Tips for hiring a home contractor

- As summer arrives and home improvement projects get moved to the front burner, CPA Chris Gamble offered up some tips for successful work Monday on News 8 at Sunrise.

Gamble, of Kroner Gamble + Company, said your first task should be to get as specific as possible about the work you want done.  The better you are able to articulate your desired outcome, the more likely you'll get it.  Then go about the process of preparing a budget.  It's difficult to estimate all of the possible expenses, but having a sense of what you want to spend will help guide decisions as you go through the renovation.

Once you know what you want and how much you are willing to pay, you then need to find a contractor.  Consult with co-workers, friends and family, as well as online resources to consider you best options.  After compiling a list of options, call each contractor and perform an initial screening.  Good questions to ask are:

Does the contractor have experience with projects similiar to yours?
Can they provide references?
How many other projects will they have going at the same time as yours?
Will they be using employees or subcontractors on your job?

Follow up the phone interviews with a face to face meeting.  You can discuss your project in greater detail and get a sense of the contractor's communication style.  You'll want to feel comfortable with the contractor, as they will likely have access to your property and/or home.  Gamble said call the contractor's former customers to be sure the information you receive is consistent with their past work.

Once you've selected your contractors, you'll want to get everything in writing with a contract.  Gamble said this is extremely important since it spells out the responsibilities and expectations.  Parts of a contract you'll want to include are:

Payment terms
Proof of insurance
Start date and completion date
Specific times when work can or cannot be performed
Specific materials to be used
Who is responsible for obtaining any required permits
Requirement of lien releases if subcontractors are used
How change orders will be handled

As it relates to payment terms, Gamble said be wary of any request for a large payment up front, ahead of scheduled work.  Most residential contractors ask for a deposit of 10 to 15 percent upon signing the contract.  There are typically payments spread through the planned term of the work.  The final 10 to 15 percent of money owed is usually paid upon completion of the project, after a walk through to ensure all parties are satisfied.

Gamble offered one final piece of advice.  He said it's not always the lowest bid that leads to the best results.  People's homes are often their largest investment and trying to save a little bit of money, if it means the project won't be completed correctly, can negatively impact the value of your home. 

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