What follows is the last of a three-part blog series created to help you ultimately: Pick The Right Remodeling Expert for your home and next remodeling project.
As owner and operator at Lewis Design Build Remodel, I frequently talk with people like you who are considering a home renovation. One question I often ask is, “How are you choosing which remodeler to work with?” Many people say they plan to ask for referrals, read reviews, and check references. All of which are excellent places to begin. A few of the most candid homeowners say, “Well, I haven’t given it much thought. What should I be asking? What do I need to consider?” After all, hiring a remodeler is a big decision. Not only is it a major investment, but you will be working closely with whomever you choose for several months or more. You’re not just choosing a company to do work for you, but you are inviting them into your home. You are building a relationship that will hopefully last a very long time.
Finding the right remodeling professional(s) for your project can be a process that may have some unexpected twists and turns. Even the handiest homeowners with a long track record of successful home-improvement projects often turn to the pros when handling a major remodel. A typical project can require everything from demolition to drywall, electrical, plumbing, flooring, finishes, and cabinet installation. Permits are needed for most projects, and somebody needs to be on-site to meet with inspectors and coordinate and oversee all the trades contractors who will be involved with your job.
In part 3 of this series, we will cover the following topics:
- Start To Narrow Your List of Prospective Contractors
- Verify, Verify, Verify
- Congratulations and Due Diligence Success
Review Each Contractor’s Website
Do the remodelers on your list have an established online presence? Is the company’s website up to date? Is their company profile completed on Houzz, Google, and online review sites? Well-established companies will have complete listings and plenty of reviews. Pay special attention to the portfolio of work. While style is often influenced by each client’s tastes, you can start to get a feel for a designer’s style and level of finish.
Look for projects in each remodeler’s portfolio that share some elements with the project you have in mind. If you live in a historic home, inquire to see if the prospective remodeler has done work on similar homes. It’s always a good idea to check with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) and consumer protection agency.
Begin the Process of Reaching Out to Your Short List of Remodelers
Once you have narrowed down your list, you’re ready to start contacting remodeling professionals via phone or online. Start by getting additional recommendations through the following network of sources:
- Ask friends and family who have recently remodeled.
- Start by contacting at least three companies from your shortlist.
- Pay close attention to how long it takes for each remodeler to get back to you. Do they have the time or staff to respond quickly to inquiries?
- If any of the remodelers you reach out to don’t get back to you promptly, consider going down your list and contacting others.
- Most remodelers will schedule an initial appointment with you, either a phone or in-person meeting. They will likely want to learn about you and your project, including the scope of your project, your schedule, and your budget.
At this point, create a document on your computer or a section in a notebook to keep notes on each remodeler you talk to. If you speak with more than two or three, it will become difficult to remember who said and did what, and good notes will help you tremendously as you make your final choice.
After your initial rounds of meetings, you will start to get a sense of your comfort level with each company. Make notes about how well the professionals you speak with communicate, if you have a good rapport, and what your level of confidence is in their technical expertise.
If you start with a phone conversation and have a positive experience, be sure to schedule an in-person meeting. Face-to-face conversations can tell you a lot. In most cases, remodelers and architects you meet with will be able to tell you about their approach and guide you through the questions that will help them understand your project. However, these meetings are also your chance to learn about the companies you are interviewing. Don’t hesitate to ask pointed questions, and try your best to ask the same questions of all the professionals you speak with. To help you, we’ve prepared two worksheets: a list of sample questions you can ask during your meetings and an evaluation sheet you can use to track your impressions. Print and fill out a copy for each remodeling professional you meet with.
If you have chosen an architect, you will likely first sign a letter of engagement to get started and then a more comprehensive owner-architect contract later. If you choose a design-build firm, you will likely start by signing a design agreement, followed by a construction agreement when you approve the design. In both cases, you will likely be asked to put down a small retainer or deposit before work begins, and then you will make regular payments when certain milestones are reached, according to the terms of your contract. If you go the architect + contractor route, you will need to sign a separate contract with the general contractor you choose, and this will have its own terms and payment schedule. Make sure you read these contracts over carefully and ask questions about any sections that are not clear.
Before Signing a Contract, Verify
After meeting with a few remodeling professionals, taking careful notes, and checking reviews, you are almost ready to decide. By this stage, you should have a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each remodeler on your shortlist. If you are lucky, a clear winner will have emerged. Before you jump in and sign a contract, it’s a good idea to make sure you have verified a few things.
- Is the company licensed, bonded, and insured? Check with your local licensing authority. In California, the Contractors State License Board has a free “Verify a Contractor” tool. You will be able to search by company name or license number.
- Verify an architect’s license by checking your local licensing department. For non-architect designers, licensing requirements vary by region, but in most cases, they will not need a license.
- You can ask to see a contractor’s insurance certificate and call the insurance provider to make sure it is still active. Make sure it covers the type of work you are hiring the contractor to perform. In rare cases, you may want to ask to be named as an insured on the contractor’s policy.
- Ask for references and contact these past clients to find out what their experience was with the remodeler. Ask how the remodeler handled problems that arose, how courteous the team was, and how accurate the remodeler’s estimates were. Ask if the past client refers others to the remodeler.
- Ask to tour a project similar to yours that is under construction.
If you would like to contact the California Contractor’s State License Board, please visit their website.
Congratulations. You’re Ready to Select Your Remodeler and Begin Your Project
You’ve taken the time to do your due diligence, and you’ve chosen the right team to complete your remodel. You’ve asked lots of questions, checked references, and kept your information organized. You can be confident in your choice and schedule a meeting to sign a contract and begin the process of working with your architect or design-build firm to create the perfect space. Don’t forget to contact the other remodeling professionals you met with to let them know you have chosen a different firm.
Worksheets: If you would like to download our Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Remodeler Worksheet and Remodeler Scorecard, please visit our website.
For more information, please visit our website and download our eBook; ‘A Guide To Hiring A Remodeler.’ Our eBook Guide provides additional resources and includes helpful Worksheets that will make the process of Picking the Right Remodeling Expert For the Job stress-free. To get your own project started, get in touch with us, or give us a call at (831) 566-9499.