Are you about to start a new home building or remodeling project? If so, you you will likely be hiring at least one contractor during the process. There are many excellent contractors to choose; unfortunately, there are also some out there who are not qualified. Would you allow just anyone to work in your home? Is the lowest price always the best choice? Are you protected? Are they insured? Do you need a permit? Do they have the experience? Is there a guarantee or warranty? There are many questions to ask.
To protect yourself and ensure an enjoyable house construction experience, here are 10 questions to ask when hiring a general contractor.
1. Do you have references?
Seek references from colleagues who have had similar, house plans, renovations or building projects. Business associations, building and renovator organizations and the Internet are other sources for names.
Get two or three recent references and call them. Don’t trust photos the contractor brings as your only source of information.
2. Are you licensed in this state?
Certain cities require a contractor license. If the contractor doesn’t have one, the municipality can shut them down, leaving you mid-project with no contractor. If the contractor does not carry license, then the liability rests on the homeowner. That means you are responsible for your own home, all those working on the home and even the adjacent homes.
3. Are you insured for damages and workman injuries?
To ensure that you won’t be held liable for any injuries or damages that occur during your project, it is essential that your contractor has worker’s compensation, personal liability, and property damage coverage. Make sure their certificates are current.
4. Can you see samples of their work?
A competent contractor will have a portfolio of previous jobs, some of which may be similar to your project or other home plans. Ask to see those house designs – it can give you an understanding of their level of expertise in the type of changes you’d like to make to your home.
5. Have you operated under a different company name
Sometimes businesses grow and change their names. Other times they go bankrupt. If a company has operated under another name, be sure to find out why.
6. Have you ever declared bankruptcy?
This is an indicator of how well the contractor ran previous business. Use at your discretion.
7. Are there any past or pending judgments against you?
If a contractor is or was in a lawsuit, try to find out why and what the outcome was. Being involved in any lawsuit, however, could be a possible warning sign.
8. How much are your fees?
A trustworthy contractor will not ask for payment in full upfront, but he should create a payment schedule aligned with the production schedule. They should also be willing to negotiate the details. They will also have no problem handling change orders, or changes to the original plan, and will communicate with you continuously throughout your contract.
9. How long will this take?
An experienced contractor will have a system in place to create a timeline, specific to your job, that provides a sequence of construction and realistic, estimated completion date before work begins.
10. Can you see a sample contract to make sure costs and timing is clearly stated?
A written agreement greatly improves your odds of success when working with a general contractor. Never start work until you have a complete agreement signed by your general contractor. Make sure that the costs and time frame is clearly stipulated in the contract.
Asking these 10 questions when entering into a relationship with a general contractor will help you make a smart, informed decision. A little bit of effort up front, and lots of planning early on will reap countless benefits throughout this exciting time.