Thinking about renovating your home? Make sure you're prepared by choosing a well-liked and trusted contractor. Choosing the right contractor is the single most important decision that homeowners make on a remodeling project.
Here are five questions you should ask yourself, your contractor, and references if you decide to renovate your home:
1. Are we talking about the same thing? Make sure that you and your contractor are clear about cost estimates. Oftentimes, a contractor's concept of a "worst-case-scenario" cost can be different than yours. Always tell your contractor what your assumptions are.
2. Did you experience cost overruns? Talking to references is the best way to learn whether a contractor routinely underestimates projects, either out of optimism or as a ploy to get the job. Ask them, "I’m concerned that the price of my remodel will change a lot during the job. Was your final cost much higher than the quote?"
3. Did subcontractors view the job and provide estimates? A good contractor will get firm proposals from all the trade contractors. To do this, the trade contractors should visit the site with the general contractor before they provide their proposals and before the job starts.
4. Can you put that in writing? When the contractor creates a written contract with firm quotes from subcontractors, the final cost should only vary about 3% to 5%. The contract should specify that if things go wrong, the contractor will absorb any additional cost.
5. What's happening? Asking questions throughout the project is part of the homeowner's job. By talking to the plumber, you may learn that it's possible to turn a large linen closet into a laundry area at minimal cost, compared with the total price of getting the laundry out of the basement. Asking questions can also clarify other choices, especially when problems occur.
There will be problems and surprises, so it's good to know ahead of time how your contractor to them. Does he or she deliver solutions quickly and help you decide the best way to proceed?
If you're planning to remodel, ask us how a home equity loan or line of credit could help you.