by Rik Goodell
Given the elusive market conditions (by “elusive” I mean that no one, including me, really seems to be able to decide what to call it) many owners are likely to be remaining owners – rather than sellers – for the time being. Owners that need more space or a better space, may be remodeling. Check the stats; when sales slump, remodeling contractors are often getting busier.
The “war stories” about lousy contractor’s are way too many … and not all the fault of the contractor. Let’s start a discussion about wisely selecting the right contractor for your job.
Once you’ve got your project defined clearly (see July posting: “First Step to Remodeling”) you’ll begin interviewing the contractors; that’s what this is by the way, an interview – and it’s a lot of work. If you’re not willing to do the research, hire a remodeling coach to assist with the preliminary chaff and wheat separation. Ask significant questions such as: How long have they personally been licensed? How long have they been in the building trades? What do they consider their strengths to be? Do they use the same subcontractors regularly? How many workmen do they employ? How long has the foreman been with the company? Does the contractor actually work on the project daily himself? Where do they get their supplies?
There aren’t necessarily good and bad answers to these questions but you will get a sense of their experience, manner and comfort with the tasks at hand. Moreover, you will get a perception as to whether or not you like this person. Can you both communicate well with one another? Are you comfortable with his or her style of presentation? The bottom line question, ultimately, is the one you ask yourself: “Is this a person I will be comfortable having in my home in my absence?” The answer to that one, one way or the other, cannot be ignored.
Once you have narrowed the field, go online [http://www2.cslb.ca.gov/CSLB_LIBRARY/license+request.asp ] to the Contractor’s State License Board and check out the finalists. You will need the license number to do this and you’ll want to confirm the license, bond and workmen’s comp status. If you checked mine, for example, you’d get a big red flag because it would say, “This license is inactive and not able to contract at this time”. You may also be able to get complaint info but access is limited by law.
The last hurdle is to get a list of references and speak with some former customers. Go and look at the work the contractor did for them (remember, I said this is work). Every business-person is going to have some folks out there who’ll have some unpleasant things to say about them so try to listen between the lines and identify what the real problem was. If you have decided this is a contractor you really feel comfortable with, and a former customer talks about displeasure in how much the job cost, maybe the customer was continually changing the plans and specifications for the job and the cost overrun was justified. Think about it.
Be fair and reasonable and open and honest in dealing with your selected contractor so you can reasonably expect that kind of treatment in return. This policy just happens to also be the most likely way to bring your construction dreams into excellent reality.
Next: Avoiding Poor Workmanship
–“First Step to Remodeling” [theFrontSteps]