The first thing I would say about finding a good contractor is to not choose (necessarily) the lowest bid. I am absolutely not saying that lowest bid might not be the way to go but “don't base your selection simply on money”.
I've coached clients who have chosen the lowest bid on painting their home and they've seen the painter leave after they've completed half the job, and never return to finish the work. There have been contractors who have come out and given a bid and, when the client calls them back, they don't return the call or they don't show up for the follow-up (sign the contract) appointment.
I understand that this can be really frustrating, however, let's look at some of the possible reasons (perhaps even 85% of the reasons) that this might be the case.
A lot of times the contractor will come out to bid an exterior paint job. Let's say that you get two more bids and each of those bids is $1500 more than the lowest bid from the first contractor you interviewed. Do you know the difference in those bids? Do you have any idea what materials they must use and how much paint they must purchase and is that even included in the bid?
I coached a homeowner once who had gotten a bid on an exterior paint job and it was much lower than the other two bids she'd gotten. She called me to come help her distinguish what the difference was. I found that the lowest bid had not included the paint.
Since painting houses is something I've done a lot both personally and with my crew, I let her know approximately how much paint was needed and the approximate cost. It turned out to be about $800 to purchase the paint, the primer etc. When we added that $800 onto the lowest bid it came within $100 - $200 of the highest bids.
The point of hiring a remodel coach is to help you distinguish what the differences are in the bids. If the bids are similar and the bid sheet is laid out very specifically and clearly, it's pretty easy for you to do that yourself. However, if it gets down to being a very detailed bid because, let's say it's a room addition and there's a lot more materials and work involved, then it might not be so easy for you to distinguish what the differences are and what may or may not be included.
Another example of compatibility is when the economy is really flowing and remodeling is up a lot of contractors might be booked out for a year. The subcontractors they use might also be booked out that far. However, even if you talk to someone who is booked out in advance, it's always good to pay attention to:
Do they return phone calls?
Do they show up to talk to you about your project?
Have they suggested “would you like to start the procedure even though I'm booked as far in advance since you’d like to use my company?”
Because the fact is, when we experience an economic downturn and remodeling is down, I as a contractor might be really sorry if I haven't returned your calls, or kept in communication with you, because I was just so busy I didn't “need you” and now, boy do I wish I had kept in touch.
It's really important to pay attention to how the communication works along those lines because that is also going to tell you if it's a good match. The bottom line is every contractor is not for you. Even if a friend used a particular company and you met them as you followed the progress of their job and really liked the crew, the company and the quality of work, that doesn't mean you and that company would be compatible - because every job is different and every personality is different.
A remodel coach can help you come up with a questionnaire that addresses such things as “did the contractor want to bid your job?”, “had they done similar work?” and questions designed to suit your project. This way, you will have clarity in your communication as far as being able to tell the contractor exactly what it is you want and what your expectations are.
I'm not simply talking about what you want as far as the color of your tile, or deciding between a Jacuzzi tub or a regular tub, I'm talking about deeper expectations such as the time they arrive for work, the bathrooms they use, how they interact with your family, etc. These are all really important questions, especially if you're doing a project that is longer than two weeks. Once you get beyond the two weeks, you're entering into more of a long-term relationship and having a coach who is on your side as well as on the contractor's side (because the bottom line is, you want this to be a win-win situation), makes it work well for everyone - which is how dream remodels are created and nightmares are avoided.
So, when thinking about doing a remodeling project, look at the compatibility factor when hiring a contractor.
Stay tuned for more in my upcoming book: Remodel 411 – The Relationship of Remodeling.
CEO – Eye For Detail Inc.