Do your homework first before hiring a contractor

With the current instability in the metro Atlanta real estate market, many homeowners are choosing to stay in their homes rather than sell them. Part of this decision often includes plans for upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms, additions, a new deck, home office or turning a basement into living space.

Selecting the right general contractor who is compatible with your plans is a major decision. You can check a contractor’s performance on various websites, including builder and/or remodeler associations, the Better Business Bureau, Kudzu, etc. You should also see if the contractor has a website with current information. And you should always ask for and check out references and interactions with previous clients.

A reputable contractor will prepare a detailed written contract that spells out the scope of the project, a work schedule and a payment plan. There should be a deposit or down payment, typically paid when the contract is signed. Progress payments will coincide with inspections and/or specific milestones listed in the contract. The final payment is usually made when all work is completed to your satisfaction and according to the contract, final inspections are passed and a certificate of completion is issued. Make sure the contractor guarantees the work for one year.

Part of your search for a contractor includes a preliminary estimate after you meet with him or her. This is an opportunity to ask questions, express what you would like and to see how well you communicate with each other. Is the contractor prompt? Is he or she courteous, professional?

When you receive bids on your project, typically there is a range of prices. There are many reasons for this, including whether your contractor is licensed and insured and how he pays his workers. The quality of materials used can make a significant difference in the life of your addition or renovation and can add or subtract decades from your investment. Remember that old saying, “You get what you pay for.” Beware of contractors who offer something for free if you write a good review for them on websites.

With any contractor, you should ask for certificates of insurance for workers compensation and liability. This will help protect you, the property owner, in the event of injuries or damages as ultimately it’s your property and you are responsible. Another question to ask is whether the contractor’s employees are full time or paid as 1099 subcontractors. Paying one’s employees as 1099 subcontractors is a way of avoiding payroll taxes and insurance requirements, and the IRS is now taking a closer look at this.

A legitimate, conscientious contractor will have salaried employees who are paid on a regular basis and most likely receive certain benefits. They usually have a long-term relationship with the contractor and will treat you and your property with respect and professionalism because this is how their company values them.

Remodeling your home should be a pleasant experience with minimal interruption rather than an ordeal. By doing your homework in the beginning, you will save yourself headaches, time and money.