Five Ways to Prevent a Remodeling Nightmare

Posted on Thursday July 17, 2014 |



You’ve heard the horror stories. The homeowner association (HOA) board hires a contractor to remodel the clubhouse, the fitness room, or one of the other amenities within the community. The contractor talks a good game, but when the actual work begins, it’s a whole other story.

Maybe the work isn’t up to par. Maybe they change the terms of the agreement partway through. Maybe the project drags on and on, far past the agreed-upon deadline.

Well, no matter what the “maybes” are, there is one thing you can definitely do to prevent a situation like this: choose the right contractor. A good property management company can save you time and frustration, because they will have established relationships with the best contractors in your area.

Here are five helpful tips to guide you and your property management company in selecting a quality contractor – courtesy of Paul Davis, a leader in the areas of property damage emergency services, reconstruction and remodeling:

1. Do your homework.
Conducting a background check on your prospective contractor isn’t a matter of being nosy. It’s a matter of protecting yourself against possibly making a bad (and costly) choice. Look to local city databases, the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau to find out if the contractor is fiscally responsible. Companies who neglect to pay for materials on time or who routinely make it difficult for subcontractors to get paid will not be good to work with – the trouble they have with their vendors and suppliers will translate into trouble on your job site, too.

2. Look for the right fit.
One of the biggest pitfalls of hiring a contractor is choosing a small company when a mid-sized or large one would have served you better. What makes this even more of a hazard is that often the small company will be your lowest bidder. Unfortunately, sometimes these small companies consist of the proprietor and a collection of sub-contractors. And while this business owner may embark on your project with the best of intentions, if the scale and scope of the work is too large, soon the administrative and managerial requirements of the job will result in poor performance, missed milestones and frustration for everyone. So leave yourself open to considering a contractor with the administrative and operational support staff – including field technicians, estimators, customer service representatives and more – to help make your project a success.

3. Check for licensing and insurance.
Never let an unlicensed contractor conduct work at your community. They may offer low prices, but the risk is too great and it cancels out any potential benefits of savings. And even if a contractor says he is licensed, double-check by contacting your state contractor licensing board. Many boards have websites where you can do this step in about five minutes. Further, you’ll want to make sure your contractor carries both workers’ compensation and general liability insurance, with a minimum coverage of at least $1 million. This will not only protect them, but it will protect you and your community, too.

4. Ask for references.
Don’t be shy about this one – contractors encounter it all the time. After all, there’s no better way to find out about a contractor’s work than to talk to their actual clients. When you speak to the reference, put on your investigator hat and ask a few questions. You’ll want to find out if their project was similar at all to yours, if timelines were met, what challenges the contractor encountered and how he handled them, and whether they would consider using that contractor again. As an additional step, you can also check review sites such as Angie’s List – but remember there is no substitute for speaking to an actual past client.

5. Inquire about follow-up.
Some contractors take the additional step of issuing customer satisfaction surveys after the work is completed. Ask your contractor if this is something their company does. This isn’t necessarily an essential step, but it will separate some of the truly customer-centric companies from the merely adequate ones.

Remember, the most important thing your contractor will have built is his reputation. Make sure you’re working with a quality firm and you’ll get the highest-quality work. A great property management company can help make this happen. To see how, contact FirstService Residential, North America’s leading property management company. 

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