Hiring a contractor


Old 04-18-08, 10:00 PM
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Location: Sussex County, NJ
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Hiring a contractor

I am a first time home owner and I have come across a project where I need to hire a contractor.

When hiring a contractor, how does the process work?

I have already gotten 2 quotes and have another guy coming, but when the time comes to hire one, does the contractor usually have a contract in writing for the job or is that the homeowners responsibility?

How do most contractors get paid (how much up front, how much when the job is 50%...etc) Is it standard to hold back a certain amount (10%?) for 30 days, or maybe longer??

Any other info anyone has is greatly appriated...

The job is reletively small-2 or 3 days to redo/repair concrete stairs...

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Old 04-19-08, 03:49 AM
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This is how it generally works. You contact at least 3 contractors, specify exactly what you want done, and they will, in turn make out a contract enumerating the items to be done, the materials needed and labor/overhead costs. Don't accept a verbal estimate on anything. Remember, there are times you will change your mind, or modify what you want to do while it is in progress. Don't be offended if work stops, you have to sit down with the contractor and fill out a "change order", enumerating the changes and any additional material/labor costs. It is to protect him and you at the same time. Around here, payment is made in three increments, 30% to start (this helps cover cost of materials, etc.), 30% at a specified time in the contract, and the remainder after the job is completed, site is cleaned and you are satisfied. If the contract contains a fuel surcharge, don't get upset. I paid $4.15 for diesel yesterday, and it has to go somewhere, so rather than making the contract so outlandish, we insert a fuel surcharge, in hopes prices will come down, yeah, right. Let us know if we can help.
Old 04-19-08, 04:20 AM
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Thanks alot...

The biggest problem Im having right now is two estimates that are about $3000 apart for the same job...

I dont know if one guy is trying to screw me or if the other guy just doesnt know what the job is going to cost him...

Im getting the third estimate today...well see what happens
Old 04-19-08, 05:46 AM
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I don't think it would be out of line to ask for references so you can possibly talk to satified (or not!) customers and maybe even see the quality of work.

Couple of items:

1. Licensing. Here in Florida it is a felony to do unlicensed contracting; doesn't stop a lot of it from happening and often the unwary homeowner only finds out after being taken.

2. Before the final payment it is a good idea to see the "Paid" receipts for materials. Got this tip, I think, from the Bruce Williams radio show. Keeps the contractor from running up a charge account for materials that he doesn't pay for; guess who the supplier comes after to get paid. Yup.
Old 04-19-08, 05:57 AM
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Getting multiple quotes helps you to get a better idea of what the job should cost. Usually when 2 or more are close in price, that is a good indication of a fair price.

Some contractors like to make more money than others The trick is finding one that will do a quality job - that's why references are so important. A low price isn't always a good deal.

TG brings up a good point. I once painted an elderly lady's house. She was still making payments on her deck built years earlier. Her contractor [with inside help] stole all the lumber [for her porch] from the lumber yard. They got arrested but she ended up paying for the deck twice
Old 04-19-08, 06:25 AM
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Good Morning,I just wanted to add a couple of things, here...

You should get references from the contractor, a couple recent, and a couple older. If it is possible, go to the site, to see your contractor's work. If the older work still looks good, you know your contractor is good, too!

Ask to see the business license, then check with the state that it is, indeed, your contractor's license.Be sure it is the correct classification.
In Virginia,, it is so:
A Class A contractor works on single contracts for $70,000 or more or contracts totaling $500,000 or more over a one-year period (company must have a net worth of at least $45,000).

A Class B contractor works on single contracts for $7,500 or more but less than $70,000 or contracts totaling $150,000 or more but less than $500,000 over a one-year period.

A Class C contractor works on single contracts for $1,000 or more but less than $7,500 or contracts totaling less than $150,000 over a one-year period.

Be certain your contract has a start date and a completion date.

Pick a contractor you feel comfortable with. Communication is very important to the success of the job. You want the contractor to listen to you, but you, too, must listen to him/her, as well.

If you do not understand, have a question or are unhappy, please tell the contractor right away. So many problems can be avoided through communication. The contractor cannot read your mind and if the contractor does not know you are unhappy, the problem cannot be resolved.

Many people say to ask your friends or neighbors to refer a contractor...I think that is not the best way to decide. Most people have only one experience, maybe two with a contractor. Your friends are not professionals (Or else they wouldn't have hired a contractor ) therefore, their opinion may not be based on a successful transaction from every point of view.

Finally, don't just go for the cheapest price. You know that expression, "You get what you pay for"? - sometimes that is true. If your estimates are extremely diverse, ask one of the bidders to explain to you why it is so much more. (Or less)

When the job is finished, I hope you will write a very nice "Thank you" letter for your contractor and tell him/or her you will be glad to be a good reference.

Okay- it's a beautiful day here, I've just returned with a truckload of flowers and I'm going to the garden to plant. I hope all of you have a wonderful day as well.

Old 04-19-08, 08:13 AM
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In addition to references and verification of state contractor license (ask for a copy), the contractor needs to be insured. Ask for copies of the certificates of insurance for both liability and workers compensation and call the agencies to confirm the coverage. Liability insurance will cover your property in the event there is damage. Workers compensation will cover any injuries incurred by the contractor and employees. Homeowner insurance does not cover worker injuries.
Old 04-20-08, 06:47 PM
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Thanks for all the help...still trying to get a 3rd person to come down for a quote. I appreciate all the help!!
Old 04-20-08, 08:23 PM
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If the spread is too great in the bids, don't hesitate to get a 4th or 5th, or if you feel comfortable with one, call and ask why the big difference. I've had people call me, when I've been higher. I didn't have to lower my price, I just explained the difference, told them what to ask the others about, and often I still get the job. Because I had everything covered in the first place.

Don't expect to hold anything back for 30 days or more. If you're dealing with someone reputable, they will warranty their work. You don't get to do that on the new tv from wal-mart, do you?

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