One of the most costly areas of property ownership is repair and maintenance. No matter how many properties you own or their size, at some point, you will have to work with a contractor or handyman on a project. It’s important that you start the process off right and get the correct bids in place before you choose a contractor and the project gets started. Spending time on the bid process upfront can save you tons of money and time later on down the road. Our Director of Maintenance, Andy Hernandez, gives us his advice for dealing with contractors and repairmen in the video Getting the Right Bids for Your Projects and we’ve expanded on his points below:
GETTING YOUR BID
- Always get 3 different bids on your project. This allows you to get 3 different options and costs so that you have the most information to make the best decision.
- Your bid should define the “scope of work,” meaning an itemized breakdown of the costs of materials and labor (Contractors shouldn’t give you a hard time about itemizing their bid. If they resist, it’s a red flag), and the materials that are going to be used should be defined.
- Ask for a project timeline and specific date that the work will be completed.
- Is your bid an estimate or a fixed price? Some contractors treat their bids as estimates, meaning bills could end up being higher in the end. Be sure to request a fixed price bid instead.
CHOOSING A CONTRACTOR
- Check with your state’s Contractor Licensing Board website to see if their license is active and current. Most states can also tell you if there have been any complaints lodged against the contractor in question.
- Follow up with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to see what they say about your contractor.
- Get at least 3 references from previous clients and actually CHECK them!
- Ask what kind of guarantee they offer for the type of work you’re asking them to do.
- How long have they been doing business in this town? A contractor who’s been plying his trade locally for five or ten years has an established network of subcontractors and suppliers in the area and a local reputation to uphold. That makes them a safer bet than a contractor who’s either new to the business or planning to commute to your job from 50 miles away.
WORK OUT THE DETAILS
- What is your contractor’s schedule? Will he be working on this project 8 hours a day, 5 days a week until it’s finished? Ask what the work schedule is going to be.
- Agree on a payment schedule on paper so there’s no question later on. You can check with your state to find out what the maximum amount of deposit a contractor can ask for before getting started on your job. Don’t pay them more money upfront than necessary.
- When it comes to permits, it is the contractor’s responsibility to pull them, however, you want to educate yourself as well so that you are aware if the project you are planning requires permits. Don’t just believe what they say without arming yourself with the knowledge. Ask for it to be listed in writing who’s going to be responsible for pulling the permits and how much it’s going to cost.
- Ask your contractor if he’ll be running your project himself and if he’ll be there everyday. You want to eliminate any surprises down the road.
When choosing a contractor or handyman, you want to take into consideration his reputation, how much time he’ll be able to devote to your project, how involved he’ll be and what the communication with him has been like so far. A contractor that’s willing to dedicate more time to your project and get the work done faster, might be worth paying more for. The ultimate goal is to establish a relationship with a contractor or handyman after they complete a few jobs for you and you’re happy with their work so you have a reliable resource for future needs.