10 Tips for Hiring A Builder or Remodeler

As you plan your next home renovation project or if you are electing to build your next home, choosing the right contractor for the job is a critical first step in your planning process. Here are 10 pro tips to help you find a contractor that fits your project and budget.

1. Check out a contractor’s work and their references

Talk to people who own homes built by the builder. Call homeowners the builder suggests, but also try to talk to some that were not on the builder’s list. Ask to see homes under construction.

2. Check insurance and license information

Ask the builder what kind of insurance they carry, including liability and workers’ compensation; ask for their certificate of insurance and verify with the insurance company that the policy is still in effect. This is important if you already own the property being built on or being remodeled. Building contractors are not licensed in Illinois; electrical contractors are licensed in Rockford; plumbers and roofers are licensed by the State of Illinois.

3. Check out the builder with outside agencies

Call the Better Business Bureau at 815.963.2222 and the state’s attorney general’s office at 815.967.3883 for complaints against the builder. The county clerk’s office in each county has information of any past criminal record and lawsuits filed against contractors. Call trade associations like the Home Builders Association of Greater Rockford Area at 815.962.1148.

4. Check the builder’s financial standing

Call banks and title companies that the builder uses. Call the builder’s main suppliers to be sure they are being paid on time. Check for the builder’s name in federal bankruptcy court at the federal courthouse.

5. Know who will be working on your house

Find out which subcontractors the builder uses and ask them if the builder is reliable. Ask them how long they have worked for the builder. Find out who will be in charge on the job site and meet the person and introduce yourself before the job starts.

6. Establish good communication

The builder should be available to answer questions before, during, and after construction. Ask the builder how you get in touch with them day or night and the best time to call.

7. Demand thorough written bids and contracts

Each bid should specify the materials involved and the cost to complete major phases of the project corresponding to project payouts. Compare the bids based on what each offers in terms of material quality – not just the price. A builder should be able to explain to you why a bid is higher or lower than another. Make sure you understand the contact; pay a lawyer to review it if you have reservations. Any changes to the contract should be in writing, dated and initialed, by you and the contractor.

8. Set up a schedule of payments based on stages of completion

This should be part of the contract. If you have a mortgage, then the title company or mortgage company can make these payments for you and verify that the work has been completed. If it is a remodeling project that you are paying for, then you may still want to utilize the services of a title company to protect your financial interests. Withhold final payment until after the final building inspections are completed and the terms of the contract have been fulfilled

9. Make sure all permits are obtained and the building inspector approved the final project

The contract should specify that the contractor is responsible for obtaining all necessary building permits. The building inspectors work for the property owners and with the builders to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community. Building permits and inspections are your insurance policy that the project will be built to a certain standard.

10. Find out what service the builder provides after construction ends

Read the warranty language. Ask the builder how you properly document warranty service requests to the company and the policy for responding to your request. Find out who will do the repairs. In the real world, things will happen. It is how the builder takes care of these things for you that’s important.

Information courtesy of: Home Builders Association of the Greater Rockford Area