You must have pictured the home of your dreams a thousand times in your head. It's as perfect as the one you see in a home décor magazine, with all the right elements and colours integrating harmoniously to give you a warm, happy feel, right? It may seem like a far-off fantasy, but believe it or not, most of your dreams can come true with a decent budget and a little help from a general contractor or home builder.
So how do you go about hiring a contractor? Nothing really beats old fashioned word of mouth reference. There is a certain confidence and trust in working with someone whose work you can see firsthand. But what if you can’t find someone like that? The next best place to start looking for a home contractor is a reputed home fittings store in your area, which is likely to be frequented by contractors who emphasis on quality, are super busy and pay their bills on time.
Local and online advertisements are also a good way to shortlist prospective contractors. Online reputation can play a levelling field when it comes to selecting one. From social media to review sites, savvy contractors build their brand online to garner new customers. But is so much research enough for you when hiring a home contractor? Choosing the right one can help avoid frustration and sleepless nights in the long run, and set your expectations as per the budget and schedule. Here are our top tips on how to choose the right contractor for you:
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Period. Quite a few contractors out there offer a free consultation or first level of redesigning. The hidden clause you may miss out is that the consultation becomes free only if you finally purchase their services. If you choose not to, eventually you will have to pay a consultation fee for their time. This isn't a bad thing, as a professional who provides time and expertise deserves to be paid. But it’s good to know in advance what is up on offer.
However, some people do try and play you for a fool. One common scam is the request for a big advance payment. There are two things that can happen next. A ‘scammy’ contractor can either disappear with your money or not do the job well, knowing you can’t fire him because you’ve already paid half the money. To protect yourself, never offer more than a 10% advance on the job.
Other contractor scams happen when the price suddenly skyrockets and the job is half way through. Most contractors are known to go slightly over budget. So the best way to protect yourself is to ensure that the inspection is thoroughly done before agreeing on the work terms. If necessary, get a second opinion from someone in the know.
When you have a home remodelling project in hand, you need a partner who is patient and takes the time to understand your needs (both reasonable and unreasonable ones), and is ready to work on iterations until you reach an agreement.
The sales person of a contractor on the other hand, will primarily be interested in ‘closing the sale’ as soon as possible and use high pressure tactics to rope you in. They may present you with a ‘one-day-only’ offer or agree to a lot of things verbally, and tell you that they’ll eventually have it all in place in the contract after the work begins. Never go beyond the first meeting with such people.
Just when you were thinking of doing up your house, the doorbell rings, and almost like telepathy, a contractor ends up at the door! Although you may be tempted to believe in a divine intervention, hold your horses right there. Without any knowledge of their background, all good sense suggests that you treat someone like this with the same scepticism reserved for a door-to-door salesman.
Scams, these days, come in all shapes and sizes and before you know it, that divine intervention may turn out to be your worst nightmare. Don't jump into anything. Instead, ask them to drop off their card and pamphlet. Yo can then research their services at your leisure and get back to them if you like what you see.
When you come across a random flyer or business card, how much do you trust it? Photos and designs can be easily plagiarized these days, as not everyone maintains stringent anti-theft measures online. Flyers, on the other hand, are designed to attract and hook you in with promises.
You might also notice some text in the flyer that is followed by a small * sign next to it which generally stands for ‘Terms and Conditions Apply’. If you notice a clause that reads ‘Win a holiday when you remodel with us*’ offer, be sure to check the fine print to know how exactly things will work. This is a business like any other, so no one will really fund your holiday unless you are offering a big profit in return.
A good contractor will create a first draft of your requirements, and then come back to you with an assessment of costs for each category of change for each room. For example, the entire paint job may cost X but just doing up the additional texture on the living room wall will cost Y.
When you see the entire list of changes, you will be able to alter or shuffle the list based on your budget. Drawing up a detailed list can help you know exactly how much you are spending including the little details.
If you want to be on the safe side with legal protection, it’s a good idea to draw up a construction contract covering the fine points of your agreement. Before you do this, plan some impromptu interviewing and background check of your contractor. Here are some questions you can ask about a contractor. How long have they been in the business? Do they have a local office and how old is it? Do they have staff working in their office during standard business hours? Do they have all the standard licenses and certificates to do the job? Can they offer references of their work, with which you can check their quality of work and some nagging worries like whether the contractor sticks to his timeline and budget.
Get inspired by this stunning house rendered by Canexel, home builders from Spain. Your abode can also look equally beautiful once you chance upon the right contractor.
Choosing a good home contractor can be tricky. But there are quite a few ways in which you can protect yourself and buy a wow experience. All you need to do is arm yourself with the right knowledge. Here is another ideabook which might interest you - Building a house step by step.