How to Avoid a Renovation Nightmare

Gabe Kim
home-renovation

Starting Your Remodeling Project

When there are too many moving parts, the probability of any project going south increases significantly.  Remodeling a house is probably right up there when it comes to the likelihood of things going wrong at some point in time during the project.  On top of that, home remodeling is not a cheap investment to begin with. We are talking at least tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars and weeks of time.  And if things go wrong, there is no telling how far that budget can extend.

Let us put things into perspective: According to a report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies titled “Improving America’s Housing 2019”, Americans spend close to $450 Billion on home renovations every year! That’s a huge number and there’s no doubt that Home Remodeling is a big market. And one of the biggest factors that determines the success of a renovation project is a skilled contractor; a seemingly rare commodity despite the excessive demand.  Homeowners who don’t do their research and pick a contractor randomly run a high risk of ruining the entire project.

In this article, we aim to discuss how homeowners can save themselves from a remodeling project disaster, specifically focusing on choosing the right contractor for the job.  Being aware of these tips can end up saving you sidestepping a potential disaster.

 

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Steps that Can Secure Your Remodeling Project

    • Credentials Check:  Make sure that your prospective contractor is licensed by a recognized agency (the city or the state government department).  The license might not be an indication of exceptional skill, but it does afford you an assurance that the contractor knows what he is doing.  As an additional advantage, you can approach the licensing agency for the resolution of any conflict.
    • Check for Insurance:  The contractor should preferably have insurance both for his workers and your house.  This will ensure that you don’t have to pay for someone’s medical bills in case they get injured on-site; and also that any damage done to your house during the renovation won’t empty your pockets.
    • Check out Their References and Reviews:  References are pretty much useless unless you follow up on them.  Try and get in touch with the referees provided by the contractor, and talk to them about their experience.  In case your contractor has an online presence, you can always read what previous employers have to say about him on sites like Angie’s List and Yelp.
    • Avoid Red Flags: Common red flags include the inability to answer questions, ambiguous clauses in the contract, being too cheap compared to the market and all the things along those lines. Such red flags call for additional scrutiny on your part.
    • Check out Previous Complaints:  You can get in touch with Consumer Affairs by dialing 311, to check if a particular contractor has a history of complaints.  Public court records can also be checked for any litigation history. If there have been even a few complaints, as a rule of thumb, you should steer clear off that particular contractor.
  • More Steps for Your Remodeling Project

    • Have a Three-Day Cancellation Clause:  Also known as ‘Right to Rescind’, this clause gives you an option to see the work in action for 3 days and change your mind if the contractor raises any red flags. The clause can help you get your deposit back and cancel the contractual agreement in the worst-case scenario.
    • Get an Estimate: Renovation projects have a tendency of getting out of budget.  To avoid that, ask the contractor for a detailed estimate upfront.  This will give you a better position to bargain and will help you stick within the monetary lines later.
    • Do Not Pay Everything Upfront:  It is always a bad idea to pay the entire cost upfront.  Instead, the most common practice is breaking the payment in three parts — before, during, and after.  However, you can also go with more than three mutually agreed upon installments at various stages of the project.
    • Get a Clear Timeline:  After budgetary concerns, time delays are the biggest roadblocks you can expect to encounter on a renovation trip.  To make sure everything is on time, have a clear start and end dates from your contractor. You might still overshoot the deadline due to unforeseen circumstances, but it always pays to have a clear timeline of any renovation project.
    • Be a Part of The Process:  It is easy to delegate the renovation to a contractor and only take cognizance once the work is done.  But the last thing you can afford is being clueless about the project. Communicate with the team and let them know how you visualize the renovation, and what you expect as a finished product.  The more you are involved, the more work that will turn out to be according to your expectations.

In Conclusion

To conclude, it always comes down to paying attention to the details.  Do a background check to assess the credibility of the contractor. Have an attorney draw up the contract so that there are no issues later.  Plan the budget and timeline carefully. And above all, be a part of the project. It’s your house after all!

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