So, you’ve decided that your house needs attention and you have a project in mind. But chances are pretty good that you won’t be able to do this project on your own—whether it’s an issue of time or expertise, you’re probably looking to hire a tradesman. So, what are some key things you need to do before you hire the right tradesman to help you realize your vision?
Budget and Plan
Every decent project needs a plan and a budget to match. You want hardwood floors, but does your budget reflect your wants with your pocketbook? Or would your project add to your home value and be worth getting a loan to cover?
You should look up your home’s value and the comparisons to the other homes sold in your neighbourhood. Then ask yourself if doing that project will add to the value of the home. You will want to plan to spend no more on each room than the proportionate percentage of its value to your home.
A kitchen, for example, is usually about 10–15% of the property value, so you won’t want to spend more than that on kitchen renovation costs—e.g., if your home is worth $300,000, then you’ll want to spend less than $40,000 on a kitchen renovation. However, kitchen renovations are typically among the lowest return on your investment. Instead, a bathroom remodel gives the highest return.
When you are estimating cost, give yourself a cushion upfront. Estimate 10–20% (or more) of your budget for surprise expenses—typically, a project can have a few snags.
If you need a loan, you will want to look at different options, like a second mortgage, cash-out refinance, or a home equity line of credit (HELOC), which is like a credit card as it has a set limit that you can borrow against. Be sure you get the best possible interest rate and set up your payments to auto draft from your bank account. Some banks give exclusive discounts for setting up the ACH.
Find a Tradesman
Now that you know exactly what you want, the first step to finding a tradesman is to search online. You can upload pictures and details and many will send you quotes directly to your email. By comparing quotes, you will get a better idea as to how much your project will cost you. Of course, you will need to do your own comparison before you choose anyone. You can also find a tradesman through social media like Facebook groups for your community or city, or NextDoor. People love to be helpful and will recommend people they have hired.
It would be a clever idea for you to have a list of what kind of work needs to be done and what materials will be used, as sometimes tradesmen will give an estimate solely based on what they think you want. The more specific you are, the more accurate your quote. Ambiguity in the home improvement industry causes a needless amount of frustration, time, and money. There are many companies that will give you an estimate, but there are some that offer you a quote in writing, which should include the charges for each project. Make sure that every detail is on the offer so that you can compare one proposal to another. You will want to get several quotes, but do not go for the lowest estimate. Sometimes a tradesman will bid low just to get the job, then cut corners and have a few emergency add-ins later. Be aware that this leads to extra costs eventually, and that budget cushion can’t handle too many problems.
Many contractors also offer a guarantee on their work, and warranties on the materials they use. Whether you’re hiring an independent tradesman or a contractor from a company, it is important to double check they include that information on the proposal. It is important you know what you are paying before you accept any offers.
If you are needing a project that includes working with home insurance, you will need to be truly clear with the tradesman up front before you hire them. Some contractors demand a percentage of money up front and refuse to work with home insurance issues. The more specific you are concerning your situation, the better the quote will be and the better experience you will have with the person you select.
Before you get a quote from a contractor, ask them if they are bonded, licensed, and insured and ask to see their documentation. Or, consider looking up their license yourself online. You need to protect your business investment in your home. When you hire a licensed and bonded tradesman, you’re protecting yourself if there are ever any problems.
When you get the proposals and compare, call the top two candidates, and ask them for references from recent clients. A good contractor should provide contact information from five of their latest clients at least. Ask for the dates that their job was completed so that you know you are not given pre-selected, favourable, or incentivized clients. You will need to ask them about the tradesman’s work ethic, whether their estimated quote was on target or over, whether they were on time for their duties and kept the work area clean. Do not be timid. You are trusting a person to work on your biggest asset—your home.
In these times of social distancing and masks, you will want to make certain the worksite is safe with proper protective gear. You might want to ask each person working on your home to get a COVID test before you allow them in the home. If not, at least investigate what the tradesman is doing to monitor their health and the health of their staff. Bigger companies state their COVID protocols on their website, but smaller companies or individuals may need asking. Perhaps have an addendum in your paperwork that states the workers will be COVID-free, wear PPE, and stay apart as often as possible.
When you find a good contractor, you can be confident that you will be working with someone that has a good reputation for doing a respectable job. And you will have peace of mind knowing that you did your due diligence to prepare.