Your Contractor Wants You To Find Him/Her!

Your contractor is just a phone call away!

The best way to find your contractor is referrals — from neighbors, friends, family, or business associates.  These are your best resources, especially people who’ve remodeled recently.  You can also get referrals from the showrooms you’ve visited.  Don’t rely on advertisements.  They can be misleading.  You’ll be better off to contact your local professional remodeling organizations (NAHB, NARI, or NKBA) for several names and phone numbers.  Most local building departments will not refer contractors. It’s a conflict of interest.

Two Warnings About Referrals:

  • Don’t hire a one-person contractor who says he/she does everything.  An unforeseen family emergency, illness or injury can ruin time projections.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for a general contractor to draw plans, manufacture cabinets, and  work on your project. Overall quality of your project will suffer.

  • Don’t hire family members or friends.  If something goes wrong, it will ruin a good relationship.

Initial Phone Conversations With Contractors

Most homeowners believe the first thing to do when they’ve decided to remodel is to have a contractor come to their home.  This is a waste of time and effort, unless the contractor that you’re calling is a design-build firm (a contractor with design employees).   Unfortunately, most homeowners also expect a detailed preliminary estimate, in writing, after a two-hour evening appointment with the contractor (and no plans).  If you’re “testing the water” to see if your proposed project is feasible, you can do it by telephone.  Call three to five contractors, no more than that. It will be hard to remember what they said (unless you took copious notes or recorded the conversation).

You don’t have to make appointments with every contractor you call, if you pre-screen the contractors on the telephone and “weed out” ones you’re not interested in hiring. The ones you meet should be ones you’d seriously consider hiring.  Begin by asking general questions, such as:

“How long have you been in business?”
“Are you licensed and bonded in this state?”
“What type of construction projects do you prefer?”
“Have you worked in our area?”
(If “yes,” ask what type of project and when)
“Are you familiar with our neighborhood?”
“Do you normally provide products, or  is it okay if we provide our own products?”
“How do you feel about architects and designers? Have you had any bad experiences?”
“Are you familiar with [name of your designer]? Have you worked with him/her before?”
“Do you have employees, or do you use the same subcontractors for  every project?”

The contractor may have questions for you about your project. The first question a general contractor will ask when you call is, “Do you have plans?” Without plans, your project is just a verbal wish for the future.  He or she will ask other questions about your project, including how much you want to invest and when you want your project finished.

Based on the “preliminary” information, ask if the contractor can (and will) give you a budget range during your phone conversation,  based on his/her experience, or if he/she wants to set an appointment.

In the second half of this article, we’ll explore what happens at the first face-to-face meeting in your home, and the logical steps until you decide to hire your contractor. Both articles are revised excerpts from “THE Survival Guide: Home Remodeling”.

“See the Possibilities. Create a Positive Difference.”

Read about Diane Plesset’s philosophy, training, and experience.

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