5 Things to Know Before Hiring a Building Contractor
Thinking about hiring a contractor usually sends uncomfortable chills up your spine. So much can go wrong – and we’ve all heard stories about how prices can skyrocket and/or the hired contractor disappears before the job is done. So much can happen that it’s imperative you know what you’re doing before letting a contractor “fix up” your world.
It used to be that anyone can tag a metal sign on the side of his truck, print up some business cards and pass himself off as a “contractor.” He may also have a good or expensive ad that you see and assume that he does quality work. Unless you dig deep to find out the credentials and integrity of the contractor, you might have a disaster on your hands.
The best way to find a reputable contractor is through friends, co-workers and neighbours. If your neighbour is having a job done such as renovations or repairs, make it a point to go over and chat with one of the workers or the contractor. You can also chat with the neighbour about how pleased they are with the job, both during and after the work.
Other than great references from those you know, here are five tips you may want to know about before you proceed with a home improvement job that can cost you a ton if it goes wrong.
- Know exactly what you want. You’re the only one who can accurately convey to the prospective house builder what the scope of your job will be. Spend time assessing the project, write down or print out pictures of what it will look like when finished.
Always specify the grade of features you require – such as brand names for appliances or the specific type of floor covering you’re expecting. Then, when you get an itemised quote, everything you specified should be addressed.
If you don’t have any clue about how to proceed with a design idea or to convey your desires, it may be a good idea to meet with a design consultant to lead you in a direction that will be clear for the contractor to follow.
- License and Insurance. All professional contractors should be licensed and insured — and should provide proof of both.
- The contractor should be up-to-date on his public liability insurance. If not, delete them from your list quickly and decisively. For Master Builders, they are required to carry this form of insurance so be sure to check it out. Also look for building forms that are members of the Master Builders Association.
You can think of their honesty and business integrity as suspect if the contractor can’t provide proof of both license and insurance. And, you may be held responsible if one of the workers is hurt on your property and the contractor has no insurance.
- Get several bids. Most people consider that three bids are the minimum amount to seeking a good contractor, but more is better in this case. Six bids will definitely show you a pattern about the difference in contractors and the way they quote and do business.
You’ll get to know a lot about the contractor by the way the bids are presented, including how professional he is, the quality of work that varies from contractor to contractor and the rates.
You may be tempted to go with the bargain price for the work needed, but the work may be questionable. A higher bid might indicate higher quality work, but not necessarily. Also look for a contract that has fixed prices. Many firms will bid low to get the job and then add on lots of other costs during the project. Make sure that any additional costs are agreed by you in writing before the builder commits to them.
- Investigate before signing a contract. Put on your detective hat before hiring a contractor to come on your property and start making extensive changes. Be sure you know and have seen the company name, address and have seen the license and insurance information.
If the contractor has references to offer, be sure you check out their work habits and work history. How long has he been in business and were the jobs he did satisfactory to the client?
Their customer services should have been professional up to this point too. Were your phone calls returned promptly and appointments met? Do the contractor and workers look professional? Pay attention to the details.
- Receive an itemised quote. Without that document, you’re in dark about what the contractor will do. You also won’t have a clear understanding of the prices involved in materials and labour.
An itemised quote means that the contractor will have less chance of “padding” the quote with unnecessary expenses and sky-high material and labour costs.
A building contractor’s reputation is their best form of advertisement. You can either use friends and other people you know to check him out or look at online. There are some rating sites but they might also get reviews posted about them too.
After reading all of this you may be a bit nervous about hiring a building company but if you follow those guidelines you should be able to find good house builders in Auckland quite easily. Be sure to include Repair & Restore on your short-list. They have some great references from some well known clients.