Renovations, remodels, additions…unless you’re handling it on your own, the success of your project ultimately hinges on the dependability of your contractors. And if you don’t have a background in managing these workers, you may find it difficult to move from beginning to end without a hitch. So before you start your next home project, make sure you have a plan in place.
7 Tips for Managing Your Contractors
Whether it’s an addition to your primary residence or a renovation of a rental property, you have to manage your contractors well to keep things on schedule, on budget, and according to the original project specs.
Here are a few pointers on how to excel in this area:
1. Do Your Due Diligence
You can avoid a lot of the issues that often arise in a project by doing your due diligence and hiring the right contractor the first time around.
Start your search for a contractor by asking trusted friends, family members, and neighbors for advice. If you know someone who works in the construction industry, they may have some leads for you. You can also look online for contractors with positive ratings and reviews.
Once you’ve developed a list of contractors, spend some time checking their credentials and making sure they’re licensed and registered with the state. Next, spend a few minutes interviewing each of the contractors to get a better feel for things and have at least three different ones come out to provide you with a quote.
2. Set Clear Rules for Communication
Communication is the biggest issue between contractors and their clients. Poor communication – which could mean unanswered phone calls, an unwillingness to return phone calls, a lack of outreach when problems occur, or anything in between – is unacceptable and could compromise the integrity of your project.
During the vetting and hiring process, you should be clear on what your expectations are for communication and how/how often you would prefer to be contacted.
3. Get Everything in Writing
Talk is cheap in the world of contracting. Anyone can say anything. The question is, will they follow up on what they’ve told you? In many cases, they will not.
The best way to protect yourself and hold your contractor accountable is to get every detail of the project in writing. This is especially true when it comes to big aspects of the project, such as the cost.
“Some companies charge by the day, others by the job. I prefer to be quoted a price for the job, so there are no expensive surprises if the project takes longer than expected,” Elisabeth Leamy writes for ABC News. “Get estimates in writing and make sure they’re detailed. I’ve seen contractors scrawl a price on the back of a business card. That’s not acceptable.”
If you don’t understand something that’s in writing, ask for clarification. A good contractor won’t rush you. They’ll patiently wait until you’re ready.
4. Avoid Allowances
When it comes to getting a contractor’s bid in writing, be meticulous with the details. Review every single line item on the list and ask questions. If at all possible, avoid excessive allowances.
An allowance is a line item in the bid for something with a price that’s yet to be determined. For example, you might be installing a new light fixture in your kitchen, but haven’t yet figured out what kind you want. As a placeholder, the contractor assigns an allowance of $200. However, in reality, you could end up spending $400 on a fixture. That $200 won’t make or break your budget, but too many conservative numbers will.
5. Keep a Project Journal
It takes a little time, but keeping a project journal is a smart way to protect yourself and keep all of your thoughts organized in one place.
A project journal is simply a notebook or word document that you use to record progress, write down questions you want to ask your contractor, jot down ideas, record product numbers, or make scheduling notes. If there’s ever a discrepancy, you can reference it as a form of confirmation.
6. Avoid Paying Ahead
While it’s normal to pay a deposit on a home project – especially when ordering custom products and materials – never pay ahead for a project that has yet to be completed. There are a few reasons for this.
As Ask The Builder’s Tim Carter explains, “The contractor might be using your money to pay off his last job. Your contractor may be in a cash bind for any number of reasons. Do you really want to do business with a capital-strapped individual? The contractor may not have credit at local supply houses. Why is that? I could go on and on and on with reasons.”
By paying for work as it’s completed, you force the contractor to work for his money. There’s also motivation for him to come to your job site and finish. (Though this shouldn’t be a problem if you’ve hired an honest contractor in the first place.)
7. Drop in by Surprise
You have to hold your contractors accountable. Otherwise, they may take advantage of you and spend their time on the job site of another homeowner who does hold them accountable. In addition to regularly dropping by the site to check on progress, change up your schedule and show up unannounced.
“To avoid problems, don’t tell your contractors when you’ll be visiting the site, and don’t be consistent,” real estate investor J. Scott suggests. “For example, if you always stop by at lunch and after work, take a late lunch on occasion to keep your contractors on their toes. Or send a friend over to check on progress every once in a while if you can’t do it yourself.”
Contact Green Residential
At Green Residential, we work closely with our property management clients to provide comprehensive services that allow you to keep your properties profitable without spending every free moment of your day fielding phone calls and putting out fires.
Whether it’s coordinating and overseeing maintenance and repairs, conducting property inspections, or handling the financial side of things, we can help you. Please feel free to contact us for more information!