire is one that you feel you can communicate with well.
Dependability & Honesty
One of the most important qualities to look for is if you feel like you can trust this person. They will have the fate of your home in their hands, and you need to know they are working towards your best interests. Also when hiring a general contractor, find out how often then will be at your job site. General contractors often manage many large projects at a time. If a foreman will be designated as the primary day-to-day management on site, request to meet that person as well.
For those of you who have hired people in your professional life, you know that it is sometimes impossible to know what the person will truly be like until you see them on the job. As with new hires, careful screening of your remodeling professionals is a critical step in the selection process. For a list of questions to ask your contractor candidates about these items, check out our interview questions.