Going Beyond the Basics for a Positive Remodeling Experience

Article by Lorraine Hart, President, Ideal Consulting Services, Inc.

Choosing the right professionals is more than just finding the remodeler or decorator with the lowest price. It is even more important that the company you choose to work with is the right company for you.

There have been a number of articles written and various publications that tell you how to choose a remodeler. In this article the focus will be on choosing the remodeler who is right for you so that you, your family and your home will have a positive experience. Yes, I said “your home.” Depending on the project you plan, the life, health and safety of your home may be one of the most important considerations in choosing a professional remodeler.

The following discussion is not meant to replace the basics in choosing a remodeler, but to help you go beyond the basics in your selection process.

It is important that you are fully aware of the differences between contractors. Unfortunately, there are still those who ignore the rules because it is easier and cheaper to do so. People tend to think that nothing can happen, so why worry? But the big question is: what if something does go wrong? The other question to ask yourself is, if the contractor is ignoring the law what else might they be ignoring? It is important that you realize you have very little protection if you do hire an uninsured contractor.

Keep in mind that a professional remodeler will also use professional subcontractors for electrical and plumbing work. Obviously, you want a safe electrical installation. You also don’t want a plumbing mess to handle, especially water damage to your newly renovated home.

Now that we have looked at some of the basics in pre-screening contractors, let’s look at the finer considerations in choosing the remodeler who is the right remodeler for you.

Communication is Key

A key aspect in choosing your contractor is communication. Depending on the size of your project, you could be dealing with your contractor for an extended period of time. Therefore, it is critical that he is willing to listen and communicate. For you, that means that he pays attention and appreciates your needs and is able to clearly explain all aspects of the project. Listening to and understanding your needs can make or break your project. You want to work with someone who listens, is open to your ideas, but who can also recommend solutions to satisfy your dreams for the project. Both you and your contractor must realize that this is your home and your project.

Communication is critical to a successful outcome, whether your project is a small enhancement or a major home improvement. It starts with the professional remodeler asking the right questions and listening to your answers. It includes his ability to understand your needs, wants and goals. It also includes his ability to rapidly assess the project and create a proposal that is understandable without being over complicated.

These abilities encompass a sense of caring and honesty and the willingness to do what it takes to satisfy you. Just as you want to work with a contractor who is willing to communicate to you, it is equally important that you communicate openly and honestly to him. With good communication you will end up with a successful project, a project that satisfies your hopes and dreams and a project that your contractor will be proud of.

Be Upfront with Your Wants, Needs… and Your Budget

Rather than focusing on price negotiations, I suggest that you and your contractor focus on creating your dream for your home. Keep in mind that this renovation, whether small or large is something that you may be living with for years to come. You certainly don’t want to have any regrets or wish that you had done it differently. The small amount that you save now may not be worth it in the long run. By communicating with your prospective remodeler, together you will be able to make your dream a reality.

To establish a good working relationship with your contractor honesty is needed on all sides. It is best to share not only your needs and wants for your renovation, but your restrictions as well. Unfortunately, I often hear about the broken relationships caused by lack of information from the beginning. In order for a professional to create a sound, realistic plan for your project, it is important that they have some type of idea of your budget. I know that many of you will resist this, however I want to point out that it is next to impossible for anyone to create a project plan and proposal unless they have some idea of your financial limits.

It doesn’t have to be the exact amount of money you can afford, but you need to give some parameters to the remodeling professional. This will guide them in developing the project and selecting materials. A good remodeler will be able to give you various ranges and you can choose the range that will be most comfortable for you. Otherwise, the prospective contractor is hampered in determining which way to go. If the project is too low-end you will be disappointed because it doesn’t have all those things which you want included. On the other hand, if it is too high-end you stand the chance of falling in love with something that is just not affordable. In either case you both lose.

Another area to address is that of free estimates. We all see ads for free estimates, but most of us don’t know what that means. What it should mean is that the potential contractor will meet with you to get an idea of what home improvements you are interested in. Once the scope of the project is loosely defined, the contractor can give some ballpark ranges. A free estimate does not mean that the contractor will create a design, or do a design analysis and feasibility study. That is beyond the scope of a free estimate. Professional contractors deserve to be compensated for designs or anything that requires significant analysis.

By selecting a contractor that will do a professional analysis up front, you will save time, money and aggravation. By getting all the questions answered up front there will be fewer surprises and fewer change orders.

I suggest you and your contractor focus on buying your dream, rather than just negotiating price.

Congratulations on making the decision to take charge of your life and to create the home of your dreams.

This article was provided by Lorraine Hart, president of Ideal Consulting Services, Inc. and a member of the Remodelers Council of the Greater Houston Builders Association. The Remodelers Council is dedicated to promoting professionalism and public awareness of the remodeling profession through education, certification and service to the Houston community. To find a professional remodeler in your area, please visit the GHBA Remodelers Council directory.