Are You Really Ready to Remodel?

Contract Negotiations What to Expect
Although most of the content of this writing can be considered universal in almost all remodel projects, bear in mind that not all information herein is to be taken as “written in stone”.

As a 30 year Residential Contractor, I find that there are a handful of very important procedures that are taken far too lightly by homeowners who are prospecting remodels and new home construction.
The following are some of the steps that should be taken in the proper order to assure a smooth and seamless project.

Do your homework
There is a lot of due diligence that can be done prior to searching out your Project Contractor. Some of the things that need to be researched are;
1. Project feasibility- There are limitations imposed by several entities which include, but are not limited to
a.) zoning ordinances, i.e , setbacks and restrictions like height
limitations etc.
b.) Homeowners associations
c.) CC&R’s
d.) Historical society
e.) Planning Restrictions
f.) Code restrictions
If you are not willing to spend the time to find out if your project is within the guidelines of all of the governing agencies, be prepared to pay your contractor or architect to do the legwork for you.

2. Budget- There are some great resources on the web for giving you a pretty accurate ballpark budget expectation for the work to be performed. One of the best I’ve found is Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report which can be found here-
2014 Cost Vs. Value
This is a very comprehensive and thoroughly researched compilation provided annually that allows you to select an area in your general region for accurate cost comparisons.
But one of the things I run across on almost every job is people wanting to add a master suite, remodel a kitchen etc., but almost always have additional work to be performed in other areas of the house.
And often this additional work is not factored into the equation.
In other words, if you’re planning to remodel your kitchen and basing your prospective budget on the research you’ve done on kitchen remodels, but you also want to replace all of the flooring in the entire house, this will add a significant chunk to the budget.
Be sure to allow for it.
I’m always amazed at how many people think this is just part of that kitchen remodel.

3. Research your Prospective Contractors- All the information you need is right there on the World Wide Web and easy to access.
Check the license status at the State licensing board. This should give the current status on the license and all of the necessary insurance required to contract in your State.
Your local Better Business Bureau should have any major complaints on file.
Most contractors websites will have customer testimonials. Ask your Contractor to provide referrals from past clients.
Check their license number to see how long it’s been active. You can tell by the actual number when the particular license was activated. If He or She says they’ve been in business for 30 years, and the license number provided has only been active for 2 or 3,
find out why.

Respect the sequence (Don’t take shortcuts)
There is a proper order for the steps to be taken. And to do things out of sequence only causes extra time, headaches, and back tracking after the fact to make adjustments.

I run into this on almost every job. Clients give me very general and vague information, leaving out all of the pertinent details and they start asking for prices. And without fail they almost always say
“All of the the other contractors we talked to gave us prices without this information.”
I hear this all the time.
If someone gave you a hard line price without having a finished, engineered, approved set of drawings, it’s baseless. You’re setting yourself up for disappointment. You’re being told what you want to hear so that they can get the job. And then the change orders start falling like rain.
If you aren’t willing to invest the time, and possibly a little money up front for plans and Engineering, don’t bother asking for prices.
And if you’re not willing or able to follow the proper procedures, in the proper order, you’re setting the stage for a bumpy road ahead.

What should be expected from you.
You are entering into a business relationship, or partnership, with your Contractor and it should be treated as such. And anyone knows a successful business relationship requires, among other things-

  • Mutual respect
  • Solid Communication
  • Transparency
  • Honesty
  • And Trust

There is a lot of work to be done on both sides of the table. And you need to be willing to do your share.
Let me share some of my secrets with you-
When I ask a prospective client to provide information in order for me to assure accuracy on their proposal and they are unwilling or evasive, I find this to be a sure sign that either they are not serious, just tire kicking, or have little or no respect for my time.
Often in this situation I will dismiss myself from the bidding process. I find that People who are unwilling to do their part in the beginning are not likely to change when the real work begins.

A formal proposal on a mid-range to large size remodel takes anywhere from 12-20 hours of my time. My clients are not being charged for this time although in some areas in the U.S. it is common practice to charge for this.
In order to streamline the bidding process you should expect to have to do some work on your end.
As a small Contractor who wears all the administrative hats, I have to make sure my time is well spent. When clients ask me to bid their project, and it usually ends up being very close to the ballpark price I provided in the beginning, and then they ask me to re-bid with adjustments and fewer inclusions, or they say that’s way higher than their allowed budget, this is a sure sign that they weren’t listening when I offered preliminary pricing in the beginning or they just have no respect for my time. In this case I usually politely dismiss myself.
95% of the time when I’m asked to provide multiple bids, I don’t even get a call when they’re done wasting my time. I’m sure I’ve lost a few jobs in this situation, but the enormous amount of time saved was probably worth it.

Other things to consider which I will elaborate more on in future posts-

If your home was built before 1978, your contractor should be a “Certified Lead Safe Firm”
and this can be verified on the EPA’s website at
There are strict guidelines that have been imposed on homes that may contain lead based paint.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Contractor who does most of the work His or Herself will be a better choice. I can do a whole long winded blog post on why this is not the way to go.

Avoid Cost Plus Contracts. I have Contractor friends who swear by them and that’s the only way they work. But a little research will tell you that this is the number 1 reason for lawsuits arising from Construction Contract Disputes. Michael Stone, renown speaker, coach, and Construction Dispute Expert Witness, has a lot more to offer on this subject- click here
Or you can read my earlier post on that here Cost Plus vs. Fixed Price Contracts

I hope you found this article informative and I would love to hear your feedback. Please share with your friends and feel free to leave a comment below.

One thought on “Are You Really Ready to Remodel?”

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