How to Get a Good Relationship With Your Contractor

How to Get a Good Relationship With Your Contractor

Clue-in your contractor for better renovation results

Taking on a new home renovation project is exciting, but can also be a tad nerve racking if you’re unsure about the details, costs, and risks involved. It’s times like these when leaning on the expertise of a reliable contractor can quell concerns and ensure you’re making the right choices to get the space you want.

Consulting with a professional early in the process – before your project even truly begins – helps you set a realistic timeframe, formulate an informed budget, and often refine your design in a way you maybe didn’t even realize possible.

Renovating homeowners are increasingly turning to professional help, with 87% hiring a pro in 2016, up from 85% in 2015. Not surprising, since a home improvement project gone wrong can severely hurt the value of your home and potentially cost you a pretty penny. But even if you love DIY and plan to do all the labor yourself, consulting with a seasoned contractor can be invaluable for gaining insights into real costs and timelines for what you hope to achieve at home.

A professional contractor can put your project on the right track, but being proactive with your hire is just as crucial to ensure success. We’ve pulled together a quick rundown on the best ways to approach a contractor about a potential project, the kinds of questions to ask, and why it’s such a crucial step in any renovation.  

Communication, Collaboration, and Contracting

First, you need to find a contractor with whom you feel you can truly collaborate. Make sure you select someone with whom you feel you can speak candidly with and even disagree with if the situation arises. That level of familiarity and comfort is essential for moving your project along effectively and avoiding miscommunications that can lead to problems and overages.

Bottom line: Open communication is at the heart of a good contracting relationship.

Finding your perfect contractor requires a bit of research and the tedious task of gathering references. On the bright side, if you take the time to find the right person now, you could potentially have a long-term partner for all future renovations and projects. BuildZoom is one easy way to source reputable contractors in your area, and it can be a great starting point for setting up interviews and discussing your potential project.

Kick things off with an initial interview. If you aren’t feeling comfortable or the communication feels stinted, that may be a sign that it’s not the right fit. Interview at least three potential contractors and try to really get a sense of their personality and their professional portfolio. Have them put together a clear bid to get insight into how they would approach your particular project.   

Early Conversations Can Save Your Cash

Once you’ve zeroed in on a few potential hires, set up an early conversation to discuss your big, (maybe unrealistic) renovation plans. Paint a clear picture of what you want, but perhaps an even clearer picture of what you don’t. Being upfront about the things you would never consider can save you time and money once the work begins. This ensures you won’t be caught off guard by an unsolicited changes that you would have never approved, and gives your prospects a comprehensive overview of what you hope to achieve.

A professional should be able to evaluate your interior dreams, provide suggestions, propose options, and maybe even turn you on to a solution you hadn’t even considered. Gathering this expertise upfront has several benefits. First and foremost, it will give you a sense of which contractor best understands your vision. It will also help you decide on what you should prioritize within your project, what elements you should forgo, and provide insight for creating a realistic budget and build time.

Ask Questions. Get References

There are a few questions to ask and protocols to follow before committing to any one contractor on a project. Firstly, ask for examples of similar work and find out if they would expect the need for subcontractors. You’ll also want to find out if they think your proposed project would require any permits or affect any building codes that could potentially determine the length and cost of your remodel.

Be sure to ask for references and actually check them. It’s easy to fall victim to blind trust, but when it comes to home renovations, you should always get another client’s honest perspective on a contractor. It’s also a good idea to confirm the types of insurance they carry and get certification that all forms are active before going any further down the process with any vendor.

Another crucial, early confirmation to secure is the contractor’s licensing status. Many states require contractors to be licensed or bonded, so be sure to inquire about your prospects’ licensing and whether that license applies for the project you’re going to undertake. This is an important element to consider, as an unlicensed contractor often doesn’t carry the proper insurance and can put you at risk for having to cover workers compensation, third-party property damage, or the cost and fees for permits…or a lack thereof.

Money & Time Matter

Now that you’ve laid out your project plans and checked on licenses and references, ask for itemized estimates from your candidates. This can not only help you make a financial decision on who to hire, but can also be used as a concrete tool for prioritizing the elements of your renovation and creating an informed budget. What’s more, having multiple bids gives you a bargaining tool for lowering the rates of the contractors in the running for your project.

Additionally, have them create a timeline for the project, breaking it down into smaller tasks so you can get a thorough view of how they would tackle the work. Talk openly about potential delays, overages, and possible problems with every aspect of your build to get view of the full scope of the project.

While 54% of first time homeowners cite the lowest cost as key in their contractor hiring criteria, be sure to take in all aspects of the candidate’s proposal. Contractors have been known to underbid to get jobs, only to hike up their fees later on, so don’t be swayed by low estimates.

Likewise, you should provide your contractor candidates with details on how you plan pay for their services. If you plan to find financing for your renovation through services like Hearth, you may be able to get even more competitive bids and attract the best candidates thanks to upfront payments.

Let’s make this official

The bids are in, and you make your final contracting decision. Now it’s crucial that you get a written contract that clearly states all the details of your project – everything from estimated costs, to timeline, extra expenses, and special circumstances for the project. As much as possible, request changes, issues and unforeseen expenses to be put in writing.

Remember that this is an official working relationship, and it should be treated as such with proper documentation every step of the way.

Establish ground rules for ongoing communication

Lastly, you’ll want to set up a system from the get-go for how you and your contractor will communicate effectively. Essentially, you want to establish a way for you both to stay in the loop on progress, delays, and any unexpected issues that arise. Exchange cell phone numbers, set up a checklist or whiteboard on sited, and schedule weekly meetings to go over the broad strokes of the project.

If you follow all these suggestions prior to the first day of the build, your project will be in excellent shape for success. And your relationship with your contractor just may be the start of a friendship!