Even though home improvement activities increased by over three percent at the height of the pandemic, these activities were mainly do-it-yourself projects. Professional remodeling projects halted after the pandemic started. But since restrictions have been lifted, homeowners have started hiring contractors again.
If your home improvement needs are minor, you could do the projects yourself. Hiring a general contractor is essential for big projects, like a kitchen or bathroom renovation or even something as simple as adding a new roof. You will need the help of a general contractor when remodeling a basement or attic.
The challenge is finding the right contractor who will do the job on time and within budget without any headaches. You want to avoid being taken advantage of or becoming the victim of scam artists.
What’s a Home Improvement Project Contractor?
A general contractor oversees construction sites, manages vendors and trades, and communicates information to all stakeholders during a building project. Homeowners hire general contractors to ensure the safe completion of their home renovation project according to specifications.
Every state has different requirements to become a licensed contractor, but some general qualifications are typically required:
- The contractor must be 18 years old or older
- A high school diploma is normally needed
- Proof of legal U.S. residency
- There cannot be any blemishes on their professional records
A general contractor can coordinate several stages of construction to ensure the proper completion of a project. Homeowners typically need to hire a general contractor for any project that requires electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work.
The Importance of Hiring a General Contractor
General contractors are constantly busy securing all the necessary permits and handling supply deliveries while also trying to schedule different subcontractors, like electricians or plumbers. It’s understandable why someone would want to hire a general contractor to manage that instead.
Here are the reasons why you should hire a general contractor for your home remodeling project.
Save Time and Money
A home improvement project can take a few weeks to several months. By hiring a general contractor, you can be assured of the prompt completion of your project. This leaves you with more free time to enjoy your newly renovated home.
Saving money when renovating a house is essential if you want to flip houses. If you work on the project yourself, you can cut a few corners and still make a profit. But if you hire someone else to do it, they may not be as inclined to work with a tight budget. This is where general contractors can save you money.
They have the experience and know-how to do the job without breaking the bank. In addition, a general contractor can access wholesale prices for materials and labor, saving you money on your project. Hiring a general contractor is a wise investment for any project when you factor in the saved time and money.
Benefit from Established Working Partnerships
A reputable contractor with several years of experience will have strong working relationships with many suppliers and subcontractors. The contractor’s established partnerships mean that the suppliers and subcontractors are reliable. The contractor knows and trusts them based on their positive past experiences.
In the home improvement industry, reputation is everything. Everyone from general contractors to suppliers to subcontractors prefers working with those with a good reputation for keeping their word. Consequently, by hiring an experienced contractor, you benefit from the peace of mind that comes with the contractor’s existing positive relationships.
Ensure the Proper Completion of the Project
Doing a home improvement project can be a gratifying experience. But if the project is not done correctly, it can be a source of great disappointment. If a person takes on a task that is too dangerous or requires more than they can handle, it is best to hire a professional team of home remodelers. They have the experience to ensure the job is done properly. If there are any issues with the work, they will be able to fix them quickly and efficiently.
Professional Project Management
A good contractor is excellent at managing multiple tasks simultaneously, such as ensuring building materials are delivered on time and hiring subcontractors. Although this might mean your home is largely inaccessible due to the number of drop cloths required for the job, it will be easier in the long run.
You will get updates on the progress of your construction project every step of the way. Rather than trying to communicate with various workers and suppliers, you will have a general contractor as your main point of contact. This creates transparency and eliminates any confusion regarding the status of the work.
Peace of Mind
Working with a professional general contractor gives you the peace of mind that comes with knowing your home improvement project is managed by a licensed, insured, and experienced individual. When you hire a general contractor, you can be confident that the job will be done right, on time, and within budget.
Steps in Looking for a Contractor
General contractors can manage a job site and ensure that all subcontractors complete their work on time and as specified in the contract. To find a general contractor, here are some steps that you can follow:
Define the Scope of Work
Defining the scope of work is essential before you find a contractor. It would be best if you had a detailed understanding of the project you want to get done. This way, you can communicate your vision to the contractor and ensure that they are on the same page as you are.
Be Aware of the Project Cost
A Bureau of Labor Statistics Producer Price Index (PPI) report shows that the prices of residential construction products increased by 1.4 percent in March. The increase follows the upward trend in January and February, where prices increased by 4.1 percent and 2.2 percent, respectively.
The National Association of Home Builders reports that one main reason for recent price hikes is the lack of availability of quality materials. These prices have risen 19.2 percent in the last year and a staggering 35.6 percent since the pandemic started. So, you need to get a cost estimate of the entire project to be aware of the overall impact of these hikes.
If you’re planning home renovations, consider these rising costs when choosing building materials, so you don’t get sticker shock when the bill comes.
Get Referrals and Recommendations
If you have friends or family members who have recently had a construction project done, ask them for referrals. Once you have a list of potential contractors, research and read online reviews. This will give you a good idea of what to expect from each contractor.
Create a Shortlist
After researching, create a shortlist of the best contractors you would like to interview. When you make your phone calls, you should include local general contractors in the list. Local contractors are familiar with your area’s building codes and regulations, which can save you time and money. After creating the list, you should interview each contractor and ask the following questions:
- Do they have experience with a big project?
- Can they provide financial references from credible sources?
- Who are their previous clients, and can I contact them for feedback?
- How many projects are they working on at the same time as yours?
- How long have they been partners with their subcontractors – or do they frequently use new teams?
Their answer will show their reliability, availability and how they can manage and complete projects with minimal issues. Also, check the contractor’s license and liability insurance.
After checking the background of the potential contractors, you should provide them with the job’s specifications. This will give you an accurate estimate of the project’s cost. Ensure that each contractor bidding on the job includes the same supplies and materials in their estimate. This will allow you to compare the bids.
When evaluating the bids, don’t just look at the bottom line. Consider the breakdown of costs for materials, labor, overhead, and profit margins. Materials should account for about 40 percent of the total cost. The other expenses cover things like overhead and the typical profit margin.
Before making your final decision, you should check for customer complaints at the Better Business Bureau. Even good contractors can have complaints filed against them. If your top choice has a complaint, find out how they resolved it. You can also check with the local consumer protection office for any issues the contractor may have had.
Negotiate the Payment
After you’ve decided on a contractor, the next phase is to haggle over the price and payment before work begins. There might be little space to lower the cost. However, you will have to agree upon a payment plan and set some money aside for unexpected costs.
Although there are no set industry standards for payment plan specifics, every contractor will have their way of breaking down payments. Here are the two most common payment options:
- Cost plus a flat fee – You need to pay the contractor their costs for the project plus a flat fee. This option is best if you want more control over the project budget. It will require more work from you to keep track of the project’s spending due to the payment schedules it requires.
- Bid basis – The more appealing option, if you have a budget, is that you and your contractor will create a budget for the project and agree upon a payment plan- both of which will be detailed in your contract.
Red Flags to Look for When Hiring a Contractor
When reviewing several contractors, you should look for red flags indicating a potential issue. Some of the key red flags to consider are:
Unverifiable License or Insurance
You should be wary of a potential contractor who cannot provide a license number or verify their insurance. This could mean that they need to be properly licensed or insured. You can check with your state’s license board to verify a contractor’s license, and many agencies have online portals where you look up this information.
Cash Payment Requirement
The Federal Trade Commission warns against contractors requesting cash payments, as this may indicate a scam. To best protect yourself, always pay with a credit card or check so that you have documentation of the payment.
Paying cash may be acceptable if the contractor is legitimate and fully vetted. Make sure you get a signed receipt including project details, cost, and date when you make the final payment.
Low Price Quotes
While you’re keen on getting a good deal, you should make sure the deal is not too good to be true. It might be a scam if there is a significant price difference with other quotes. This is particularly true if the project requires several luxury home features. To avoid being scammed, you should get multiple quotes and compare the quotes.
You’re Asked to Work on the Necessary Permits
Homeowners shouldn’t have to endure the stresses of building codes and permits alone. Hiring a legitimate contractor will save you time and worry, as they are experienced in this process and can help their clients get the approvals needed before starting any projects. It is a definite red flag if the contractor asks you to work on the permits.
Bring Your Home Improvement Dreams to Life
A professional contractor will always be a good choice, especially for major home remodels. But choosing a contractor can be tricky; hiring a contractor to build a house is even more trying. The selection process is crucial to the success of your home improvement project, so you need a plan.
Figure out the extent of work along with the cost. Get adequate referrals. Choose among a shortlist of credible, experienced and licensed general contractors. Finalize your options with bids and negotiate the price. With a carefully chosen contractor, your renovation or remodel will leave you with the home of your dreams.