Getting the best deal on a contractor

Chances are that in the time you live in your home you’ll want to get at least one home improvement project done where you’ll need to hire someone.  Whether it’s a new roof, new floors, new windows, paint, or a complete gut rehab, you’ll want to find a contractor at the best price to do the best work.  Here are some tips to save you money and get a great deal.

1. Get at least three estimates.  You really won’t have a great idea of how much your improvement costs until you speak with at least three people.  And by talking to more people, the better idea you’ll have of what goes into the project and how much it really does cost.  On that same note, don’t go with a bid that’s way below what everyone else is charging, especially if it’s someone new or an amateur.  You could end up with poor work that needs to be redone.  So make sure the contractor you choose is licensed and bonded and gets all the appropriate permits to do the job.

2. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations.  They’ll know from personal experience who to hire and who to avoid like the plague.  Also, it’s common when you mention that you got their name from so and so that the contractor may be willing to work out a discount, especially if you pass their name along in the future for a job well done.

3. Negotiate.  Let’s say you hire the contractor that came in at the highest.  Tell him you got two other bids lower than his but you went with him because of his reputation.  Is he willing to match the lower bid?  Will he go down in price if you pay in cash?  Let’s say you went with the contractor that did have the lowest bid.  Did he know that you chose him out of 3 contractors because you liked his estimate the best?  Would he be willing to finish 2 days earlier than you were planning?  It never.hurts.to.ask.  This is not someone you plan to become best friends with.  It’s a business arrangement.

4. Make sure everything is in writing and know what it says.  True story: My relatives had hired someone to fix the roof and had a written contract.  Fast-forward one year later when they had a bad rainstorm and they now have a huge hole in their ceiling because the roof is leaking.  So they contact the roofer who specifically states in his contract that he is not responsible for interior damage.  Um, red flag?  Does he do this because of a previous problem?  My relative is an attorney and even missed this clause.  So make sure you thoroughly go over the contract and understand it before signing anything.  Now they have no recourse and have to pay for fixing their ceiling on their own.

Do you have any other great tips for getting a good deal?  I’d love to hear them.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

New construction home inspection checklist

My loyal readers know how much I believe in the importance of a home inspection once a home goes under contract or prior to closing.  It lets you take a look at the state of the current appliances and utilities and lets you know what repairs are necessary or to be expected in the future.  What you may not realize is how important an inspection is when you’re purchasing new construction.  You figure since the home is brand new that everything is perfect.  I’ve had clients buy new construction only to move in and find the air conditioning doesn’t work or they have leaky windows.  And given the current economy, it’s possible that some home builders are paying less to find subcontractors who in turn are doing poorer work.

It’s also very important to make sure you hire an inspector that’s not affiliated with the builder.  You’ll want an unbiased independent inspection to make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to.  Here’s several items that you’ll want to look at:

1. Open all the windows.  Make sure the latches work, nothing is leaking, and that there is no broken glass.  If they have screens, make sure nothing is torn.

2. Check all light fixtures.  Make sure the switches operate and you know what light they turn on and off.  

3. Check all the floors.  Carpeting should be tightly fitted without gaps.  Tile and vinyl should not be cracked or chipped.  

4. Countertops should not be nicked or scratched.  Make sure all toilets are properly secured to the floor by sitting on them.  The tub should be free of scratches, as well.

5. If you have a basement in your new home, check to make sure you don’t see any water damage on the walls or any cracks.  Find out where the water heater, furnace, and air conditioning unit are located and how they work.  

More great tips can be found here.  It’s important to read over your contract to make sure of the period that you’re allowed a home inspection and final walk-through to look for these items.  Some contracts state that any problem you find after closing are not the responsibility of the builder, so make sure to be thorough in your inspection.

I can be reached online with more questions.

Remembering 9/11

I thought it was so important today to remember September 11, 2001 on what would be the 10th anniversary.  It’s one of those events that you’ll remember your entire life of what you were doing when you heard the news.  It was a regular Tuesday morning for me.  I was getting ready to go into the office and I had the news on in the background, like always.  I remember hearing the words “plane crashed into the World Trade Center” and that’s what really made me pay attention.  After that, I sat down on the couch and stayed for hours, just watching the footage and all the news reports.

I read a great blog this morning about the after effects of 9/11 for some New Yorkers.  One family chose to move from lower Manhattan; another chose to stay.  According to the blog, “At a recent press conference, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg heralded the rebuilding efforts in Lower Manhattan as “one of the greatest comeback stories in American history” and pointed out, with typical New York moxie, that the area’s population growth over the past 10 years surpassed that of Atlanta, Dallas and Philadelphia combined. True — but the path ahead remains uncertain.”

It really made me think about how I’d react if something similar happened in Chicago.  Would I want to stay, because this is my home?  Would I rally with all my fellow Chicagoans to build a stronger Chicago?  Or would I choose to leave and start somewhere new?  I truly believe that I’d want to stay, but I wouldn’t fault or judge anyone who was more comfortable starting over.

I bet we’d have some growth here as well from people who choose to come help, which is what happened in New York City.  They initially came to help with the recovery efforts and fell in love with the city and chose to stay.  And some of those who initially left eventually came back because that was their home.  It might not have had the same feel as before they left, but as the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.”

To all those who fell on September 11, 2001, we will never forget…

Noah Seidenberg
http://www.noahseidenberg.com