and Remodeling 101 - The Basics
How Do I Find Someone I Trust?
Virtually all construction and remodeling projects
start by someone
coming to your home to meet and review your project with you. How does
this work? When I started to write this article, I started with the
usual Contractor stuff. But I began to think “why don’t I try a
different approach?” I thought “something that has the same level of
importance but might be easier to see.” So, let’s use the Babysitter or
Caregiver as the comparison to the Contractor.
You decided to start your search for a
Babysitter/Caregiver by researching the internet. You want someone who
is honest, dependable, very high quality, great with your kids, very
experienced, has impeccable references, and has many, many years of
hands on experience. You also want someone who actually has children of
their own – how else can they truly appreciate both the art and
challenges of raising children? After all, this person will be alone in
your home for hours at a time, completely unsupervised. You need to
trust that your kids will be safely cared for and everything that’s
done for them is helpful, correct, and does no harm.
Visiting Your Home - The Interview
The first meeting should be relaxing and
informative. It’s the opportunity to ask each other questions, gain a
better understanding of what you would like done, how the process
works, and learn more about how the Babysitter/Caregiver operates.
first Babysitter/Caregiver arrives late. They don’t have the appearance
that you expected – they don’t really look like a Babysitter/Caregiver.
They look more like someone who represents the Babysitter/Caregiver,
perhaps a sales person. No matter, they seem nice. They listen to what
you have to say, interrupting constantly to tell you how great they are
and all the wonderful things they can do for you – at a great price!
You sense they’re not really listening or paying attention – but they
sure can talk a great story! They don’t have any of the necessary
licenses or insurances, offer no real suggestions, tell you what they
are going to do or can do (as oppose to what you would like), can’t
fully explain the process and answer your questions, and they’re trying
really hard to convince you to hire them on the spot. All it takes is a
cash deposit of 50% (for materials) and a hand shake – or maybe a
simple 1 or 2 page contract. Just sign on the dotted line, give them a
key to your house, a bunch of cash, and a world of bliss awaits! Oh,
one more thing, they tell you that it’s not necessary or required for
someone to oversee their work – you know, someone checking up on them
making sure their doing everything correctly and safely.
second Babysitter/Caregiver arrives on time (actually, a bit early).
They called in advance to make sure the meeting day and time was still
convenient for you. They’re friendly, look like a Babysitter/Caregiver,
can easily communicate with you, carefully listen to what you would
like and then offer lots of meaningful suggestions, and their vehicle
is clean, well kept, and it’s obvious he or she is meticulous.
Like the Babysitter/Caregiver, the Contractor
himself should come to your home personally to meet with you, not a
salesperson. The salesperson will not be performing any work on your
home and has likely never performed the type of work you’re looking to
have done. Their job is to sell you something – they don’t know much if
anything about remodeling and building.
Contractor should always explain the entire process from the first
meeting through permitting and project completion, inform you that in
the State of California the maximum amount of the down payment is 10%
or $1,000 whichever is less, provide you information on their licenses,
insurances, references, Contractors State License Board (CSLB), and
professional associations (you shouldn’t need to ask for these things).
Moreover, they should never ask for a penny during the first meeting.
The first meeting is getting to know each other and gaining a better
understanding of what it is you would like . . . it should never be
about getting money from you or coercing you to sign a contract.
best Contractor’s physically work everyday on homes performing the type
of work you’re looking to have done! They don’t just talk about it or
manage those who do, they physically perform the work – they obviously
know what their talking about and they’ve been doing this for at least
25 years! They let you know they are there to help and answer all of
your questions. They promise to follow-up with you in a few days with a
rough estimate (which they actually do), and offer that you can call or
e-mail them with any questions.
Now, you have a decision to make. Hire the first or
the second babysitter. I think the clear choice is babysitter number 2
– wouldn’t you agree? It’s the same when hiring a Contractor. The
Contractor, whatever they’re doing in your home, must be someone you
trust, is sincere, honest, displays a high degree of integrity, and
absolutely knows what they are doing and talking about. Most
importantly, they truly care about the health and safety of you and
your family and are genuinely interested in helping you – not in
next time you invite someone out to your home to discuss performing a
renovation or remodel for you. Ask them about building permits and
inspections. Before they arrive, call the Building Department of your
local City and ask if permits are required for what you’re thinking
about doing. Make sure you provide them with a good, concise summary of
what you’re going to do.
Contractor you meet with does not mention permits, ask about them. When
they tell you they’re not required and you already know they are, show
them the door! Remember, permits and inspections are there to protect
the health and safety of you and your family. The Building Inspector
comes to your home throughout the project inspecting every phase of the
Contractors work; making sure it’s correct and safe. Now consider that
the Contractor you just met lied to you! Do you really trust someone
with the keys to your house, your children, and the health and safety
of you and your family with someone who can look you straight in the
face and lie?
About the Author
Daniel A. Derkum
is the owner of DAD's Construction, a
leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and