Home maintenance protects your investment so if you don't have the necessary knowledge or skills, you'll want to hire the right home professionals. The most important skill a homeowner needs to maintain their home … communication skills. Finding the right company or professional person to hire isn't rocket science. Using a referral from someone you know or trust has been the customary wisdom and it’s still good advice. Your local construction material supply house should be able to recommend local companies who provide home maintenance services.
You want home maintenance professionals who can perform quality work, at a fair price and on a mutually agreed to schedule. Make sure you communicate these requirements to the professionals you interview. Work to create a trustworthy and positive relationship with your contractors as the more respect you show them, the more they want to do a great job for you. Confrontational behavior has no place in your project. The carrot, not the stick is always the best method.
Home Maintenance or Remodeling: How to Hire a Contractor
… by George Bogosian, Big Ocean Builders
By following these recommendations, you'll find your home maintenance, repair and remodeling projects will go more smoothly. When you partner with your contractor and work together, you can learn a lot about your home, the type of home maintenance your home needs and you'll get the results you want.
Clearly Describe Home Maintenance Problems or Projects
You will need to communicate what is wrong and what the issues are that you need solved … as you see them. If it’s a “fixit” problem, you will need to describe all the symptoms you feel need attention with the present situation. Don’t assume the contractor will know everything that is wrong. With leaky pipes, it will be pretty clear as to what needs to be done but more complicated issues will require all the information you can share to help the trades person assess how to address the problem at its' source, along with any repairs to damage caused by the problem.
If you’re starting a renovation or addition, it’s important for you to have or create plans for the project. Details are important and they can help keep your costs down. Most trades’ people are making a living working by the hour. In order to give you a price or estimate, the more details you can provide, the more accurate they should be in their estimate of the time and materials needed, as well as pricing out the project for you.
Establish Up Front, How Your Home Maintenance Projects Will be Charged
You need to discuss price parameters and how you will be charged. If time and materials, also known as cost plus, is recommended by a contractor, you need to ask specific questions until you know exactly how you will be invoiced. Many people involved in remodeling and home maintenance trades, have different ways of charging so don't assume that time and materials means the same for all contractors.
Time and materials usually means you will be charged an hourly fee plus the cost of materials. The materials may have a percentage added to them. You need to ask for a clear definition. Is a percentage added to the labor cost or just added to the material cost? 10-25% would be considered a “normal” mark up percentage. Ask questions until you understand how you will be charged.
If a fixed price is given, what will be included in that price and what will not be included. It’s the old “please tell me what I need to know, not what I want to hear”. The details are important and it needs to be clear to you what is included in the price. Ask questions until you are satisfied on every point. A pleasant demeanor is important. There are no stupid questions … just information you need to know. If you had all the answers, you’d fix it yourself.
If you are planning a renovation or addition, then design plans are needed. Until these plans are written down, it is almost impossible to list out all the costs, both labor and materials, that need to be included, completed to deliver the final product and priced. The more details on the project the more accurate the pricing will be.
A Written Contract (Agreement Friendlier) Should Be Signed by Both Parties
Written estimates/pricing is the law in most states even for small home maintenance projects. They are absolutely critical for larger projects like insurance renovations, remodeling space and/or additions. There needs to be enough information included in the agreement so that all the requirements are understood by the parties involved. Details are encouraged even if it's simply a list of small home maintenance tasks. An agreement or contract insures everyone involved has a common understanding of what will be included, completed and the responsibilities of all parties. Have this agreement signed before work begins. Hand shakes won’t suffice here!
The agreement should include the project details, how and when the trade’s person will be paid, when work will commence and be completed. Depending on the size of the project, it would not be unusual to be asked for a deposit as the project begins, with 10-30% of the project cost being common. Agree to give this requested deposit by check the day the trades person begins your project.
Once you start the project, there are important elements to follow … consistent with the relationship you started while interviewing your contractor and finalizing the contract. Be sure to continue communication throughout the project. Maintain the honest relationship you created and don’t be afraid to ask questions along the way so that you learn and understand how things are progressing.
So grasshopper … it’s time to get started finding just the right contractor for your project!
George Bogosian has been a builder for twenty-five plus years. He is the President/Director of Big Ocean Builders located in NH, and he works throughout New England. Visit www.bigoceanbuilders.com to see some of his work, call (207-251-2661) or email George ([email protected]) to discuss your next project.