Step Three: Finding a Remodeler
In our last post about completing a successful remodeling project, we discussed deciding on the process, specifically hiring a design-bid-build or a design-build firm. Whichever route you go, you need to choose your remodeler wisely. It’s said that people spend more time shopping for a car than a remodeler. Considering the cost, both financial and emotional, it’s imperative to invest time in this step.
Get bids from at least three remodelers, making sure they are as specific as possible and that you are comparing “apples to apples.” As discussed previously, some change orders are unforeseen and necessary; however, change orders can also be part of a deceptive bidding practice. Some remodelers intentionally keep their bids low by pricing with low-cost materials and fixtures, knowing that once construction begins, you will find them unacceptable and have little choice but to authorize and pay for upgrades. Ask about the estimating process to select a firm that will give you the most honest, accurate bid without a lot of after-the-fact upgrades.
Get referrals from friends who have remodeled, go to the internet, read local publications, and contact trade organizations (e.g., ORA, NARI, NKBA and the HBA). Visit trade shows and seminars, and definitely check with the state’s Construction Contractors Board. Finally, interview the designer and contractor in person, preferably at their office, and then check their credentials and the references they provide.
A home remodel is one of those things that can breed procrastination. Many homeowners, especially the uninitiated, put it off like a long-delayed trip to the dentist. But good things, like a bright, healthy smile, can result from overcoming ill-founded anxieties, making us wonder why we waited so long to get started.
Admittedly, home remodeling can be more involved than scheduling a dental procedure. But in starting the deferred course of dental health or a home remodel, knowing what to expect will boost your confidence in the decision-making process. We’ll be breaking down the steps in five blog posts.
Step One: Do Your Homework
Many people do more research buying a car than considering what they want from a home remodel. But the first, day-dreaming step holds the joy of anticipation. Create an idea file to share with your future designer. Make lists of what you like and don’t like about your current space. Search the internet, rip out pages from magazines, or if you’re doing an exterior project, take photos of homes in the neighborhood. Then prioritize your list, ranking your “must-haves” from your “lottery wish list.”
Not so fun but essential: get a realistic idea of costs. Look at a cost versus value report, like the one put out by Remodelers Magazine, to see how much future return you might expect from your investment. Be realistic about what you’re willing to invest in your home and the results you can expect. Gotta have that custom pebble floor in your shower? Go for it, and adjust your budget accordingly.
Budget for “surprises.” Even with reputable remodelers and the most thorough contracts, unforeseen circumstances might require additional work. (Dry rot and inferior framing, for instance, can be difficult to detect before demolition.) Or maybe you’ll be presented with an opportunity to save some money by spending a little more now rather than later. For instance, you may have decided to reduce your bedroom renovation budget by delaying the closet remodel, only to find it would actually cost less to do it now rather than later. The savvy remodeling client will budget an additional 10 percent for such a contingency.
Your final homework assignment: consider how you are going to pay for the project. Many homeowners pay cash, either by reallocating resources or saving up. Others finance through traditional methods or asking their contractor for advice on financing solutions. Contractors might also break a larger project down into smaller phases for a “pay as you go” approach. If you can’t afford to redo the bathroom of your dreams now, it might only be a delay of months to get what you really want.