How to Hire a Contractor

This will be a touchy subject for people who’ve ever hired a nightmare contractor (if this is you and you’re reading this I apologize for not positing earlier). As a REALTOR® in Vancouver, I have seen more than my share of renovation projects gone terribly wrong. Here are a few simple suggestions to help make your renovation project go smoothly.

Create plans and sketches first:
Write down as much as you can before even meeting with contractors to be better prepared for contractor interviews and questions. You can modify requirements after meeting and selecting a contractor but this at least gives a starting point for discussions.

Get references:
Try to speak with and, better yet, meet some of the people who’ve had work done by the contractors in question. If possible, visit one of the contractor’s current project sites to see how he/she carries out the work.  Also, one person’s idea of quality workmanship can vary greatly so do your due diligence with all references. Relatives of the contractor don’t count as quality references!

Get multiple quotes:
This may seem obvious but you have nothing to lose by meeting and discussing the project with several contractors. A little extra time spent before the project gets underway will pay dividends later in the project. You may be alarmed by the variation in quotes you receive. Don’t be surprised if some contractors don’t even bother calling you or submitting a written quote.

Always meet the contractor face to face at least once before the project starts:
This may seem obvious but I know of people who have hired contractors after just a short phone conversation. Remember this person and their employees are going to be spending time in your home. This is your chance to make sure you can tolerate each other before any work starts.

Get it in writing:
Having a good rapport is great but getting all details of the work to be done in writing is even better. You have nothing to lose as a property owner by documenting and agreeing on the terms of work to be done. Run the other way if a contractor refuses or claims to be too busy to submit a written quote.

Agree to a payment schedule:
This is very important and will protect the property owner somewhat. If things aren’t going well and/or you are dissatisfied with the work being performed you can stop the work before further damage occurs. I suggest payments of 10% at the outset and then three payments of 30% as the work progresses and milestones are reached. Be wary of a contractor that wants a large payment up front. Another advantage of spreading payments is motivating the contractor to finish the project in a timely fashion – a frequent complaint about contractors.

I welcome any questions you may have about selling or buying.
Feel free to comment here or contact me directly.

More Info:
Get it in writing! – Canadian Home Builders’ Association

0 Replies to “How to Hire a Contractor”

  1. This is great advice. I especially like the payment plan system. I grew up in a family of contractors and did my share of work for carpenters and roofers. Being a contractor is a stressful job and you are always trying to juggle more jobs than you can handle. Any contractor who doesn’t do this isn’t in business for long. So since they have so much on their plate it is inevitable that they will have to disappoint someone–don’t let that someone be you. Paying them in installments motivates them to show up at your worksite. And in my experience, 50% at the beginning and 50% at the end does not work! Make it at least three payments.

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