Finding a Professional Remodeler

Are you one of the millions of Americans considering a remodeling project this year? If you are, then you probably have at least a couple of questions on how to find the correct professional.

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So you are thinking about a remodel?, in conjunction with the National Association of Homebuilders, wants you to have all the facts. Remodeling adds comfort, convenience, value and space to one of your most precious assets. There are many out there who want your business, but before you contract with a professional, there are some things to consider.

You are looking for a remodeler who can:

  • Save you money by doing your job right the first time.
  • Offer in-house design service (or through an arrangment with an architect or other professional) so that your vision is properly translated.
  • Maintain effective communication throughout the project.
  • Provide a safe and neat jobsite for your family members and pets.
  • Provide the best possible materials for your budget.
  • Make sure the job meets or exceeds all building codes and regulations.
  • Stand behind their work with a warranty.
  • Responds promptly to service calls and questions.

So where do I begin?

  • Get an idea of what you really want. Look through magazines and websites, collect pictures of what you like. This will provide the remodeler a clear picture of what you are looking for.
  • Think about traffic patterns, furniture size, color and lighting.
  • Come up with a budget. Consider furnishings and landscaping (if applicable). Talk to your bank or lendor to determine how much you can borrow and future payment range.

Seek referrals from:

  • Local trade associations
  • Friends, family, neighbors and coworkers
  • Independent trade contractors, building materials suppliers, architects, engineers, home inspectors, local lenders and insurance professionals

Once you have come up with a list of potential remodelers, you should:

  • Check with consumer protection agencies to see if complaints have been made against the remodeler.
  • Check with your state's licensing agency (and building inspectors) to see if they've received any complaints; also to verify they have the appropriate licenses and registrations.

When hiring a remodeler, you are buying a service and not a product. Quality of service will determine the quality of the finished project. There are some things you'll want to explore and questions you'll want to ask when interviewing a remodeler.

Business Experience and Management

Does the remodeler:

  • Maintain a permanent mailing address, E-mail address, personal phone number, fax number, cell phone and voicemail?
  • Carry insurance that protects you from liability? Ask for a copy of the remodeler's insurance certificates to be sure. Also, ask the remodeler how much the project will add to the home's value and attain additional insurance from your provider.
  • Have an established presence in the community? How long has the company been in business under this name? Does the remodeler maintain solid relationships with contractors such as plumbers and electricians and work with them as a team?
  • Possess a trustworthy reputation among customers and peers? Is there a track record of success?

Has the remodeler earned any professional designations, such as Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR), Certified Bath Designer (CBD), etc.? How long has the remodeler been a member or any trade organizations?

Construction and Technical Expertise

Does the remodeler:

  • Have a working knowledge of the types and ages of homes in the area? This helps in the area of reliable estimates. Extremely low bids should be viewed with scrutiny. What are the likely products and materials the remodeler will use? Does the remodeler offer an array of options and have knowledge of a variety of products, materials and techniques?
  • Specialize particular types of projects?
  • Arrange for the building permit?
  • Offer a warranty? What kind and how long? What is covered and what isn't?
  • Agree to begin and complete your job within a reasonable timetable?

Customer Service and Communication

Does the remodeler:

  • Respond promptly to your inquiries?
  • Schedule meetings and attend them on time?
  • Emphasize service and developing a trusting relationship?
  • Listen to and understand your needs and wants? When discussing your written priorities, does the remodeler show enthusiasm for your ideas?
  • Facilitate communication among all parties involved?

As you approach and finalize your decision on a remodeler, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Before you sign a contract:

  • Ask the remodeler to share with you names and phone numbers of some customers that have experienced the remodeler's work.
  • Ask to see similar jobs as yours. Does the quality of work meet your standards?

Ask the remodeler's customers:

  • Would you hire this company again?
  • Did the remodeler maintain a neat job site and haul away debris?
  • Were delays kept to a minimum? Was the job completed within budget?
  • Easy to work with? Dealt well with any unexpected problems?

Making the Decision

  • Ask yourself if you feel comfortable with the remodeler and confident that this company will do the work according to your plans, budget and specs.
  • Ask for a written estimate of the work to be done. If it fits your plans, make sure you can pay for it. If it is more than you can afford, see where you can trim things down or even postpone it.
  • Ask the remodeler to explain plans, specs and company procedures for you. If you compare estimates, be sure each one is based on the same set of plans and scope of work.
  • Find out whether the modeler uses a detailed, written contract to protects both of you and that complies with local, state and federal laws. The contract must spell out the work that will and will not be performed and provide a fair payment schedule.
  • Select the remodeler with a track record of a variety of excellent projects and plenty of experience with your type of project. Again, be wary of an exceptionally low price.

Good luck!

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