Planning to hire a contractor for a significant project? Here are some tips to finding the right one.
1. Ask friends and family. The best referrals usually come from satisfied people you trust. Ask around.
2. Ask questions over the phone, via email, check out their website. Here are some questions to ask your list of prospective contractors.
- Are they taking on projects of your size?
- Will they provide a list of references from clients, subcontractors, suppliers?
- How many projects would they be working on at the same time as yours?
- How long have they worked with their suppliers and subcontractors?
3. Meet top candidates in person. Choose top contenders to meet in person and verify references, check Better Business Bureau.
4. Check out past and current projects. Check out their portfolio of past projects (hopefully you can find it online), contact former clients to find out how their project went and see top comparable projects for yourself, if possible. Visit job sites of current projects and talk to those clients.
5. Make plans and get bids. Conscientious contractors will ask for project plans and expectations, including budget. Ask for breakdowns of cost of materials, labor and profit margin, keeping in mind that the lowest bid isn't necessarily the best bid. Expect about 40% of the cost to be matierals, 15-20% overhead and profit margin.
6. Set a payment schedule. A payment schedule is a good way keep your project on schedule. Expect to pay 10% to get started on a large project, three 25% payments spaced evenly over the project, and the final 15% paid once the work is completed to your satisfaction.
7. Don't go by price alone. Most pros suggest eliminating the lowest bid, which can be a sign of cutting corners. Trust your gut and go with the one you like best… you will be working closely together on something you may be living with for a long time.
8. Put together a written contract. Having everything in writing helps manage expectations on both sides. Have a aprojected start and completion date, specific products and materials to be used. Require lien waivers to protect you in case the contractor doesn't pay suppliers or subcontractors.
9. Watch out for change orders. Be aware that variations in agreed upon plans have the potential to increase price and extend the closing date.