How to get the best contractor
Follow these 5 tips to get the most out of your remodeling project.
When the real estate market was in the dumps, snagging a great contractor was a simple task. With few people remodeling, no project was too small for hungry pros, many of whom were bidding at 10 percent to 40 percent below their boom-time rates.
Those days are gone. Remodeling spending is now up 30 percent from its low point, and single-family construction spending has doubled. Depending on where you live, a project that cost $50,000 in 2010 might now come in at $60,000 to $70,000.
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"Materials costs are up, much of the skilled labor pool has jumped to the oil and gas industry, and contractors' phones are ringing," says Bernard Markstein, U.S. chief economist at Reed Construction Data.
To get the best help, you'll need to be strategic.
Start with referrals. Begin by polling friends and tradespeople, and tell the contractor who pointed you in his direction.
Using a referral will do more than just ease your mind -- it will also make you a priority for the pro, who wants to keep his clients and subcontractors happy.
Don't be vague. When you reach out, show that you've put careful thought into the project by expressing a clear vision of what you want to accomplish and a sense of what you can spend.
"Bidding on a job takes about a dozen hours," says Bruce Irving, a Boston renovation consultant. "He's not going to bother unless he thinks you're serious."
Get the contractor's opinion. When a contractor comes to see the job, don't jump right into discussing price. First ask for the contractor's input on the plan and on any initial sketches your architect has put together. This shows you value the contractor's knowledge and don't just see him as a nail-banger.
Plus, the contractor's answers will show you how he thinks -- and whether you want to hire him. Is he channeling what you want? Great. But if the contractor suggests lazy solutions or pricey add-ons, move on.
Now negotiate. Solicit bids from three or more contractors. Be sure to stoke competition by letting them know that you're gathering multiple offers. Skip any bids that are wildly high or low.
Should your first choice still be over your budget, haggling is risky: The contractor will probably either walk or cut corners on the project. Instead, let him know the contractor much the bid is over and ask for some suggestions on how to tweak the job to lower the price with minimal impact, says UCLA law professor Russell Korobkin, a negotiation specialist.
Remember to hold out a contingency of 10 percent to 20 percent because many remodels mushroom over the course of the project.
Be flexible. This is also the time to nail down scheduling. Ask the contractor for approximate start and end dates. But don't press too hard. For a top contractor, at a fair price, you may to have to wait a bit.
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Ever consider calling your local building inspector and ask him/her about the contractor's history. We know the good contractors. Ask about permits, inspections... We are there to make sure the job is done right. Use this free resource.
I agree with "All That" who commented a bid is his best price. That is what a bid is supposed to be. You should solicit bids from three or more reputable contractors. If the low bid is more than your budget, discuss it with your architect. The article says, "First ask for the contractor's input on the plan and on any initial sketches your architect has put together." No the architect is the expert looking out for you. He should work with the contractor to discuss modifications to bring the project into budget, with your approval. The contractor regardless of how nice he is in this relationship, is you advisory, the architect by his professional obligation and code of ethics is your fiduciary looking out for your interests. You, the home owner, probably do not have the expertise to do deal with the contractor.
And second, a bid cannot be based on an architects initial sketches, a guess at the final cost maybe. A bid is based on complete construction documents and explicit specifications.
The article says UCLA law professor Russell Korobkin, a negotiation specialist wants you to negotiate with the contractor to tweak the scope of work. I am sure that contractor (fox) is going to have you leave the door open to the chicken coup.
I don't negotiate. Period.
When I give you a bid, it IS the best price.
You want it done cheaper? No problem. Call me to fix it when the other guy is done.