Residential Contractor Series – Evaluating the Initial Visit

Oct 15, 2009

Now that you’ve gone through the process of contacting a couple contractors and having them over for a site survey, the next step is to evaluate the visit and assess how well you think they would perform working in your home. I have assembled nine evaluation points that will set your mind at ease when you make that final decision on your home improvement project contractor.

1. WAS THERE GOOD COMMUNICATION? How quickly did they get back to you? Did they listen to your questions or put them off without an answer.

2. WAS THE DESIGN CONSULTANT SOMEONE YOU WOULD WANT TO DO BUSINESS WITH? Was this person considerate of your needs? Did they listen to you, were they polite, and were they courteous? You may not have to feel that you could be best friends. This is a business relationship that you will have to feel comfortable with though.

3. ARE THEY TRUSTWORTHY? You may not be able to be there at all times work is being done on your home. You have to trust the person that is doing the work. Did the references provided have that level of trust?

4. IS THE PROJECT GOING TO BE COMPLETED ON TIME? Once again the references will tell you if the project dragged on far past the timeline. You can ask the reference if the crew showed up with all the essential tools to perform the job. Were all the materials in place when the project started?

5. IS THE WRITTEN CONTRACT DETAILED ENOUGH SO THERE IS LITTLE CHANCE FOR SUBSTITUTES? Insist on a written contract, anything less is the sign of an unprofessional company. The contract should include start and completion dates. Asking for a daily start time. If you work during the day you don’t want to wait all day for the team to show. You will want to be there at start so you can feel comfortable the job will start on time and all the details are confirmed. You can get an approximate completion time. It is suggested that you are there to inspect the work before they leave the construction site. Are the products listed on the contract. One common bait and switch is to quote a high quality product only to substitute with a lesser quality product because it wasn’t in the contract. The listing should not be, “Product name or similar product.”

6. DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH THE DETAILS? To be considerate of your neighbors you will want to know if there will be debris around the house for long periods of time. Some contractors perform a courtesy call to your neighbors with a brief explanation of the project. They know this and know your neighbors may be the best prospect for the next project in the neighborhood. Ask when all the construction debris will be removed? What is the contact person with phone number should you have questions? Ask these questions before signing.

7. WHAT IS THE APPEARANCE OF THE DESIGN CONSULTANT? A clean appearance reflects well on the reputation of the company. If the car or truck he is driving is in poor shape that may be a sign of project failure.

8. WHAT IS THE DOWN PAYMENT? Most contractors ask for a down payment. An unusual amount or a full amount paid up front are signs of danger. On the other side, the down payment is their first protection that the project will be smooth.

9. WILL THE COMPANY COMMUNICATE TO YOU ALL CHANGES THAT ARE NEEDED TO COMPLETE THE PROJECT? How are change orders handled? Some projects require a modification that may not have been noticeable without opening the walls of the home. If they communicate any modifications or changes when a change occurs you can rest easier the project will go smoothly.

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