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13 Ways to Avoid a Remodeling Nightmare

Remodeling a house is not a cheap investment. We are talking at least tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and weeks of lost time. In fact, according to a report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies titled “Improving America’s Housing 2019”, the remodeling industry is a whopping $400 Billion industry in the USA alone!

Despite that, there still remains a gap between the demand for highly skilled labor and its availability. This means that homeowners who don’t take precautions in selecting the right contractor run the risk of having their job done very shabbily.

In this article, we discuss how homeowners can prevent remodeling projects from going awry and save themselves from incurring a huge loss. Being aware of these ways also means that you would know what to do if things go bad with your contractor in the future.

Check Their License & Insurance:

A license is corroboration that your remodeling contractor has skills and qualifications to complete your project. In case of conflict, that gives you leverage to get the licensing agency (the city or the state government department) involved for complaint resolution. Make sure to check that they have insurance for their workers too because the last thing you want is to be footing someone else’s medical bills. It is even better if they provide insurance for your property (in case they cause some damage). You can check the state government’s website for verifying the validity of their license. 

Check if a Contractor Has a Record of Previous Complaints:

Just so history doesn’t repeat itself, dial 311 to get in touch with a Consumer Affairs official to enquire. Alternatively, check for litigation history of the contractor in online records that courts maintain for public use. If there have been even a few complaints, it’s better to steer clear off that particular contractor.

Call the References and Read the Reviews:

It’s not enough to just receive the references and assume the contractor is credible. Make sure to actually reach out to the references and enquire about the specifics like concerns, delivery time, conduct, etc. Online review sites like Yelp or Angie’s List could be a wonderful way of knowing what to expect. It always pays off to do some digging and read testimonials too.

Ask Friends and Relatives for Recommendations:

If you know someone who did an excellent job for your relative’s house, you already know about their reputation. Even if that’s not the contractor you are looking to hire, it is possible that the one you are considering has a reputation in the community. It never hurts to check.

Be Wary of Red Flags:

If someone is dodging questions before you even start or has ambiguous clauses in the contract, run as fast as you can. Don’t set yourself up for legal loopholes or communication issues at a later stage.

Do not Pay Everything Upfront:

While it goes without saying that 100% payment should never be given in advance, perchance if you do put a significant percentage of money on the table before the work begins, get an escrow account. The last thing you want is someone going rogue after receiving your deposit.

Get a Lawyer to Add a Three-Day Cancellation Clause:

Also known in many American states as “Right to Rescind”, this clause gives you an option to see the work in action for 3 days and change your mind if the contractor raises any red flags. Even if the chemistry is wrong, the clause can help you get your deposit back and cancel the contractual agreement. Contractors who are consistent with their quality shouldn’t (and don’t) have any issues with the clause either.

Be Wary if a Cost Estimate Sounds Too Good to be True:

If you have reached out to several contractors but one has a significantly lower estimate than the others, it is very likely that they are cutting corners. It is improbable for them to manipulate the costs of materials if you pick out what you want in your kitchen or bath yourself; but cutting costs on labor is still an option. Expect day laborers instead of full-time craftsmen with little experience to show up and do the task if you go that way.

Ensure that the Crew Has a Relationship with the Contractor:

The best way to rely on the words of your general contractor is to make sure he has faith in his team too.  While that sounds like a no-brainer, it always helps if the subcontractors and the workers have had some years of experience working with the contractor. Newbies might even be day laborers picked off for the day and that would definitely impact the quality of work they deliver.

Ask for a Detailed Estimate in Written:

Getting the specifics down helps you understand what you are paying for. Get costs for labor, materials and even transportation if any. That way, you may be able to understand and negotiate prices better.

Get a Clear Start and End Date:

Although unforeseen hurdles may sometimes cause delay, you need to still have a clear start and finish date to know the duration required for the job. The last thing you want is for a three-week job to drag on for months just because the contractor has other projects going on. Having everything pre-discussed is always better. You could also include a clause in the contract with an agreement on how to handle delays.

Set a Payment Schedule for Your Work:

Although some homeowners prefer having a three-way payment breakdown schedule (Before, During and After), there are better ways to avoid disputes. It is better to set payments based on progress. For instance, you pay 10% of the total amount when the countertop is installed or when the flooring is done. That way, you only pay when the work is actually done. No work, no payment. Simple. This keeps the timing consistent as well because even the contractor is more motivated to work towards receiving the payment.

Be Involved in the Renovation Process Daily:

The last thing you want is to be negligent in communication with your own contractor and not understand their concerns or convey your needs. Did you want the tiles done differently or the edges of the countertop cut round? If you don’t communicate, there’s no way for your contractor to know. Misunderstandings lead to serious issues later on for which even the contractor can’t be entirely blamed. Get quick summaries at the end of the day just to know the updates. The more you are involved, the more work would turn out to be according to your expectations.

 Final Words:

Always do a background check to assess the credibility of your general contractor. His reputation might not be what he is trying to portray. It pays off to get in touch with their previous clients and hear it from the horse’s mouth itself. Securing the contract through the involvement of an attorney is the key to ensuring your money goes to the right place and knowing that even if it doesn’t that you have legal options to pursue settlement or litigation.