When you’ve worked in real estate for as long as I have, you hear a lot of horror stories about home remodels gone wrong. I know people who’ve had their contractor disappear mid-job and then come back a month later or who’ve had shoddy work fall apart and then discovered that the company no longer exists, so no one will be fixing it. I also know people who’ve had perfectly good contractors but gotten into trouble anyway due to loads of unexpected expenses that weren’t spelled out in the contract.
Here’s a guide to finding someone honest and competent who will take good care of your home.
- Personal recommendations are the best place to start. Ask around among your friends, family and neighbors who’ve had work done in their homes and get the inside scoop on their experiences. (If you want my personal recommendation on a great contractor, keep reading!)
- Get a licensed general contractor. In the state of NJ, general contractors are supposed to be licensed with the state. This means that they have provided substantial documentation about anyone with more than a 10% ownership in the company, are adequately covered by liability insurance and have the state to answer to if you have a serious complaint that can’t be settled amicably. Additionally, only licensed contractors can legally get building permits in NJ, so this is a very important requirement. You can search by Business and Person names on the State website. If a company doesn’t come up immediately, double check with them about the name they’re licensed under before panicking and assuming they’re dishonest!
- Check with the Better Business Bureau. Even if your best friend had a great experience, it’s still a good idea to find out if everyone else they’ve worked with is satisfied. You can search business names at bbb.org and they will have complaints on file as well as the BBB’s judgement on whether to company tried in good faith to resolve these complaints.
- Narrow it down to a few different contractors and interview them. Communicating well and an overall feeling of comfort are important. A face to face talk will tell you a lot about a contractor’s ability to listen to your needs and make your ideas come to life.
- Carefully compare the bids you receive from each contractor and don’t just go by the dollar figure. Make sure that variables like the quality of materials are all equal or else the numbers don’t tell you much. It’s not a bad idea to price check things like bathroom fixtures, tile and appliances before a big job so that you can communicate exactly what level of quality you expect. If you’re not sure what more the technical specifications in the proposal mean, don’t be afraid to ask. Better lumber, pipes, etc. might not be obvious features to you, but they make a difference in long-term durability and a good contractor will have a lot to say about them.
- Ask for references from your favorites. It may seem a little awkward talk to strangers about their home remodels, but it’s important to know that a contractor has customers who will happily discuss their work. Additionally, keep in mind that older references can be a great resource because they tell you how work has help up years down the line.
- Once you make your choice, get a detailed contract. Make sure it includes a timeframe for the work to be completed in and spells out exactly what is included and excluded in the figures. There may be still be surprises along the way, like wiring or plumbing that turns out to need replacing after the wall is opened up, but more detail up-front can protect you from ugly disputes once work has already begun and bargaining is difficult. Also, make sure the contract spells out a payment schedule. You shouldn’t have to pay everything up front, and you don’t want to hand over your last payment until work is completely finished.
- Lastly, don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not entirely satisfied. A good contractor makes a living based on reputation and repeat business. This is someone who is invested in making you happy.
In case you’re local and interested in my own recommendation on a contractor, I highly recommend JMC Home Improvement Specialists! They’ve gone above and beyond for me in my own recent home repairs.
Now, anyone who knows me well will tell you that I’m demanding. It’s rare for me to be left without anything I’d like to improve, but the work that JMC has done in my home is flawless! They are perfectionists and it shows!
Before we started the work, they presented me with a detailed proposal, and every step of the way they have done exactly what they promised. It can be really stressful having people all over your home, taking a room apart before they put it all back together again, but JMC’s workmen are so organized and respectful that I hardly know they’re there! They never once left a mess behind at the end of a workday.
JMC didn’t give me the lowest bid, but they came with the best reputation and their proposal only included the highest quality building materials, so I know their work will stand the test of time. Don’t just listen to me! I recommend that you take a look at their portfolio of stunning home remodels and read their rave reviews online. The quality and customer satisfaction will tell you everything you need to know.
Call them at: 973-386-0707 or Visit: JMCHomeRemodeling.com