Preparing to renovate your home? Whether it’s a small, one-room makeover or an entire overhaul of the property, you’ll likely need an experienced and reputable general contractor. While expensive, these construction professionals provide valuable services to homeowners renovating a home. In all likelihood, homeowners won’t be able to spend all day, every day at the home overseeing the day-to-day operations. That’s where a general contractor comes in. Not only do general contractors oversee every aspect of the renovation from beginning to end, but they also guide homeowners in making practical yet budget-conscious decisions throughout the process. In addition, they handle complicated inspection and permitting requirements by the city.
Not sure how to find a contractor that fits your needs? We can help. Below we’ve rounded up several places to find a reputable general contractor as well as tips on how to narrow down the search and ultimately choose the right contractor for your home renovation.
How to find a contractor that fits your home renovation needs
Where to find a contractor
Ask your Realtor
Did you purchase the home using a trusted real estate agent? If so, don’t hesitate to ask your Realtor for contractor suggestions. Most Realtors have a list of home improvement professionals to meet their customers’ real estate needs. For instance, in addition to recommended contractors, your Realtor likely has a list of handymen, plumbers, pool cleaners, etc. It’s also likely that a seasoned and experienced Realtor has worked with contractors in the past – either by selling them homes or selling their flipped homes. If you haven’t yet purchased the home that you plan to renovate, we recommend asking your Realtor to have their recommended contractors come to the house for a walk-through. The contractor may be able to give you a rough estimate of renovation costs, which could help you decide whether or not the home purchase is worth your money.
Word of mouth
When searching for a general contractor, there’s nothing more helpful than a good or bad recommendation from a trusted friend, family member or neighbor. If the contact had a good experience with the general contractor, you can bet they’ll be singing their praises. However, if the experience was less than favorable, your contact will likely warn you against hiring a certain contractor. Word of mouth recommendations are valuable, so don’t hesitate to reach out to anyone and everyone you know in the area who has undergone a home renovation. You may also want to consider joining Nextdoor.com or local Facebook groups to obtain contractor recommendations from locals.
Search digital marketplaces
If suggestions from your Realtor and word of mouth recommendations from friends aren’t enough, try searching a digital marketplace that connects homeowners with home improvement contractors. A few websites to explore include Houzz, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and Porch. These websites provide visitors with a list of local contractors. If the contractor has set up a profile with the site, you’ll likely be able to find information about the company, photos of projects and reviews from clients.
How to narrow down the search
Obtain recommendations and conduct research on local contractors
Just because a trusted friend vouches for a contractor doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence. Make sure you’ve checked to see whether the contractor is properly licensed and insured. Check customer reviews and Better Business Bureau ratings. It’s also a good idea to research how long they’ve been in business, years of experience and projects completed. In addition to reviews available online, we recommend asking the contractor for a list of client references.
Meet with at least three to four general contractors
Meet face-to-face with at least three to four general contractors before deciding who to hire. This will give you an idea of personality traits and who you jibe with best. It will also give you a chance to complete a walk-through of the project with the contractor. It’s important that the contractor see the home in-person before providing you with an estimate of costs.
Provide a complete list of all renovations and blue prints of the home
When meeting with the contractor, make sure to provide a full list of all home renovation needs. From changing out door knobs and re-painting rooms to demolishing cabinets and installing flooring, every change (no matter how small) should be included on the renovation list. This will help the contractor put together as accurate a bid as possible.
Once you receive estimates from several contractors, compare the offerings. Watch out for: 1) the contractor who is extremely expensive. He or she may be very busy and simply trying to price themselves out; and 2) the contractor who is desperate for work. He or she may send you a lowball bid. Unfortunately, this type of bid can be misleading and result in you paying more than expected. Make sure the bids include the cost of labor/subcontractors, the general contractor’s cut (or profit margin), materials, demo and clean-up expenses.
Inquire about their payment schedule
How does the contractor go about receiving payments for his work? Large projects will usually require a down payment from the homeowners at the beginning and then several subsequent payments as projects are completed. Contractors should have enough money in the bank to pay for subcontractors and materials up-front without having to ask you for money at every turn.
Ask about their communication preferences
Does the contractor prefer to talk on the phone, text message, send emails or meet in-person? Be sure to ask how they prefer to communicate with their clients. Even if the contractor prefers to communicate by email, it may be a good idea to request weekly on-site meetings to go over goals for the week. These face-to-face meetings will keep you in the loop as decisions get made and projects are completed.
Who to choose
So you’ve interviewed several contractors, compared bids and narrowed down your search. Now it’s time to choose a general contractor for the job. When selecting your contractor, remember that you’ll be working with this person on a regular basis. That means good communication is key. While you certainly don’t need to be best friends with your contractor, it’s important that you get along and are on the same page about most everything.
When choosing a general contractor, it’s also important to not choose based on their bid alone. Just because one contractor’s bid is considerably lower than another’s doesn’t mean that you should go with the cheapest option. In fact, a lowball, too-good-to-be-true estimate could be an indication that the general contractor is desperate for the job. While price is a consideration, other factors such as quality of work, client reviews and character traits should be top of mind as well. Whatever you do, make sure you’re comfortable with your choice. If none of the contractors interviewed meet your expectations, then start the search over and find new contractors to consider.