Home Related Checklist
Well, it’s final! You got the approval for the loan to build the home of your dreams or remodel that “oh, not so perfect” home that just needs a little work to be your castle again. Whatever the scope of your building or remodeling project, the key to a successful outcome is to be educated and to know how to relay your expectations to your contractor.
Selecting Your Contractor
Selecting a contractor for your building or remodeling project does not have to be as complicated as you think, although it is far more detailed than selecting the builder who has the most appealing ad in the yellow pages. The key to proper selection is to know beforehand what you need and to ask the right questions.
If the contractor that you are considering hiring is not properly licensed or registered – look somewhere else. Do you really want to deal with a person who is not in compliance with the law, regardless of how cheap they are? Do you want to risk paying lawsuits, injuries and loss of wages because your contractor did not have insurance during your construction project? There are too many reputable contractors complying with the laws for you not to select a fully licensed, registered and insured professional contractor.
After you have verified that your contractor meets all the necessary licensing requirements and has adequate insurance protection, you will want to do a little more research on your contractor. Check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if the contractor complies with their standards. Call the local Home Builders Association to see if your contractor is a member. Although affiliation with a trade association is usually voluntary, many contractors belong to professional groups as a means of enhancing their credibility, for networking and educational opportunities and to keep abreast of industry developments. Many trade associations require certain standards for membership and are excellent tools for weeding out unscrupulous individuals.
Check with the local Consumer Protection Agency Office or Attorney General’s office to see if the contractor that you are considering hiring has any complaints against them. It is a wise idea to check out a contractor by his individual name, as well as by the company name since some individuals have multiple businesses, such as a construction company, excavating business or real estate development firm. You may want to check to see if there is any legal action pending against the contractor from former clients, suppliers or subcontractors.
Make sure that you thoroughly check out a contractor’s references. Try to get references from customers from different time intervals such as present customers and customers from several years ago. In many cases, present customers are usually happy with the end result because of the newness of the home or project. Once a home settles, certain minor problems may occur which is natural, such as doors or cabinets sticking, minor settling and shrinkage. Do not be alarmed if minor problems arose. The key to a proper reference check on a contractor is to see how the contractor responded to the problems. If there were any problems, did the client have to leave repeated messages with an answering machine or message service, or worse, was the customer unable to reach the contractor? Did the contractor return the calls in a timely manner and address any problems that arose? Be realistic in your expectations. Although contractors make every attempt to complete the job properly, they are human and some minor problems can occur after the completion of the project. If a problem does arise, contact the contractor and notify him of the problem but give him a reasonable amount of time to correct it. Questions you may want to ask former clients include: Was the contractor accessible before, during and after the project? Did he perform in a professional and courteous manner? If you are remodeling, were the contractor and his representatives neat and professional? Did he adhere to the time schedule or did he keep you apprised of any delays such as weather, supply, availability, etc? Was the contractor able to adapt to any work changes through the course of the project? Was the finished project to the customer’s satisfaction and within the specified budget? Did the contractor treat the customer with respect and answer all questions?
If you are having a new home built in a subdivision by a contractor, drive to the area on a weekend and stop to talk to some of the homeowners in the development. A reputable contractor will not mind giving you a list of references since they are proud of their work. If the contractor that you are considering hiring is evasive or unable to give you references, look somewhere else. A smart contractor knows that his best advertisement is the praise of a satisfied customer.
Remember, you will be dealing with this individual for week s, possible months, so make sure that your contractor is someone you feel comfortable with and with whom you can establish a good rapport.
Never enter into a contract if you are not sure what you are signing. If there are any blanks, do not sign it. If the project requires a large investment, it is highly recommended that you have your attorney look over the contract before signing it. By law, any home improvement job over $1,000 must be in writing, but for your protection you should have a contract or written work order for any project.
In Massachusetts, consumers that sign a contract outside of the contractor’s place of business have three days to cancel the contract. Do not be pressured into signing any contract if you are not sure of what you are signing and need to have your lawyer review it first.
For home improvement projects over $1,000, your contract should include the following:
- the registration number of the contractor that is performing the work;
- the dates on which the work is scheduled to begin and be substantially completed;
- a detailed description of the work to be done and the materials necessary;
- a time schedule of payments and the amount of each payment, including financing charges;
- the requirements that the contractor inform the owner of any and all necessary permits, that it is the obligation of the contractor to obtain such permits, and the homeowner who secures their own permits will be exempt from the protection of the guarantee fund provisions of the law;
- the option for alternative methods of dispute resolution;
- and the signature of the parties.
You will not be required to pay a deposit of more than one-third of the total amount due, unless materials for the project need to be special ordered, in which case your contractor may collect for the cost of such materials with the initial deposit.
For new home contracts, make sure that everything is specifically written out. if you want storm windows, have the particular brand written in, other wise the contractor may provide you with a brand that you are not familiar with. Most contractors work with a local building supplier who provides them with reasonable rates and good service. If you are not brand specific, the contractor will supply you with the materials that he normally works with. For items such as carpeting, cabinets, etc. that show allowance amounts, make sure that you understand exactly what you will be getting. For instance, if you are given a $3,000 allowance for kitchen cabinets, you may be disappointed if you had expected cherry wood. Chances are you are talking pine. If you are not sure: ask, ask, and ask!
Read your contract carefully to be sure that everything you gave agrees to and have been promised in sales representation is written out in detail. Do not assume that everything is written in the contract. Make sure you know what type of customer service and warranty protection the builder offers you. Do not wait until you have purchased the home or completed the project to learn how to correct any problems. Most builders offer some form of written warranty. Find out the length of the warranty and if it is backed by an insurance company. Know whether the warranty is that of the builder or one of the manufacturers. Know what procedures must be followed if a problem arises. Many builders offer their own warranty on workmanship and material, typically for one year. A warranty backed by insurance costs more, but it offers longer and more comprehensive protection.
Never hesitate to ask a question for fear of sounding stupid or uninformed. Any question you may have only offers the contractor the opportunity to make sure he understands exactly what you want. A professional contractor will be glad to answer your questions because the more clear, concise and forthcoming you are as to what you want, the better able he will be to give it to you in the finished project. You know what you want in your home or remodeling project, the key is to convey those desires to your contractor. Most problems arise because of misunderstandings between the consumer and contractor because they did not communicate properly. Remember, keep your expectations realistic, relay what you want clearly, do your research and you will be assured of a richly satisfying experience.
If you are planning to build a home or undergo a major remodeling job, it is wise to have regularly scheduled site visits with your contractor to oversee that process of the job. These scheduled visits will allow you to ask your contractor questions, ensure that the building codes and manufacturer’s instructions are being followed properly and resolve any issues before the process continues further. Make sure that you conduct site visits with the general contractor only and do not interfere with any of the employees or subcontractors.
Few homeowners are aware of all of the building codes, so it may be beneficial to consult with a professional who is trained and will bring objectivity to the process. An independent building consultant’s value has a direct relationship to his or her experiences and knowledge. A consultant can educate you in the construction process; this in itself can reduce your anxiety. Consultants are generally paid an hourly fee and can offer and explain a wide range of potions without steering you towards a certain product over another, because there is no conflict of interest or financial gain. If after a few inspections or consultations when the consultant confirms the professionalism of your contractor, you may no longer wish to continue with the consultant’s services.
The anxiety of building or remodeling a home can be greatly reduced if you take the proper steps in qualifying and establishing a working relationship with your contractor. Make sure that you hire only contractors that hold the proper licensing, registration and insurance requirements. Ask your contractor questions if you are not sure about anything. Have a lawyer look over any contract before you sign it. Do not let anyone pressure you into signing anything you are not sure of. Thoroughly check out your contractor’s references. For added insurance and peace of mind for building new homes or on major projects, you may want to consider hiring an independent consultant.
Call the Home Builders Association of Western Massachusetts at 413-733-3126.
Choose a Member of the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Western Massachusetts
You are ready to start your building or remodeling project but you have no idea where to start. You ask family and friends for recommendations, flip through the phone book, or heaven forbid you use a relative or friend who does remodeling on the side!
Where is the right place to start? Why not call the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Western Massachusetts? As a local chapter of the National Association of Home Builders Association and the Home Builders Association of Massachusetts you can be assured that our association is the right place to start to get the name of a building professional to complete your project.
Our local association screens applicants to make sure that they are licensed and registered with the state. References are checked and prospective members are voted in for acceptance by a board of directors comprising of individuals from all facets of the residential construction field. Consumer complaints are kept on file.
Our members are kept abreast of the latest regulations that affect the industry. Our association offers meetings, classes and publications that keep our members updated on legislative and regulatory issues. The association staff is happy to help you by providing you with quality referrals, as well as free consumer information about selecting and using reputable builders and remodelers.
Remember, the lowest price is not always the best deal! Is your contractor registered with the state, is he/she licensed? Does your contractor have the necessary liability insurance to protect you and your home? To ensure that you make a wise decision, call the Home Builders & Remodelers Association of Western Massachusetts at 413-733-3126 the next time you need a building professional.