Has it ever been more frustrating or aggravating trying to decide who in the world you can trust to remodel your home?
How can you be assured that when you spend your hard earned dollars you’ll get exactly what you paid for?
If you are frustrated, you’re not alone. Haven’t we all heard the “nightmare stories” of the botched jobs, scam artists, fly-by-nighters, unfinished jobs, and general lack of professionalism? Pretty scary stuff!
Let’s face it. The bad apples of the industry have really made it hard for the consumer to figure out the “white hats” from the “black hats”.
You can not pick up a paper or watch TV without seeing another story about somebody who had a terrible experience with their remodeling project. Whether it was hiring the wrong contractor, permit battles with the Building Department, or arguments with a neighbor.
Most of us are just too busy these days to take the time to gather all the important information necessary when deciding on a major expenditure, like how to go about a remodel of our home.
Is it any wonder why most homeowners make costly mistakes when they’re considering a remodeling project!
Read this article along with the many articles at www.leadingedgehome.com and discover how to hire a professional design-build remodeling contractor.
Paul is a very successful attorney. He owns a magnificent, older home on the island of Palm Beach. He leads a very busy life, and is prone to making quick decisions.
Two years ago he spent $13,000 to have 31 of the original wood windows replaced with new aluminum windows. He hired an unlicensed “handyman” to perform the work because he got “Such a good deal”.
The problem was that the handyman never bothered to remove the old wood window frames; he merely installed the new windows into the rotting old window frames. He also installed windows designed for a masonry house in Paul’s wood frame house. The only thing that kept these windows from falling out was some dried up, cracked caulking. To make matters worse, so much rain had come in around the windows over the previous two years that the drywall and wood framing underneath every window was completely rotted.
Paul contracted with Leading Edge Homes to remove all the replacement windows and old wood frames; replace the rotted wood framing, insulation, drywall, base moldings, exterior sheathing, wire lath, and stucco; and install the correct type of windows.
The bill was $35,000!!!
Unfortunately for Paul, there was not much he could do. He had to have the work
done. It was too late. What happened to Paul happens way too often.
Does Paul’s story make you sick to your stomach?
I’ll bet it does. And it really aggravates me!
It makes me angry to talk to all of you who have worked so hard, for so many years, to only find yourselves frustrated about your projects and your money.
When you remodel, you should be getting that wonderful peace of mind that comes from being in complete control, working with someone who understands your needs and your goals. This person should be someone who is licensed, carries appropriate insurance, is qualified to perform the work, and can take your project from concept to completion.
Let’s look at a very different scene from that of Paul’s:
Tom and Sylvia are both busy professionals. When they have free time at night and on weekends, they love to watch TV, or enjoy a good movie on their big screen TV which was crammed into their tiny living room. They live in a smaller ranch style house that had no family room, and no eat-in kitchen. The house was perfectly comfortable in every other way, they loved the neighborhood, and they had no intentions of moving.
They decided they would like to put an addition onto the back of their house that would provide a large family room in which to enjoy their big screen TV, and room for a table in the kitchen.
They called three contractors over to discuss the project after checking each one out with the Better Business Bureau, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, and the Palm Beach County Construction Industry Licensing Board.
The first contractor listened to Sylvia explain the project, took no notes, was in a hurry to leave, promised a proposal, but never gave them one. The second contractor took notes, asked a few questions, and a couple of days later mailed them a very generic proposal that did not specify exactly what materials would be used or what size the finished room would measure.
I was the third contractor. I listened to Sylvia explain the project and asked many open-ended questions to determine exactly what their vision of the perfect addition looked like. I took pages of notes and promised to be back in contact with them in two to three days. Two days later I called and made an appointment to stop by that evening to explain the proposal I had prepared. At the dining room table I went over the three-page proposal, line by line, which specified everything that was included as well as not included in the price. It specified the brands of windows and doors, showed allowances for tile and lighting fixtures, and specified the payment schedule.
Tom and Sylvia were impressed with the details, the professionalism with which the proposal was presented, and most importantly, they felt extremely comfortable with me. I asked for their business, but Tom and Sylvia weren’t ready to make a decision yet. They asked me for three references of recent clients who had similar work done. I smiled and said, “I’d be happy to!”
Sylvia called all three references the next day and each one was thrilled with their project. They told her the jobs started when promised and ended on schedule. Debris was put in its place promptly and the site was cleaned up at the end of every day. They all raved about the quality of workmanship, the respect shown for their property and belongings, and how pleasant all the sub-contractors were. Two of the references even invited Tom and Sylvia over to see the work because they were so proud of the finished product. After seeing the jobs, Tom and Sylvia understood why. Now they were not only impressed, they were excited!
Sylvia called me the next day to sign the contract.
Once the permits were ready, work began immediately. A portable toilet was put on site so the workmen wouldn’t need to bother Sylvia when nature called. Hardly a day passed when something wasn’t happening on the addition. Tom couldn’t get over how perfectly the slabs met once the sliding glass door was removed, and how the roofs tied in seamlessly. The exact brands of windows and doors specified were installed. The pre-colored stucco matched the existing house exactly. The drywall work was terrific, and Sylvia was ecstatic over the tile work. Every inspection passed the first time; however, Sylvia was nervous about the final building inspection.
When the inspector arrived he walked around the outside and inside looking at everything, but didn’t say a word for about 5 minutes. Then he turned to me and said, “This place looks terrific, you did a great job! I’ll sign you off.” He then turned to Sylvia and said, “You may move your furniture in now and start enjoying your new room.” Sylvia was so happy she could hardly contain herself!
That evening I stopped by to pick up my final check. I gave Tom and Sylvia a Final Waiver of Lien and Builder’s Affidavit for the job, and had them sign a Notice of Termination, which I filed at the County courthouse the next day. This document closed down the job and prevented anyone from making a false lien claim against them for this job in the future.
Now that’s a much better story than Paul’s, isn’t it?
But what was the difference? What did Tom and Sylvia do that Paul did not do?
What are these “secrets” you may ask?
Let’s get right down to it.
1. If a company says they are a member of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), or a Chamber of Commerce, they must be qualified and trustworthy. NO! These are member-funded organizations with little incentive to cut revenue, unless there are numerous unresolved complaints about a company. They do NOT check with a company’s past clients or visit completed jobs, nor do they re-investigate a company when their membership comes up for renewal. Don’t get burned! READ OUR OCTOBER 2015 - BLOG REPORT: Common Mistake 2 – An “A” Rating from the Better Business Bureau Means A Company is Reputable
Additionally, just because a company chooses not to be a dues paying member of one of these organizations does NOT mean they are disreputable. Use positive or lack of information reports as only part of your investigation of a contractor.
2. Choosing the lowest price saves you money. Not usually! Although a low price seems tempting, you must ask yourself what is being left out or what shortcut is being taken.
One roofer’s price on a job was $300 cheaper than anyone else. The homeowner wanted to save money and accepted his proposal. After the new roof covering was installed, all the old shingles, tar paper, and nails were lying all the way around the house in the shrubs, trees, and grass. When the homeowner saw this he had a fit! The contractor told him that cleanup was not a part of his proposal and that was how he could do the job for less than the other roofers.
One of the most common signs of trouble ahead is someone offering to do work for much less money than others. Like anything else, you can’t get something for nothing. Be careful of choosing your remodelor based upon the lowest price.
3. Doing it yourself saves money. NO! Sometimes the “weekend warrior” can undertake small projects like painting, hanging wallpaper, routine repairs, etc. Beware, however, of undertaking larger, more complicated projects. What starts out as an attempt to save money can turn into a costly folly. All too often the job is botched and it costs more to have a professional come in and fix what’s been done wrong. You have to ask yourself the following questions: Do I honestly have the technical knowledge and physical talent to perform the work? Do I know what the building codes specify for how this work is to be performed, and can I do it in a way that life safety is not compromised when it is done? Do I have the tools necessary to perform the work efficiently, professionally, and safely? Do I have the time in my busy schedule to perform the work within a reasonable timeframe?
According to the Baltimore Sun, less than 20% of do-it-yourself jobs work out, mostly due to lack of experience on the part of the homeowner. If you want your project to turn out right the first time, call a qualified, experienced, licensed, and insured professional.
4. If a person claims to have many years of experience, they must do quality work. NO! I can’t tell you how many people receive bad workmanship from contractors who have claimed to be in business or the trade for twenty years. Years of experience doesn’t mean he will do a good job. He could do poor work that no one has complained about. Speak to past clients and see examples of current work to ensure you are dealing with a professional who takes pride in his work.
1. Today only discounts. If a contractor ever tells you that the price is available for “today only”, it’s time to show him the door.
Quite often a scam artist will tell you a story that by signing today you’re entitled to a “model home” or “advertising discount”. The story centers around the need to use your home as a model to advertise their services in the neighborhood. They mark their prices up just to give you this false discount. Don’t be fooled. This is an old trick used to pressure homeowners into making a quick decision. It’s your money – you must feel confident about your choice.
2. Avoid high pressure salespeople. If you ever feel the contractor or salesman is pressuring you, tell them to back off. If they persist, tell them to leave, and find another contractor. High pressure usually leads to making a bad decision when selecting a contractor, and is a sign of what’s to come during remodeling. A qualified professional never has to pressure anyone into a project or a decision along the way.
3. Beware of “Door to Door” contractors. These people may not be contractors at all. Never allow them into your home until you have checked them out thoroughly! This cannot be stressed enough. The typical scam uses two men claiming to be contractors. While one takes the homeowner on a pretend inspection to one end of the house, the other guy is at the other end of the house going through purses and picking up items that can be sold quickly.
Some contractors that are working in your area may put out fliers or come to your door soliciting additional work in the area. These contractors could be honest, reputable people. If you’re interested in their services, do not invite them in. Politely ask them for their business card and the name, address, and telephone number of the people they are doing work for in the neighborhood. Then make an appointment with that homeowner to take a look at the quality of their work.
4. The old "I have materials left over from another job" line. Sometimes contractors will offer a discount for the job under the pretense that they have extra materials and want to use up their supply. The truth is good contractors order enough supplies to meet the needs of each job, as the price for supplies is usually included in the contract. Further, if a contractor has materials left over from a previous job and is making them available to you, he either didn't finish the previous job or is cheating the previous customer. Or, he may have never had a previous job but has materials to make it look like he did. Don’t fall for this one.
1. Are you licensed? Ensure your contractor is properly licensed. The State of Florida requires all contractors to be either certified by the State (if they work throughout FL), or registered with the State (if they work only in one county). Anyone can say they are licensed. Make the contractor prove it by either showing you their license or giving you a copy of it. Check the expiration date, and the county it’s issued in if it’s a countywide license. If a contractor can not produce a valid license, DO NOT HIRE HIM!
WARNING! Some contractors will try to pass off a Palm Beach County city Local Tax Receipt as a license. It is not a license! A State of Florida contractor’s license is issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation Construction Industry Licensing Board, and a County license is issued by the County’s Contractor’s Certification Division.
If you live in a townhouse, villa, or high rise condominium building with four or more units, only a Building Contractor or General Contractor is permitted to perform remodeling work on the building (only a General Contractor if the work involves structural changes). Do NOT hire a Residential Contractor because he would be operating outside of his license. Also, hire a specialty contractor (trim carpentry, drywall, aluminum products, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, roofing, etc.) to do only the type of work the license specifies.
If you have questions, call the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at 850-487-1395 or Palm Beach County Contractor’s Certification at 561-233-5525.
2. Do you carry general liability insurance? Make sure your contractor carries general liability insurance. This type of insurance protects your property in case of damage caused by the contractor and/or his employees. The insurance company will pay for the cost of replacing and/or repairing any damage that occurs.
Anyone can say they are insured. Insist the contractor prove it by having their insurance company FAX or mail to you a certificate of insurance showing you as the certificate holder.
3. Do you carry workers’ compensation insurance? Ensure your contractor carries workers’ compensation insurance. It protects you from liability if a worker is injured while on your property. Be aware that if the contractor doesn’t carry workers’ compensation coverage, you could be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or his employees on your property.
If the contractor is a one man operation, he can be exempt from having to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If he is doing so legally, he can provide you with a copy of his Construction Industry Certificate of Exemption from Workers’ Compensation. If the contractor is exempt, make sure he either never shows up with any helpers, or provides a separate certificate of workers’ compensation insurance for the workers through their employer (Example: Temporary labor company) if he does.
4. Will you provide me with the Statutory Waiver of Lien? Your contractor should provide you with a written, notarized final waiver of lien at the end of the job. It MUST be in the form prescribed by Section 713.20, Florida Statutes (1996). This is a legal document which says you the homeowner have paid the contactor in full for the services rendered and the contractor waives his right to place a construction lien on your property. If during the course of construction you receive any Notice to Owner documents from material suppliers or subcontractors, insist that the contractor provide you with a Final Waiver of Lien from each one prior to issuing the contractor his final payment. Also insist that the contractor provide you with a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit prior to issuing the contractor his final payment. This document lists any suppliers or subcontractors not yet paid as of the time he requests final payment from you. Everyone should be paid by this time.
5. Are you a member of NARI or NAHB? NARI stands for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and NAHB stands for the National Association of Home Builders. It’s always a good idea to consider hiring a NARI or NAHB contractor. In most cases, both organizations only attract conscientious contractors interested in bettering the industry and in weeding out unprofessional contractors. In order to become a member, the contractor’s background and references are thoroughly investigated. As of this writing, there is no local (Palm Beach County) chapter of NARI, and that could be why a contractor is not a member.
6. Will you pull all the required permits? Ensure your contractor pulls all required permits. When a contractor pulls the required building permits, you know things will be done to “code”. Also, many homeowners’ insurance policies require pulling a permit on any major remodeling to keep your home properly covered. Not all contractors will do this. Many prefer not to pull permits because of the time involved and the “hassle” with the inspectors. Some contractors may ask you to get the permits. This could be a warning sign that they are not able to pull the permit because they are unlicensed, or the work is outside of their license. A reputable contractor will pull a permit on every job requiring one.
7. Do you guarantee your work? Your contractor should guarantee his work for at least one year from date of completion. Some contractors guarantee their work for longer. I guarantee the workmanship on all my jobs for three years, and the structural parts of any new house or addition for ten years. See how a prospective contractor stacks up to this!
8. Who will be in charge of the job? Make sure the contractor or his foreman is on the job whenever work is being performed – especially if he uses subcontractors. The responsible party must be intimately familiar with every aspect of your project. If you won’t be home during the construction and must leave the house unlocked, or a key with the contractor, you must feel comfortable. You can’t be worried about what is going on when you are not there.
9. Will you provide me with references? A good contractor will be happy to provide you with references. You should look for a well established contractor who can give you several customer references of similar projects to yours from the last 12 months. Ask for the name of the contractor’s accountant or banker. You want to ensure the contractor is financially sound and won’t be declaring bankruptcy in the middle of your project.
10. How do you handle “dirty work”? Construction is dusty and dirty work! It gets everywhere, especially if any sanding or concrete cutting is being done. Make sure the contractor will make an honest effort to keep the dust contained, or notify you when the heavy dust generating operations will take place so you can place sheets over furniture or move sensitive belongings. Make sure the contractor agrees to sweep up and place all construction debris in a predetermined place or refuse container at the end of every day.
1. Listening to the wrong people. It never ceases to amaze me how many people take advice on their construction and remodeling project from people who are totally unqualified to give this critical advice. Quite often, when I see construction messes (as many as three in one month) and I ask where they got the idea to do this or that, I inevitably hear things like:
My brother-in-law told me to do that. He used to do work like this on the side over summers when he was in college 35 years ago.
I asked the guy in the office next to mine. He did the same thing to his home when he lived in Wisconsin..
I read an article by so-and-so that said we should….
Everyone’s got an opinion on what you should do with your remodeling dollars. “Do it yourself” or “Hire the subcontractors and run the project yourself”, etc. Just because someone is your relative, friend, or thinks they are well versed in construction, doesn’t mean they know the answers to your remodeling questions or problems.
If you’ve got an idea or a thought about improving your home, call someone qualified to answer your questions.
2. Call at least three of the references you’re given. So many people start out on the right track by asking for references but then they never call them. You can never learn too much about the company you are considering using. Take a few minutes to talk to these people. It will be worth it! Ask if the job was done to their satisfaction and at the agreed upon price. Ask if the contractor was easy to communicate with and deal with.
Anyone can say they are insured. Insist the contractor prove it by having their insurance company FAX or mail to you a certificate of insurance with you as the certificate holder.
3. Call the references and see example work. You can learn a lot by seeing the finished product. If the contractor is good, many previous clients are extremely proud of their “new” home and will be glad to let you look.
See a job in progress. Is the job site clean? Are tools and materials strewn about like a hurricane has just blown through? Is everything dusty and dirty, or is it covered or sealed off? Chances are if a contractor keeps his work sites clean and neat, especially at the end of the day when it’s time to go home, you’ve got a conscientious contractor.
1. Good communication. If you can talk with each other, and have a free flow of ideas and feelings, then you can probably work out any details that come up.
When you leave a message, does he return your call?
Does he respond to your FAX or e-mail promptly, fully, and clearly?
Does he really listen to you?
When you disagree about something, does he get mad, or does he offer other solutions?
Nothing is more important than feeling like your contractor understands your needs and concerns. If your contractor is so busy that he can’t return calls, FAXs, or e-mail requests in a reasonable amount of time, maybe it’s time to look for a different contractor. When you’re in a discussion, does the contractor concentrate fully on what you are saying? This is vital.
You should always feel that both of you are on the same page. This can avoid miscommunication, costly errors, and time consuming delays. This is the most important “secret” to a successful and enjoyable remodeling experience. Choose a good listener.
2. Comfort. If you feel comfortable with your contractor, the chances are good your project will run smoothly. Think about it. You’re going to invite a stranger into your home. Do you find this person nice? Considerate? Personable? A good listener? Was he polite and courteous? Or did he make you feel that he wasn’t interested? You will be working with this person for potentially a long time, depending upon the project you need completed. Can you stand to have this person around, or are you counting the seconds until he leaves?
3. Trustworthy. If you feel your contractor is trustworthy, the likelihood of a successful project is good. Check his references. Keep in mind that if your project will entail entrance into your home and you won’t be home during the day, the keys to your castle will be given to your contractor. Can you trust him? Listen to your conscience.
4. Completion. While every job is unique and your contractor certainly does not own a crystal ball (so you are really asking him to take an educated guess), does the amount of time he estimates for the project sound reasonable. Remember, you want to hire a good contractor, not get a new roommate!
5. Written Proposal. I can’t tell you how many contractors I’ve seen look at complex jobs, pick a price out of thin air, scribble the figure on the back of their business card, and give the card to a homeowner. If you run into one of these types, show him the door! You want a detailed written proposal that specifies what is included (exact materials, quantities, brand names where important, and the payment schedule).
6. Details. Work out the little details before work begins. Talk about things like:
Where will the dumpster (or dump trailer) go, or the debris pile be created?
What time will construction begin in the morning?
What time will construction end in the evening?
Will work take place on weekends?
Will workmen refrain from smoking inside the house?
7. Flexibility. Remodeling is an interruption to your normal lifestyle. If your project involves the kitchen, plan on eating a few extra meals out with the kids (or better yet, send the kids to “Mom” and go out alone). Remodeling time may not be the best time to host a slumber party for your eight year old daughter.
8. Appearance. If your contractor has a neat appearance, this is a very good sign of things to come. This may sound silly, but it’s not. He doesn’t have to show up in a coat and tie, but neatness does count.
Is he clean? Is his vehicle presentable, or falling apart? If his appearance is neat, chances are he will keep your job neat.
9. Down payment. If the contractor asks for a big chunk of money up front, this could be a tip-off that he is not in good financial shape, or that he’ll run off with your money. Either way you are probably in for a rocky experience if you pay him a lot of money up front. A fair down payment should not exceed twenty five percent, unless custom ordered items are needed in the beginning stage of construction. As the work progresses, you should expect to pay out additional funds to match the stages that have been completed.
10. Change orders. With remodeling, there is always the chance that you may want or need to change a material or the scope of work. Ask how these are handled, and what the fee is per change order (if any). Changes should be written on a separate document specifying in detail what is being changed and how much it will cost. This should be done before the change is affected and signed by both the contractor and homeowner.
This is really the greatest “secret” of all!
Plan you project with a qualified remodeling expert!
Most people spend more time planning a one week vacation than they do a major remodel of their home. If you’re considering a remodel in the near future, sitting down and talking with a professional remodeling expert who can answer all of your questions is the best advice I know.
I also highly recommend talking with a design/build contractor who can show you ahead of time what your finished project will look like using a computer program. This type of professional can also estimate the project cost before you spend thousands of dollars drawing plans.
Before you make your final decision on which contractor to use, make sure you have chosen
someone who can help you through the “maze” of planning, and dozens of product and design decisions you will need to make. You want someone who has done your type of project many times before, complies with all the government regulations, and has the experience to sail through all the “red tape” awaiting at the building department! Most importantly, you want someone who subscribes to the principles and “secrets” discussed above.
As you might have guessed, this is the only way Leading Edge Homes works.
Initially, you get a FREE, NO OBLIGATION consultation to determine what problem(s) you wish to solve, any concerns you have about the project(s), and see if Leading Edge Homes can propose a construction solution that will work for you and your family.
Hopefully, you will see how your home could be made to better work for you, look absolutely gorgeous, and turned into something of which you will be truly proud!
Sounds good doesn’t it?
You have to understand, I love helping my clients remodel and add on to their homes. I am hired by people every month to be their contractor. Some of my clients have used my services multiple times, and most of my clients have whole heartedly recommended me to their friends and family.
But because I have a steady volume of business, I never accept clients who aren’t really excited and interested in undertaking their project. I have so much fun seeing people’s homes (and their lives) change for the better, that I would never work with anyone who wasn’t excited and really looking forward to seeing their “dream house” become a reality.
Since I’m sure all this makes complete sense to you, and you like my approach to remodeling, please call me at 795-2551 so I can get started on your home.
And remember, absolutely NO PRESSURE!
No one is going to try to sell you anything. This is simply a chance for you to meet me, and see if my services could benefit you. If after our meeting you are not convinced my company would be the best fit for you, I will simply leave and that is that. If, however, you would like my help, we will discuss how to proceed.
I can’t think of a better way to work.
If you like my approach to doing remodeling work, please contact us to set up an appointment while this is fresh in your mind.
Phone number: 795-2551
FAX number: 795-3176
e-mail address: email@example.com
Don’t be another “nightmare remodeling” story. Plan your remodel with Leading Edge Homes today so that you’ll be living in your dream home tomorrow.
(A Message From The Owner)
Every client of Leading Edge Homes benefits in the following important ways:
1. You will be shown a computer drawing of your room addition or home remodel in the planning stage, as well as given a written estimate of cost, before you spend a dime.
2. You will get first class remodeling work done on budget from a financially sound, responsible company, so you don’t have to worry.
3. Your will only have projects that fit your financial position, needs, and desires suggested to you. Your time will not be wasted on showing you projects you’re not interested in, can’t afford, or will price your home out of the neighborhood.
4. You will get fair, honest pricing… no sales gimmicks and no hidden costs.
5. You will get a detailed, written proposal with a guaranteed price ensuring your project turns out just the way you want, with no surprises.
6. Your project will be expertly managed from plan creation to final inspection so you won’t have to deal with hassles or headaches.
7. You will get hand-picked, highly skilled, trustworthy technicians for your project, ensuring impeccable craftsmanship.
8. You and your home will be treated with care and respect.
9. Unlike other contractors who leave a mess, your home will be kept clean and neat.
10. You will get a full three year workmanship and ten year structural guarantee to ensure your long term peace of mind. I am so sure you will be thrilled with the work you receive that if you are not completely satisfied with your finished project, and I can’t make you satisfied, I’ll pay you $200 cash!