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Apples to Apples? How to Compare Remodeling Proposals


We recently told you some awful Home Remodeling Contractor Horror Stories, and the question that came up most was – “AHHH how do I avoid the contractor from HELL?!!?” Here is a survival guide for homeowners looking to remodel in Lancaster County, PA.

    Most Importantly… Do You Trust This Person?

When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own instincts. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home and around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ to your needs? Are they an expert and experienced in the type of project you are envisioning? Don’t throw away money on poor workmanship that will lower the value of your home. And then cost more to be fixed.

    Important Considerations:

• Remodeling is NOT a commodity – you don’t decide on the project you want done and, like a TV or Car, go bargain shopping on the internet or around town. This effects your family’s wellbeing for an extended period of time, the value of your home and your hard earned dollars.
• No two Remodelers are the same.
• Every project is custom.
• You must thoroughly review each proposal to get an understanding of what each contractor is presenting a bid for.
• Your prospective Remodeler’s should be consulting with you to create your project, not selling you on what they think should be done.

    8 Questions to Ask:

1. Will they provide their Contractor Registration info (1)?
2. Do they offer Full Health Insurance to their employees?
3. Do they have Liability Insurance?
4. Are they Lead Paint Certified (2)?
5. How much will Change Orders cost / change the original quote?
6. Do they guarantee their proposal price? Or is it just an ‘estimate’?
7. Are they experienced in home remodeling or new home building (there is a HUGE difference)?
8. Have there been any complaints to the BBB (3) about them?

    Does the contractor, price and contract include?

• Designs/Plans/Permits
• Realistic Allowances for your fixtures, cabinets, flooring, etc?
• All required legal documents – 3 days to cancel clause, Arbitration clause, etc
• Do they require no more than 1/3 down payment (excluding special order items), as required by PA law?
• Is there a clear listing of all of the specific details involved, including design, permits, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, inspections?
• A workmanship warranty?

    VALUE is KEY.

There are two ways a contractor can earn your business. He can try to be the lowest price or the best value. (4)

The lowest price typically comes with a large amount of risk. A low price typically means the following: no experience, low overhead (lack of capital, needs large down payment), no workers compensation insurance, no general liability insurance, no business license, and no contractor’s registration. The more items on the above list that applies, the greater the risk to the homeowner.

The best value is typically achieved when the customer knows exactly what they are going to receive (detailed specifications) from a company that has a solid reputation built on years of experience with the type of project you are having done. They will supply a large reference list of previous customers in your area, require no more than 1/3 down payment (PA State Law, excluding special order items), provide proof of insurance with a contact and phone number, proof of business license, and a state contractor’s registration and EPA lead paint certification. They will also offer a Warranty on their workmanship.

Resources:

(1) PA Attorney General Contractor Registration Search
(2) EPA RRP (Lead Paint) Certified Firm Search
(3) Better Business Bureau (BBB)
(4) Remodeling Magazine 2011-12 Harrisburg, PA Cost vs. Value Report


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