Hiring a contractor can help turn your remodeling vision into reality, whether it's a new cedar deck or an upgraded, contemporary kitchen. Agreeing on a contract with your contractor and keeping communication open during the project, however, can be just as important as the materials you choose and the money you decide to spend. When working with a local contractor, make sure you keep the following advice firmly in mind.
Contractors can make a world of difference during a remodeling project. According to a survey by the National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA), 75 percent of over 700 homeowners were satisfied with the job the contractors completed. 85 percent said the contractor minimized any inconveniences to the homeowner.
Home remodeling is a big investment. Kitchen remodels can easily creep upwards to $100,000 or more and bathrooms can see high-end remodels reach over $20,000. No matter the size of your budget, ensuring the success of your investment should be a major priority. Seeing your investment blossom from inception to completion is easy by being active in the process. Setting up a good business relationship with a contractor is one of the major components of this process.
It's important to remember that your relationship with your contractor is a business relationship. Even if your contractor is a friend, or a friend of a friend, you are paying him or her to complete a project on your home. Because money and services are involved, a contract is vital and important piece of the project.
Think carefully about ideal contract terms prior to hiring a contractor. That means looking at example contracts or speaking to your local contractors' board. When you are ready to initiate your contract, here are a few tips to consider:
• Clarity Is Quality: Being clear about the nature of the work you would like done is essential to remodeling success. In a 2006 survey by the Opinion Research group, 40 percent of homeowners reported faulty workmanship as their number one complaint. Be clear about the type and quality of work you expect in your contract to ensure the job is done correctly and protect your investment if it isn't.
• Document Any Changes: Real estate
and construction attorneys recommend that any changes to the
initial plan be agreed upon in writing. Doing so can offer
protection to both the contractor and the homeowner.
• Protect Yourself: If you pay a contractor more than $2,500, you can become liable in some cases if the contractor fails to pay his or her suppliers or subcontractors. A "release lien" is an important part of a contract that releases you from this liability.
Once your contract is in place, the next step is practicing good communication in order to keep a home remodeling project running smoothly. The NACAA survey reported that 85 percent of contractors were polite, but that only 77 percent of homeowners felt they were kept informed of progress along the way. To ensure that you "stay in the loop" during your home improvement project, consider these three tips:
• Check In: Talking to your contractor each day he or she is at your home is never a bad idea. If you do not live at the job site, suggest a daily or weekly email or phone call with a summary of their project progress.
• Be Accessible: Make sure your contractor has your home number, cellphone number, and email address, so you can be reached at all times.
• Don't Be Shy: The worst thing a homeowner can do during a home remodeling project is not speak up when they have an issue. Don't be afraid to ask questions, voice concerns, or cite your contract and call out specific items.
Being honest with your contractor, communicating about the
contract along the way, and encouraging the contractor to do the
same are important to making sure your project runs smoothly from
start to finish.
These are just a few of our tips on finding and working with the right local contractor. Check out our other resources on working with contractors, or if you're ready to start a project, request free estimates from contractors in your area.
About the Author
Joe Cooper writes home services and design articles and manages corporate communications. He holds a bachelor's in American Literature from UCLA.
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