In my circle of friends …that I’ve run in the last ten to fifteen years, the standard order of things was: high school, college, girlfriend, house, wife, dogs (starter kids). Aside of high school and college, the rest could get switched around here or there; but, that was the path we all seemed to have taken.Logically, as our dogs had been a marked success, the next step would be… children (probably x2), but with another round of graduate school and the twilight of our young adult life dwindling down, we had decided that our little cottage craftsman home needed an update of the renovation style– the design kind rather than an addition to the family kind (either way it was going to be expensive).
Since my spouse was a seasoned HGTV watcher—home of the DIYN (Do it yourself Network), she had no problem deciding what was going to be done, in exactly what color, wood grain, and tile pattern. She knew that she wanted the lighter maple cabinets in the kitchen to match the mosaic tile, to match the refinished floors, so on and so on.
Her obsession with home design didn’t end with HGTV DIY shows… she watched the programs about the failed contracts and city inspectors. The kind of programs that show how every day people are entrapped by “professional contracts” who cut corners or don’t finish jobs on time (or not at all).
Moreover, each episode exposes inspectors that casually glance over incorrect wiring/plumbing/etc and leave home owners with houses that will cost thousands to fix a few years down the road.
Think of the Holmes on Homes or Holmes Inspection shows (I know, they’re Canadian, but if it can happen in Canada, it can happen here).
At the time, our budget topped off at 30k, a third of the house’s worth at 120k—we knew it was going to be a commitment. I wanted to find someone who was (among other things)… reputable, cost effective, honest, and transparent. She was more focused on the bottom line. Together, we made a good team.
But we were like everyone else without much construction experience. There wasn’t a test all General Contractors (GCs) take that can help the customer choose a good one and avoid the lemons. Everyone needs work, will bid competitive prices, and knows their company is a small fish in a big pond. But, to combat this, there are routes to take to check credibility.
There isn’t just one option that will guarantee a good experience with a GC, but combining two or more of the following options will aide in the chances you will have the correct expectations and know what you are getting into
- An accurate background check will provide conclusive information about the owner. Choosing a researching company to provide the most accurate information at the best price will save the customer much of the leg room.
- The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a good service to use to determine the legitimacy of the GC. Among many things, the BBB provides consumers to research complaints and reviews about a business. The best part… it’s free.
- There are many free websites that offer similar services about local businesses. Often times, simply Googling a business or contractor will provide a myriad of results.
- Using websites like Angieslist.com claim that their membership dues (roughly 17 dollars for a year) cover the client from anonymous reviewers, use “certified” data collectors, and have a team that will intercede in the event something goes wrong with a home repair or health experience. What that means may actually vary, but there is something to be said about reading reviews from non-anonymous reviewers.
When it comes to reviews, it’s tough to know what is good information and what is fluff that a company pays someone to write about them. Angieslist may have qualified researchers and a team that legitimately helps in the event of a crisis; but, the peace of mind provided by unbiased reviewers (of course someone will likely be biased if he/she is writing a review, but at least he/she will be acting on their own genuine experience) is what sells me on their site.
- Check out the homes they have worked on in the past. Ask for a list of the last ten homes the general contractor has worked on and check them out. Ask the neighbors if the GC or his Sub-Contractors (Subs) were courteous and didn’t take up all the room on the street. Don’t look like creepers, but check out the windows, the gutters, or the siding… whatever may be repeated. Knock on the door of the home owner and ask about his/her experience with the general contractor and the hired subs.
Take those addresses and see how their market value has increased in the event they were sold. That should give the researcher an idea about how much others have liked the GC’s work and if it increased the value of the home versus the average from the neighborhood, all good information to know for later in the homes life.
- Take into account the amount of time the GC invested in the estimate. Was he/she on time? Was he/she they polite and take off shoes? Take into account the resources there were brought over to make decisions easier e.g. samples, color swabs, or catalogues. It’s those little things that can make the difference when the bottle line is similar across the board.
Again, any one of these ideas won’t promise success. When I had my home renovated, between the two of us, we probably checked off each item on this list. But there weren’t surprises that took us off guard because of it and our contracting experience was a success.
Categories: Contractors and Construction