10 Questions to ask your Builder or Contractor

If you are considering hiring a contractor to work on a new house or with plans for your budget home renovation, you’ll want to ask several questions before signing a contract. For one thing, you need to know what to expect. You’ll also want to interview several contractors in order to get the best work at the lowest price. Make sure you are satisfied with the answers to the following list of questions before making a commitment.

1. Do you hold a contractor’s license? If your locality requires that contractors be licensed, then ask to see the contractor’s license. A licensed contractor must meet certain requirements to obtain the license, generally providing you with the assurance that he or she is capable of completing the work.

2. Do you carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance? Make sure the contractor has liability insurance and carries workers’ compensation insurance on employees. The last thing you need is a worker getting injured while working on your property and wanting your homeowner’s insurance to pay for those injuries.

3. Will you obtain and pay for all necessary permits? As a general courtesy, most contractors will take responsibility for obtaining the necessary permits and will include the cost in their bids.

4. Will you give me a detailed written estimate? Get everything in writing, including all of the minor details. You don’t want to accept a verbal bid and then have the contractor come in with his crew and say, “That’s not what I said.”

5. Will you perform the actual work? A lot of contractors subcontract their work. They may farm out plumbing, electricity, or some other major aspect of the job. You’ll want to find out who the subcontractors are who will be working on your house plans. This way you can check their reputations with the Better Business Bureau.

6. Will you get lien waivers from suppliers and subcontractors? Make sure your contractor is willing to provide you with lien waivers from his or her subcontractors and suppliers. These waivers will prove that everyone was paid via the money you paid the contractor.

7. Will you sign a written contract? The estimate is not a contract and cannot be viewed as such. Get a written contract from the contractor that details everything in the estimate. It should include the work to be performed, payment terms, an estimated date of completion, and instructions for incorporating necessary changes.

8. How will you handle necessary changes? Seldom does a homeowner get through a home renovation process without changing the original plans. If changes are to be made, make sure they are put in writing and include the price of the changes.

9. What is the payment schedule? The contractor may ask for a down payment, which should not exceed 50 percent of the total cost of the project. Do not pay a contractor in full at the start of the project. If the work will take months, arrange to pay the contractor over the course of the project.

10. Can you provide references? Ask the contractor to provide you with the names and phone numbers of former clients. Be sure to call them. If possible, drive by and look at some of the contractor’s completed work.

These basic questions will help you avoid the situation where work is completed  but does not satisfy your expectations, or if there are any disputes about payment or what work was agreed upon to be completed.  Unfortunately there are many unethical and unscrupulous construction organizations that can and will take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners.  You can avoid these situations by performing your due diligence as you evaluate potential service providers.

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Miguel Salcido is an avid blogger, father of 2, and recent proud homeowner. He loves studying architecture, home design and decor and plans to one day buy a modern house plan to build his dream home.