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American Homeowners Association



Getting Along with Your Contractor

The relationship between you, your family and the contractor you choose can make or break your project. Forget about the design. Forget about the budget. If there is trouble brewing between you two, there will be trouble in your home and with your project. Somehow discourse can make the best-laid plans disappear.

A home remodeling project is a delicate job. It requires great communication and verbal skills. To get exactly what you want, you have to be able to talk to your contractor and get along. If the tension level skyrockets every time you two are in the same room, the chances of having a successful is slim to none.

Here are some handy tips to keep in mind when hiring and working with your contractor. Heed this advice and you may actually get what you want in the end, without any bloodshed.

First: Hire Someone You Know, (or at least someone you have thoroughly checked)
The best bet when hiring a contractor is to find someone you are familiar with and whose work you know. If you don't happen to know any contractors, talk to your friends and neighbors. Find out who had a contractor work on their home recently. Then find out if they would hire that person again without any hesitation. That is the key. If they would use them again in a heartbeat, the job not only looked good, but went well too.

Even if you do know someone socially, beware when hiring though. Be sure to always check references and see the work yourself. Your idea of a quality job may not match their idea. The same holds true when asking what went wrong with a job. The things that might not have bugged them during the project may just drive you crazy.

Ask specific questions and follow your instinct. If you have doubts, keep looking. If you sign the contract then have immediate regret, check into your right of recission -a right that allows you to cancel the contract within three days of signing it (providing it wasn't signed at the contractor's place of business).

Second: Be Prepared to Show What You Want
Do some work before you hire someone. This will help make sure you and your prospective contractor have the same vision for your job. You can't assume the contractor is a mind reader and can instantly divine the image you have in your head. You have to be prepared to show (with magazine pictures and sketches) what you want. The more information you have available to the contractor, the better. Clip pictures. Mark pages in books. Sketch possible floor plans. Make lists. Be prepared.

Third: Listen and Be Flexible
Sometimes what we want and what we can afford are two different things. Sometimes what we think we want isn't the best idea for our home, architecturally speaking. So be prepared to listen too. Your contractor is a trained professional in the field and has been doing his or her job for a long time (or at least should have been). Be flexible enough in your vision to consider other points of views and ideas. It may save you money and get you a better result in the end.

Fourth: Be Prepared to Pay
The lowest bid is not the way to pick your remodeler. It is also not the best way to insure paying the least amount. Often, the lowest bids are underbid. This means some cost overruns in the end and a higher total in the long run. Look for quality, not cost. It is far better to have a good contract and plan, than to have a smaller estimate.

Fifth: Let Them Do Their Job
You have hired your contractor and his or her team to do a job. You choose them because you felt they could do the job. Now you have to back off and let them do it. Too many homeowners hover and watch every little move. This, in and of itself, is not bad. It is, after all, your home and you have a right to see what is being done. What is bad is when you distract the workers or create a pseudo-babysitting role for them to keep track of you!

A home remodeling job is not Home Remodeling 101. This is their job, and you are paying for it. Give them room to work comfortably, while being available for questions and clarifications in the work.

Sixth: Speak Up Immediately
If you notice a problem or you notice something that is not what you want, speak up. This is one case when you should assert yourself. Not hovering doesn't mean waiting until the end to say, "You know, I really don't like the way the cabinets look."

This also holds true for irritations you may feel during the project. If the workers are trampling your garden, speak up. If you don't want to wake up each morning at six, say something. If you hate the way the workers are acting around your children, speak up! This is your right and your duty as the homeowner. Besides, your contractor cannot make any changes if he doesn't know there is a problem.

Seventh: Negotiate Terms in the Contract
Be sure to include a mediation clause in the contract in the event major disputes occur. This will give you some legal recourse in case talking it out doesn't get you anywhere. Of course, this is a last resort position and should be treated as such.

Source: Smart Consumer Services

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