There is a lot to consider when embarking on a building or remodeling project, and a major decision is choosing a reliable contractor. There are many steps to due diligence in this department, and I can outline them all, but I find that time after time, the steps are not taken and instead the decision is made on a “gut” feeling or price.
To make it as simple as possible, let’s break your investigation into two groups of focus. Checking references is a great way to get a good feel for the contractors you are talking with, along with a gut feeling, but specific questions are key and those categories are about two very important and interconnected things, time and money. Use these two steps to collect your information.
When interviewing references and contractors, consider these questions about time:
- Does/did the contractor provide a written completion date in the agreement?
- Did the company meet the agreed-upon completion date? (If not, by how long was it missed and why — you will want specifics.)
- Was work done in a timely fashion or were there many days where nothing happened at all?
- Did the reference need to prod the contractor to keep things moving or did the contractor do a good job of scheduling?
- Did the contractor keep the client updated on a timely basis?
And these about money:
- Was the home completed per the scope of work for the contract amount? (Again, if no is the answer, you will want more specifics.)
- How many change orders were generated, and were they for omissions or things the client thought were included but in the end were not, or were they for things that were added to the scope of work?
- Were the finishes what the client anticipated and in accordance with the scope of work?
- For allowance categories, were they able to keep in budget or did they go over, and if over, by what percentage? It is common to see allowances in the range of 10 percent over if clients have not done preliminary shopping upfront.
Take time to investigate a contractor fully, but at the bare minimum, ask these direct and specific questions to help you make the right decision.