What to Expect When Meeting with a Professional Residential Contractor

This article covers a list of items that we think people should know about before they meet with a professional residential remodeling firm . There are some common misconceptions that we run across frequently and we wanted to take a closer look at some things you can expect from a quality company. This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but it does cover topics that we answer questions about a lot. Check out the list below and let us know if there are other topics you would like discussed in the future.

They Meet During Normal Business Hours

When setting up your initial site visit where a remodeler comes out and reviews your project and your property, please expect to meet during regular business hours! “Do you have any appointments available after five o’clock, that’s when I get home from work?” is one of the most common questions we hear. People for whatever don’t realize that the contractor gets done with work at 5pm as well, and they want to go home and eat dinner with their family just like you.

People take an hour or two off during their workday for every other type of appointment – doctor, dentist, auto mechanic, meeting a lawyer, or letting the babysitter in after they forgot the spare key. But when it comes time to discuss the future of their home, suddenly they can only meet after 5pm or on the weekend – what’s up with that!?

While contracting in general sometimes gets a bad rap due to a minority of dishonest companies, the industry as a whole still deserves the right to work during normal business hours and have a family life. Some newer or smaller companies may jump at the chance to meet you whenever possible, even if it is on a holiday weekend or 8 o’clock at night, for a chance at earning your business. This can lead to burnout pretty quickly and harm the personal life of that owner in other ways that can eventually affect the business as well.

They Provide Sound Project Investment Advice

A question that often comes early in the remodeling process is “how much will my investment in my home improvement project return if we decide to sell it down the road?” Asked another way, “What will this remodeled bathroom do to the market price of my home?” This is a logical question, especially when a project may cost many thousands of dollars.

An honest contractor will give you the advice you need to plan your remodel around how long you expect to stay in the home. R. L. Rider Remodeling typically advises that you stay in a house at least five years if you are considering a substantial remodel. These are projects that should be done for the experience and your own enjoyment, not to spruce up the house to attempt to raise its value in the eyes of the market.

According to the Cost vs. Value report published each year by Remodeling Magazine, there are not any projects that you can expect recoup your full investment amount when reselling. A bathroom remodel that costs $20,000 for example could expect to add about $14,000 when reselling, or around 65-70% of your investment. Replacing a garage door with a nice, metal one recoups 95% on average. It is not wise to do a remodel right before selling, but it may make sense if you plan to sell in 5+ years as that remodel will still add value to the home and improve it on the market. Plus you get the benefit of enjoying your new kitchen or bathroom or addition.

This is why we almost never advise upgrading or remodeling your home before selling – only repair or replace any pertinent items that will cause the home not to sell at all. You should be able to rely on a professional contractor, and part of that is receiving accurate advice about when you should perform a project. You should not get “sold” every time and get coerced into doing a project that isn’t right for your circumstances.

They Utilize Subcontractors as Part of the Team

Construction is a field that requires many different types of trades working congruently to deliver a successful, complete project. Sometimes clients feel taken aback that not every single person who will be working on their house is a direct employee of R. L. Rider. Just because a company subcontracts out portions of your project does not mean they care any less about the quality of work or are “passing it off.” A good contractor spends a lot of time evaluating their team of subs, ensuring they provide continually high standards of work, and searching for new ones if their standards are not strictly upheld.

There are so many different licenses, insurance requirements, and areas of expertise that it would be nearly impossible to keep up with everything. It would add a large cost as well because instead of just being an electrician who can focus on that field and benefit from economies of scale, it would be one or two staff in the electrical department, one or two more in the HVAC, another two in the plumbing division, and so on. Estimating, training, recruiting talent, and performing the job well all need to come together (with many other factors as well) for a tradesman’s company to perform effectively. If you split that up into divisions within a single company, then it quickly gets convoluted and inefficient.

Some people seem to think that “subcontractor” or “trade partner” are dirty words, but this is a narrow point of view. I like to compare the general contractor’s (remodelers fit in here) relationship with subs to a doctor of general medicine’s relationship with specialists. When you go to your primary physician they will treat your overall health and keep track of all your vitals, your health history, etc. If something specific is going on like you are having trouble sleeping or your skin is having an issue, your primary will refer those tasks out to specialists who are better-suited to help you – in this case perhaps a sleep study clinic or a dermatologist.

While building or remodeling a home is a lot more straightforward than keeping the human body healthy, the comparison is illustrative of how subcontractors work with the generals. Why would a GC risk modifying an electrical system when he can call in the experts who are properly trained, correctly insured, and much more knowledgeable in the area? It doesn’t make sense and would be an arrogant decision to NOT use the subcontractor’s team in that situation.

They Have Expertise in Their Field and Location

When it comes down to the brass tacks, your contractor must know how to do the job you are asking of them. Further, they need to be able to guide your dream scenario in a realistic way based on budget and what is possible from a construction standpoint. A “yes man” is the last thing you want for a complicated undertaking, only to find out when your house is torn apart that they didn’t anticipate a critical problem with the proposed design. You can verify if they truly have the knowledge they claim by reviewing their past project photos, asking for references, and giving them a sort of “interview” to see if they can answer your questions satisfactorily.

A good remodeler will also have knowledge of the area you live in and how that relates to your project. They will have an idea of the state of the housing market, what kinds of projects other people are doing in your neighborhood, how much value you can expect from your project, how the weather affects construction, and so on. You wouldn’t want someone from California coming to Michigan and building your house because the codes vary drastically, plus they wouldn’t even know what seasons are! Changes from region to region, and even city to city can have a large bearing on what it takes to make your project come together successfully.

They Know Why It Pays to “Have Your Guy”

There are many fields where it pays to have your go-to guy where you can call and ask them questions (and feel confident in the answers). I frequently call my mechanic for quick advice on my vehicles and my doctor if I have a question about my medication – it is really nice to have a trusted expert for my house, too. Remodelers must have a general knowledge of every aspect of homes both new and old. They have an additional advantage if they are familiar with your house from past projects and will be able to provide you even more accurate, customized guidance.

What you’re really paying for with an expert is peace of mind and confidence in your decisions, not necessarily the knowledge or the work itself. No one can know it all or have experience with everything, but if you know and trust someone in each important area of your life you can effectively expand your knowledge base exponentially! Knowing that someone has both the knowledge and skills required to get a job done is nearly invaluable, especially in an industry like remodeling where one mistake can spell catastrophe for a project.

Having “your guy” pays, and though it might not happen overnight, we advise developing your relationships and investing time into finding the right team to surround yourself with. Much like a contractor finding the right team of subcontractors – it takes some time and effort to weed through the bad fits but is well worth it in the end.