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Top 5 mistakes consumer makes when hiring a contractor

We’re in the design-build business. We’ve done many, many quotes and we’ve seen consumers make home improvement contractor decisions in many different ways. We’ve also seen the outcomes of those decisions. Whether the decision is about features, materials or contractor selection, we hope our experience helps guide you when you make a choice to select a contractor for your next home improvement project.

Top 5 mistakes

  1. Too many bids
  2. Insufficient research
  3. Overly Internet-dependent
  4. Communication issues surrounding goals
  5. Communication issues surrounding budget

Are you getting too MANY bids?

You’ve heard it many times. Make sure you get at least 3 bids. But have you ever asked yourself why? Why is 3 the magic number? What is the reason for looking at multiple contractors? Is it because the likelihood of finding a good one should happen if you ensure you see 3 people? Is it in order to see a couple different design options or get differing design perspectives? Is it to get the lowest price? What we’ve heard is that those same people who tell you to get 3 bids will tell you the reason is to get 3 prices and take the lowest price.

If the criteria is just price, you will eventually find the lowest price for the worst service and the worst quality work. Low price doesn’t come by accident – typically it comes because the builder cannot sell his projects on any other basis because he doesn’t have either the reputation, the positive reviews, the skill set, the knowledge, or the expertise so he is forced to sell only on price. The builders that do have skills, reputation, quality people, quality planning, organization are not going to sell on price – they are going to sell on quality. The good news is that it’s easier today than it ever was.

If you’re attributing “successful” research as securing 3 bids, you’re way off track

If you’re adding a porch or deck to your home, you want to make the right choices. As it is a significant investment, you can’t afford not to do the right research. Many builders won’t tell you which questions to ask because they don’t want to give a leg up to other contractors who have longer track records, better reviews or who otherwise fare better when being evaluated against hard criteria. We care about the homeowners we work with. We don’t expect every homeowner to choose us. We do hope that every homeowner makes the right decision and the most educated decision. We’ve put together a due-diligence list for you to follow when choosing a contractor.

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How many projects have they built like the one you’re seeking?
  • Have they ever built a project similar to the one you’re building? This applies to more sophisticated projects. If your project has many components, upgraded materials and design complexity, you may want to ask for pictures of projects similar to the one you’re envisioning.
  • Are they licensed?
  • Are they insured?
  • Do they warranty that the project will be completed?
  • Do they warranty their workmanship?
  • Can they provide a number of references?
  • Can they start tomorrow or next week? If so, run, don’t walk.
  • Are they in a rush to secure a contract?
  • Do you like them? You’re going to have the contractor and their team at your home throughout the building process.

After using the due diligence list above to vet possible contractors, it should be easier to select the right contractor for your project.

Are you being overly Internet dependent on your due diligence?

Believe it or not, not everything you read on the Internet is true.

Don’t be too Internet dependent. You also need to do research the old-fashioned way. Talk to homeowners who have built with that builder. Ask for and call references. Years ago, there was an old saying “you can only believe half of what you read”. Internet reviews can be manipulated. If there are hundreds of reviews, it’s tough to manipulate. If there are just a few reviews online, this can be manipulated. Also, a lot of important information about the builder is not on the Internet. Consumers don’t publish everything they experience and everything they think. In fact, it should be odd that a project worth quite a few thousand dollars is summed up in an online review of 50 – 100 words. Does the review capture everything from scheduling to the quality of work to the craftsmanship to the way they left your yard every night?

We are in a service business and sometimes it’s difficult to discriminate levels of service while just reading reviews. Homeowners often concentrate on product and not on service. How long did the project take? Was there dead time? The #1 most common complaint we hear is that it takes a long time but they were only there working for a short period of time. Was the builder true to their word? It’s important not to be too Internet dependent. Any good company should provide ways for their prospective customers to be not too Internet dependent. Use the Internet but recognize what it is and what it isn’t.

Communication issues surrounding goals

How well are you conveying your vision, wants and needs?

You can have many kinds of goals like the cheapest project, the highest quality project, the most unique design, or the fastest timeline for building your project. These are only a few goals and all homeowners will feel differently about what is most important. Outside of the timeline and price, what are your true goals for the project? You didn’t begin the process of selecting a contractor merely to see how low of a price quote you could secure. You began seeking a contractor because you wanted an outdoor living space and because you had specific activities you wanted to enjoy in your backyard.

Your goals may be as simple as a place to relax outside or a shaded area to relax. Your goals might be to have a place outside your home to steal away for romantic dinners and nestling together with throws to watch a crackling fire outside. Your goal may be to have a place to watch the family in the pool or to create the best reading spot in the house. Most homeowners are looking for an outdoor area that accommodates both eating and lounging outside. If you don’t do a good job of mapping out what is in your head, your builder will be able to build the project you have in mind.

Take some time to write a list. Here are some outdoor living objectives you may have on your list. You want to have 3 -4 neighbors or family members over on weekends so you will need space to fit a table with 6 chairs. You plan on having book club and girlfriend time on a regular basis with your 8 closest friends. Your child wants a secluded reading nook of their own on the new porch or deck. Think about how you want to live outside and how many people will be participating in the different key outdoor activities.

Communication issues surrounding budget

If you let your contractor know your budget, they’ll spend every last penny right?

Inability to set a budget range can ensure that you don’t get what you’re looking for with your project. Having accurate budget information allows the builder to recommend options that more affordably accomplish your goals. With accurate budget information, he can recommend specific designs, specific products, specific sizes, and suggest certain cost-effective measures to help make your project the best for what you want to spend. With a reputable builder, you can benefit from the builder’s knowledge and experience to point you in the best direction for each of the key decisions such as size, shape, features, materials and design. There are additional costs that you don’t see such as permits, product and labor. Your builder can better factor in options with your real budget.

It comes down to trust. If you don’t trust your builder at all, then you shouldn’t hire him. If you trust him, you should trust him to make recommendations and suggestions to help you hit your goals.

If you’re considering adding an outdoor living space to your Kansas-City area home, give us a call for a free consultation at (913) 704-6240. We look forward to discussing your project ideas, goals and budget with you to ensure you get the project you are seeking.