Tuesday, January 1, 2008

What To Look For In A Renovator

Finding a professional renovator is not as difficult as it can sometimes seem. It's best to begin with a list of the characteristics you should look for.

Presentation - Real professional renovator operate in a businesslike manner. They respect your schedule and show up for appointments on time. They present themselves well, are organized and deal with your questions and concerns directly. They earn your confidence because they follow through on promises - if they say they will call you back tomorrow , they do. How a renovator deals with you before a contract is signed tells you a lot about how you can expect to be treated once the job begins.

Communication - Renovation is a "people business", and good renovators are good listeners and communicators. Professional renovators must "translate" your ideas and goals into a workable plan - this requires a solid working relationship and good rapport. If you're not comfortable with renovators you interview or don't feel you can communicate with them effectively, you should keep looking to find the right person for your job.

Skills and Experience - Renovating a home can be a far more complex task than building it in the first place. It takes years of experience in the business before most renovators are ready to manage a major project on their own. Professional renovators have this type of work history in the industry, and you should ask about it. When did they start in the business and who have they worked for in the past? Have they completed projects that are similar in nature and size to the one that you are planning? How long have they worked with the trades who would be involved in your project? Do they regularly take part in industry training programs?

Track Record- A renovation contractor's past customers are probably the most reliable source of information available to you. A professional renovator will be glad to provide you with a list of past customers who you can contact for personal references. Get this list and then follow through and make the calls.

There are a number of key questions you should always ask past customers :
Did the renovator deliver what was promised?

Did the work crew arrive on time with all the necessary materials?

Was the work site organized, and did they feel the renovator provided adequate direction and management to workers?

Were they able to maintain satisfactory communications with the renovator throughout the project?

If there were any problems, did the renovator take adequate steps to resolve them?

Was there any follow-up or warranty work required after the job was completed and, if so, was it done quickly, properly and agreeably?

If they were doing the job again, would they hire the same renovator?

If any renovators are unwilling to provide you with customers references, you should not consider hiring them.

Professional Reputation -Established renovators work with a network of other businesses in your community - banks, material suppliers and trades. You should ask a renovator for references to any of these people. Also, you should check with the local Better Business Bureau to find out if there have been any complaints filed against the renovator.

Your Local Home Builders' Association -Ask renovators is they are members in good standing of the Home Builders' Association in your area. Most Association members are established local firms with many years in business. The education and training programs offered through the Canadian Home Builders' Association network provide renovators the opportunity to keep up-to-date on building technology and practices. Association membership is a solid indication that a renovator is a committed member of the industry.

Be Clear About What You Want and Expect
It's hard to get what you want if you don't ask for it. In the home renovation business, the real professionals want to understand your expectations and needs. So don't hesitate to "speak your mind".

We know that not everyone finds this easy to do, but it is very important. If a renovator you talk with is not responsive to your questions, chances are you should choose someone else for your project.

The renovator should help you define and plan your project. One of the benefits provided by professional renovators is their knowledge and experience in planning projects. An important part of their service to you should be to help you finalize your renovation plans. You should expect renovators to offer suggestions about how best to achieve your renovation goals and what can be accomplished within your budget.

When there are things about a renovators proposal that you don't understand, ask questions. It's the renovator's job to explain things to your satisfaction. Good renovators want the opportunity to do this.

Balance price and value. A price that's "too good to be true" probably is. The range of price quotes you get will reflect differences in quality of materials, workmanship and management provided. There's no magic involved. If one renovator offers to do the job for substantially less than others, there will always be a reason. Compare quoted specifications, and the renovators' track records, very carefully. If a renovator's price seems out of line with others, ask for an explanation. Higher prices should reflect better-quality materials, finishing, features and service. The opposite is usually true when prices are lower than average. Make sure the price you choose will deliver the quality you want.

Ask the renovator how any hidden defects will be handled. With any renovation project, unanticipated problems can come up. For instance, the condition of wiring hidden in walls can't be known until the job is under way. If hidden defects are uncovered, you need to know how your renovators will handle these problems. What's important is that you are fully explained to you before extra charges are incurred.

Never agree to anything without a written contract. A written contract protects both you and the renovator from misunderstanding. The contract must include detailed project plan, specifications, a timetable and schedule of payments. As well, it will deal with practical issues such as the renovator's access to your home, and various legal requirements such ass GST payment, Workers' Compensation coverage and the renovator's liability insurance. A proper contract will also specify the warranty the renovator is providing on the work. If you are unsure about any part of the contract, have a lawyer review is before you sign.

Ask question about the renovator. We've provided some suggestions. You need to let renovators know that character and reputation matter to you. A real professional can meet this test and will respect you for asking these questions.


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