When you hire a contractor to repair, rebuild, or improve your home, the Better Business Bureau urges you to take the time to choose and hire the contractor who can perform work you’ll be well satisfied with on terms you’ve agreed upon in advance.
There are several ways to find a general contractor:
- Perhaps you have a friend, neighbor or business associate who has used a general contractor and been pleased by their work and price.
- Perhaps the least desirable means to find a general contractors is to look in your local yellow pages. Your yellow pages are filled with multiple listings for contractors. Your natural tendency may be to call the contractor with the flashiest ad. In reality, that may be the worse choice you can make. Some of the best contractors don’t need to advertise. They get enough business from referrals.
Finding a contractor is not easy.
You may think that each contractor will come out to your home, discuss your project with you, review your plan and then leave to prepare their bid. You’ll probably find that some contractors appear only marginally interested in the details of your well thought-out-plan, and then when you’ve finished telling them what you want, they walk away, pull out a calculator, return and hand you a business card with a number on the back representing their bid. Avoid any contractor who merely writes a number on a business card. Your bid should be a very detailed, itemized, multi-page proposal. Many contractors bid on projects based solely on the square footage and type of work to be done. These bids are often either much too high or too low depending on the specialty items included in your project. If their bid is too low, they often use lower quality materials to complete the job.
A large part of selecting your contractor has as much to do with comfort level as it does with the price. If you get a good feel for one of the contractors, that is as important as anything else.
How receptive is the contractor to your questions and wishes?
How available is the contractor to your calls?
If you have a hard time reaching him now, think about how hard it will be after he has finished the project.
Be sure to insist on references.
A good contractor will provide numerous references along with their proposal. Some will tell you that they’ll be glad to give you references, yet they never do. Get the references along with the bid and call several of those listed.
Keep in mind that the lowest bid is not necessarily the best bid.
A particularly low bid may indicate that the contractor does not fully understand the scope of the project or is too inexperienced to accurately estimate the amount of labor and materials required.
Look for a fair price.
Factor in any differences in what the contractors are offering and the skills they bring to the job. Then add the intangibles: reputation, willingness to make suggestions and offer advice, the likelihood of standing behind the work. Choose the contractor you feel will give you the best overall value.
Does It Pay to Become Your Own Contractor?
Some homeowners act as their own general contractors on their home-renovation projects to save on the fee they'd normally pay to hire this building professional: about 10% to 25% of the total cost of the project. But managing a kitchen remodel, garage addition or other renovation can be deceptively difficult, and many owners who opt to be general contractors to save money end up losing money instead, say builders. General contractors seek bids from subcontractors, estimate the cost of the entire job, hire the subcontractors and then supervise the job to completion. The work may look easy, especially if a builder only shows up briefly each day to check on the subcontractors. "What the homeowner doesn't see is the four hours the builder spent behind the scenes to get things organized to that point.
Home repairs and other improvements are big business, churning up $173 million quarterly, reports the National Association of Home Builders. The percentage of U.S. homeowners who decide to manage their own home-renovation projects isn't known. Typical problems they encounter include organizing the work, spotting flaws in the construction or simply getting subcontractors to show up. Even homeowners with extensive prior experience in or around construction can run into difficulties, especially if they have demanding day jobs, because the amount of time required usually is greater than they expect.
Before you decide to be general contractor on your next remodeling project, contractors and homeowners suggest asking yourself these questions.
Do I know enough?
Most homeowners aren't aware of the complexities of managing a construction project themselves and aren't qualified to do it. General contractors must know in what order subcontractors need to work and how to schedule them and when and how much of each building material to order. They also must be able to understand building code requirements and spot and correct problems during construction.
Can I get subcontractors to work for me?
Many homeowners don't realize that their jobs typically aren't the first priority for local plumbers, electricians, framers, roofers, excavators and landscapers. These subcontractors give their first allegiance to general contractors because "they take care of people who give multiple jobs to them during the year."
Can I afford to have work redone?
A general contractor will provide warranties on the products and work he completes, either personally or through subcontractors. If, say, a toilet that the general contractor had a plumber install doesn't work, the general contractor will make sure it's removed and a new one is reinstalled at no charge to the homeowner. But if a homeowner supplies a toilet that proves defective, no plumber will remove and reinstall a new one free of charge.
How much will I really save?
By serving as a general contractor, you may expect to eliminate the builder's markup. What you may not realize is that subcontractors hired by general contractors generally charge them 10% to 15% less than they would bill a homeowner who hires them directly. In other words, the subcontractors' retail prices negate the savings you might expect to realize on the overall job.
The money the homeowner thinks he is going to save doesn't exist because the sub won't give them the same price they give to the industry. They give a better price to someone who hires them all year.
Can I take the stress?
If a value could be attached to emotional angst, most homeowners who serve as their own general contractors probably pay a high price. Subcontractors who don't show up, delays due to weather, and mistakes and unforeseen problems that cause projects to go over budget raise homeowners' stress levels. General contractors, on the other hand, deal with these issues daily. "When it's your own house, you get emotional". "You don't need the stress. Do what you do for a living and “LEAVE THE CONTRACTING TO THE PROFESSIONALS WHO KNOW CODE AND THE SUBCONTRACTORS.."
How To Find the Right Contractor