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Best Practice Tips When Hiring a Contractor

October 21, 2015

ContractorWhen it comes to selling or buying a home, there is a good chance some work will need to be done. Just like searching for the right Realtor®, you will want to find the right Contractor to work with. Before you hire your friend’s cousin who remodeled his own kitchen, or call the number from an advertisement you saw at a bus stop, it is important to take some time to do some research, and know your options. There are several key steps in the hiring process, that if followed, will help save you from hassles and headaches down the road. Hiring a contractor, even one who is a friend or comes highly recommended by someone you trust, is still a business transaction, and should be treated as such.

First and foremost, you should reach out to multiple Contractors and get several bids. Be sure to seek bids from licensed Contractors, and check with the Contractors State License Board. You can run a search of each bidder’s license to be sure they have active licenses and are in good standing for business practices. As the consumer, you have the right to know if someone you are thinking of hiring is trustworthy or not, and this is one way to determine that. If a Contractor doesn’t have a license, you are putting yourself and your home at greater risk should something go wrong. Working with a properly licensed Contractor gives both you and them protection and actions of recourse if things go awry.

Be sure to review all proposals closely. Compare itemized costs for any large disparities. For example, with raw materials estimates, such as lumber, it may be worth making a few calls to home improvement centers and lumber yards to get your own take on the estimated costs. If what you learn from these businesses is far off from a bid, that could be a warning flag, possibly indicating a large amount of profit has been added into the cost. Adding profit into a bid is how Contractors make a living, but it should not be hidden amongst the cost of materials. Another red flag to watch for is lowball bids. If a Contractor comes in significantly lower than the rest, beware, as this could indicate someone who is willing to cut corners, including not applying all the required permits that may be needed for a project.

Once you make your choice for a Contractor, get the entire bid in writing. All the details should be listed, including any prep work to the area that is being worked on. Material estimates should be broken down by item, not as a general lump sum. Clean up and removal of debris should be included as well. If you have any specific plans for left-over materials, such as using broken tile pieces from your bathroom to make a mosaic end table, note these special requests in the contract. The more details you and your Contractor can provide in the final agreement, the better off both of you are. Don’t worry if something unexpected does occur and the contract needs to be changed. Updates can be done and added to the document. Be sure that both you and your Contractor sign all pages of an agreement and any amendments. Without signatures, the documents won’t do what they are supposed to do, which is protect both parties in a business transaction. Be sure all financial terms are noted, including any deposits that are due and when payments are to be made. A typical deposit is 10%, or $1,000, whichever is less. Final payment is usually not due until the job is completed. If your Contractor wants final payment on the day the work is finished, you will need to know ahead of time so you don’t assume to pay by the end of the month will be acceptable. Whatever the terms, both parties need to be in agreement before signing so that when you do sign you are ready to move forward. When it is done, both parties should retain their own copy with signatures.

Buying or selling, when it comes time to work with a Contractor, by taking a bit of time to plan and research, you will end up happier during the process and with the end results. When you are ready to sell or buy a home, me and my team are ready to help you through the entire process. Our goal is to make your experience both easy and pleasurable. Contact us today at (925) 634-7820, or by email at

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