7 Steps to Vet a General Contractor
The number one thing I am asked about on a weekly basis is hiring a General Contractor. From real life close friends to Instagram friends I get a lot of questions about knowing whether you have found the right GC. It's very telling I think of how crazy it can be out there.
I like to think of it like dating. There are a lot of weirdos out there but you have to keep swiping right and meet with a few to give it a try. With the right questions and research you can narrow but ultimately you have to go with your gut. And in the end no one is 100% perfect, we all have our baggage.
But since we all can probably use a little help in love and renovating I've listed out 7 Steps to Vetting a General Contractor.
1. START WITH RECOMMENDATIONS. Always go with a personal recommendations if you can. Online reviews are good too. Read all of them and read between the lines. Sites like Houzz and Sweeten can be really helpful too. Also just because someone doesn't have a fancy website or marketing material doesn't mean they aren't good. A lot of really talented people in the business get their jobs off recommendations and they are busy going from job to job in the field they are not sitting behind their computers thinking about fonts.
2. GET MANY QUOTES. Meet with many contractors and get several quotes. When you meet them it important that they show up. That they seem respectful. That they listen and hopefully write something down. That they are thinking through some of the technical aspects of the work you want to do. The most polished person is not always the best person but they do need to show up and answer the phone. Quotes often cannot be turned over quickly. It's ok if it takes a week or two. A lot goes into a quote if they are quoting it correctly.
3. DON'T TELL THEM YOUR BUDGET OR YOUR TIMELINE. Never give a contractor your budget or your timeline. The cost is the cost based on your scope of work, where you live and how high end you want to go. He should tell you how much it costs and how long they think it will take.
Pro tip: The realistic cost is not what you thought it would cost in your head. Imma say that again... the costs in your head is not the real cost! Maybe you made that number up, maybe your friend in the Midwest told you that's what he paid, maybe you have been watching too much HGTV. I don't know where it came from but you have to let that go.
4. COMPARE THE QUOTES. If a few are coming in around the same price that probably means that is the realistic cost. Usually you will get a few low balls, a few high, and then some in the middle. Quotes should be itemized and they should have outlined payment terms. Payment schedules should never line up to timing they should always line up to work milestones. I always like to see quotes separated by material and labor. Labor should remain the same, material costs can fluctuate.
5. ASK THE GC THESE 3 QUESTIONS.
- How many change orders they issue on average per project?
- How many weeks they usually go over their timelines?
- How many projects they are working on and how many they take on at a time?
It's not abut the actual answer but how they answer the questions. The GC is going to just give you some response that sounds good and positive. They are running a business so they aren't going to show you all the skeletons in the closet. This is where you need to use your emotional intelligence and spidy senses. Its important to ask the questions so you can compare the answer you get in Step 6.
6. ASK FOR REFERENCES. And call them! On the phone! Don't email! Ask them what work they did and let them talk. You will get a sense of their experience. Ask them the timeline quoted vs actual timeline and how many change orders they had. If they say everything was 100% perfect they are probably a fluffer and not a real client. This step is really important. The vibe you get from other happy clients should somehow match with the vibe you got from the GC when you asked them the same questions.
7. GO WITH YOUR GUT. Always, always, always. Remember its like dating it's gotta feel right.