Hiring a General Contractor? 4 Tips Every Homeowner Needs

Spring has sprung! (Sadly, we’re still waiting on actual confirmation from Mother Nature here in Chicago). After the long winter, homeowners are always eager to tackle home improvement projects. According to a recent study conducted by LightStream Home Improvement, 58% of homeowners plan to spend money on home improvement projects this year. Fueled by the rebounding housing market, spending on improvements, maintenance and repairs reached $340 billion in 2015, up 12% from 2013. Avoid being one of the 44% of homeowners who experience at least one problem during their remodel by reading through our list of tips below.  

CHECK CREDENTIALS Despite the growing home improvement market, the construction industry has a major labor shortage, due to the loss of more than 2 million jobs since 2007. A lot of home owners are finding their own DIY home hardware. In a recent study conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, almost a fifth of general contractors lacked either a state license or proper insurance, and 9% lacked both! The survey also found that fully accredited general contractors are better at holding down costs when unexpected issues arise—which brings us to our next tip.

NEGOTIATE Get bids from at least three general contractors to get a sense of the current market rate. While it may seem enticing, the lowest bid may not be the best bet, however. In CR’s report, general contractors reported seeing unscrupulous practices to win jobs like submitting lowball bids, only to jack up the lost later due to “unforeseen problems” (35%) and using unskilled or inexperienced workers (31%).

BUDGET According to a survey conducted by Houzz, staying on budget is the top challenge for homeowners, with a third saying they struggled not to overspend. Budgets are a moving target when it comes to renovations. Once you’ve established how much you can afford to spend in total, prepare your budget to cover 90% of that amount, and give at least a 10% cushion for the unexpected.

GET IT IN WRITING A written contract is essential, and provides protection for both you and the general contractor. It should specify the full scope of the work, including a breakdown of labor and material costs for each part of the project. Additionally, the general contractor should provide a written guarantee for their work in the contract. The median time period is 15 ½ months, while 14% of contractors promise more than three years of coverage.

Select your respondents

QuestionPro Audience provides our clients with access to more than 20 million active respondents, including our General Contractor panel. Our General Contractor panel offers unparalleled value by providing big box stores, such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, a front row seat with professional home builders and industrial contractors.  It is one of a handful in the continental U.S. and consists of more than 80,000 highly engaged, pre-screened general contractors who provide critical insights. With industry knowledge, innovative tools, and purchasing power, QuestionPro Audience always meets the rigorous demands of our clients.