Home additions are an effective way to expand your home and create extra spaces for a bedroom, a new office space, entertaining, and more. A common obstacle homeowners face with new home addition projects is their scope and complexity. Luckily, thanks to their proximity and skill, hiring a local contractor can make these projects significantly easier; you have to know how to find the right one.
In this article, we’ll detail how to hire a local contractor for your next home addition project. These are tips and steps any homeowner should take regardless of the size and purpose of their home addition. These can be tricky projects to complete, especially when considering legal parameters and regulations, so having a local contractor is vital, and here’s how you can find one that suits your project perfectly.
So, you’ve decided you’re finally in a position financially and in your life to embark on a home addition project. While this is an exciting decision that will increase your home’s value and everyone’s quality of living, it can also be an immensely stressful process. Luckily, local contractors are available to help reduce this stress and make sure you have the most beautiful and functional home addition possible that follows all regulations. The problem is, how do you even begin to find them?
The first step to finding a local contractor you can trust is to start asking friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and other people in your life for referrals. You’re likely to find at least one person who has hired a local contractor, and they can let you know who they are and how their experience went.
Networking is undoubtedly your best chance of finding a local contractor that is legitimate and trustworthy rather than sifting through option after option online. People tend to feel better hiring a service that other people in their life use and respect, so we recommend starting here with your search and creating a list of contractors you’ve heard good things about and those who seem to have poor reviews.
Make sure to ask your referral source what they liked and disliked about their contractor, so you have a better idea of what to expect and if they sound like a good fit for you and your home addition project.
If you don’t have many people in your life who have hired a local contractor before, try the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Here, you’ll find an extensive list of contractors in your area you can start looking into.
Make Your Initial List
After asking around for a while, you’ve hopefully recorded a decent number of potential local contractors to hire for your upcoming project. Before you move on, you’ll want to make sure you have a decent number of options on your list, as there is an unfortunate number of contractors who are either poor in some aspect of their service or won’t find your project needs.
Using your networking and other resources, create an initial list of contractors with 10 to 12 options. More likely than not, this number will dwindle down to maybe 4-6 legitimate options after you’ve done some background checking and interviews, so having a hefty number to start will be more beneficial.
While it might seem overwhelming to hear you should have 10-12 options, this will help you in the long run by ensuring you find the absolute best contractor that fits all of your project and financial needs perfectly rather than comparing mediocre options or going back to square one because you started with a shortlist.
Check Your Initial Contractor’s Credentials
Now that you’ve asked around and have a solid list of 10-12 local contractors to consider, you’ll want to start dwindling the list, and one of the best ways to do this is by checking these contractors’ credentials.
It is essential that your contractor has gleaming credentials before you hire them, as this will reflect on their quality of service. First, check to ensure these contractors have the required licenses from state and local municipalities and professional associations. You’ll then check the legitimacy of the company and look for any customer reviews and examples of their work.
Looking for a local contractor to hire can be a lengthy process, so you’ll want to make sure that any options you dedicate your time to past this point are at least decent. This is the time to toss out any contractors you’ve found that don’t meet basic standards. For example, hiring an unlicensed contractor comes with a series of legal complications that will be far more trouble than it’s worth, so it’s best to avoid them altogether.
Additionally, if you can find previous customers of these contractors, they are the best resource possible for getting a first-hand account of how professionally the contractors conducted themselves and the quality of their work. Don’t be afraid to ask for pictures of what the contractors did to see if it meets your expectations and if you’d be okay with this type of work done in your own home.
Conduct Primary Interviews Over the Phone
Hopefully, by this step, you’ve removed the contractors with the biggest red flags from your list, and you can now focus on refining your list to only include the best and most competitive options. While conducting research online and through referrals is a great way to start your local contractor hunt, it’s time to start talking to your options directly.
Conducting phone interviews will help you better understand your contractor’s customer service capabilities while also acquiring more relevant information you can’t find online. You’ll want to call each option and take notes of how you were treated and how well they answered your questions.
A contractor can do some of the best work in the state or even the country, but if they don’t speak to you professionally and with respect, they don’t deserve your business. One of the fastest ways to determine how well a contractor interacts with their customers is to see how they handle your interview over the phone when you’re nothing more than an interested party.
While you’re paying attention to how they speak to you, ask them questions relating to their business, such as:
- Are they experienced with home additions?
- How long have they been in business?
- Do they have a permanent business address?
- How many projects do they work on at once?
- Are they willing to provide references such as previous clients
- Do they have insurance and what kind?
- How long do most home additions take for them to complete?
These are all general questions that will help you get a better feel for the contractor to see if they are legitimate, established, and a good fit for your project without going too far into the specifics (you’ll do this later). If you were satisfied with their answers and customer service by the end of the phone call, put them down as a keeper.
Follow Up With an In-Person Interview
It’s time to finally meet your potential local contractor in the flesh. By this step, we recommend having around four to six genuine options that you’re seriously considering, as the in-person interview can often make or break your hiring decision.
After conducting your phone interview, you’ll want to set up a time to meet with your top local contractors in person for an interview. This is the time to gauge how they treat you face-to-face, how well the two of you can communicate, and if they’re well-suited to your project. Make sure to bring your project plans with you for these interviews, so the contractor has all the necessary information to answer your questions accurately.
You can tell a lot about a person’s customer service over one phone call, but you’ll learn even more in person where there’s nowhere to hide (for either of you). Face-to-face conversations are much more genuine, and you might find after talking to your contractor directly that you feel connected, less stressed, or more confident with one over another. This is something to take note of when comparing options later.
For your in-person interview, you’ll want to ask plenty of questions that pertain to your home addition project specifically. Some examples include:
- Will this project require additional permits?
- Can they provide an estimate of what your project will cost?
- How many projects like yours have they completed recently?
- Can they show you examples of your project they’ve done before or are currently working on?
- What should you expect from their payment schedule?
- Are they willing to provide financial references?
It is important that you, as the client, have a lot of questions prepared to ask your contractor so you can make the most informed decision possible later. You might find after asking these questions that this contractor isn’t very experienced in home additions, or these are their specialty.
You might also learn that they take on too many projects at once, and the timeline for yours would be substantial or that they only take on a few projects at once, and yours can be completed rather quickly. The general cost of this project is also a key piece of information you should get from this interview, although the end cost will largely depend on the specific materials and features you install in your addition.
Compare Your Options
With the interviews behind you, it’s time to look at all of the options you have left and see where each excels or falls behind in your opinion.
Before making a final decision, compare all of the local contractor options you have left and see which will fit your project design needs best, which treated you ideally as a customer, and which fits your financial limits or exceeds them.
Regarding financials, be cautious leaning towards the more budget-friendly contractor, as this often indicates they are cutting corners for costs and might produce low-quality work.
We recommend using this time to double-check your options’ credentials, especially their licenses and insurance. This is to make sure they can legally perform the job in your area, they are certified to perform all necessary tasks to complete your addition, and all members are licensed, so you aren’t responsible for any accidents that occur on your property.
If the contracts gave you financial and job-related referrals during the interviews, this is a good time to check on those as well. Ideally, by the end of the comparison process, one contractor will reign supreme.
Make a Decision Then Negotiate Price and Payment
You’ve done all of your research, conducted countless interviews, and thoroughly reviewed the information you have on all of your potential contractors. Now, there’s nothing left to do but to pick one and hire them. Of course, deciding to hire them is only the start. From here, the negotiation process begins.
Hiring your local contractor should feel like an immense weight has been lifted off your shoulders if you’ve made the right choice. However, the hard work isn’t over yet. Once you’ve settled on a decision, you need to establish the details of price and payment.
Price isn’t always negotiable, but if you show your contractor your complete plans, you two might be able to alter materials, features, or other aspects of the project to reduce costs. Once you’ve settled on a price, you’ll want to settle on a payment system that works for both parties. This will make the financial burden of the project easier on you while ensuring your contractor gets what they’re due.
However, look for red flags when making this agreement. For instance, if the contractor asks that you pay them in cash, it’s most likely a scam. Additionally, suppose the contractor asks for a hefty sum to start (ex. 50% or more). In that case, this might indicate they’re experiencing financial issues or don’t trust you as a client to pay for their services, both of which could cause strain as the project continues. Most projects should have a down payment along with 4-6 payments of 10-25%.
Create a Legal Contract
You should always complete your contractor hiring process with a legal contract signed by both parties to ensure everyone’s protection before the project starts.
There are a ton of legal strings attached to hiring a contractor to build or install a new home addition, so before you pay them a dime, you’ll want to make sure everything the two of you discussed is written down and signed willingly by both parties.
Not only will a contract provide legal security and peace of mind for you and your contractor, but it will also promote communication between the two of you as you record all of the details of your project, such as:
- Payment schedule
- Proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments
- Start and projected completion date
- Plans (ex. specific materials and products to be used, features to be built, etc.)
- Requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases
With these essential elements written down, you can now move on to the exciting step of finally starting your new home addition project with your trusty contractor by your side.
Element Home Remodeling East Bay is a home addition contractor in Oakland. We specialize in custom home addition designs that are open, modern and beautiful. Contact us today to learn more and to schedule a free consultation.
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