We all have stories about deals that are simply too good to be true. The inexpensive child’s nightlight that requires a separate and costly AC adaptor to actually run. The $9.99 oil change that ends up costing $65 because the filter you need and the type of oil you want is not included in that price. The $20 shoes you buy online that are sized to fit your yard gnome and prove to be virtually impossible to return.
While most consumers understand that you get what you pay for – even if there’s a part of us that still looks for good deals – our retail savvy doesn’t always translate into how we deal with vetting one of our most important investments: finding and hiring a contractor to work on our homes.
Often, homeowners simply don’t understand what’s actually involved in doing “a good job,” so they are naturally inclined to accept the lowest bid. However, just like that seemingly great retail deal that goes bad, you really do get what you pay for when it comes to remodeling, new construction or home repairs.
Why? Because a low bid almost always comes from someone who is literally trying to get their foot into your door, but who may not be prepared to handle what they are stepping into once they get inside. (This is particularly true for companies who bid online without ever setting foot into your home to see what they are getting into!) In contrast, an experienced licensed general contractor brings just that – a wealth of experience to your project. That experience may come at a seemingly higher price, but it is invaluable to you as a homeowner.
If a contractor has completed projects of your type and scale before, he or she knows what to expect and can anticipate the bumps that may arise along the way. They know everything from whether your local permitting department is backlogged to whether that innovative decking material will hold up as well as the manufacturer claims under our local weather conditions. They probably have dealt with homes in your neighborhood built in the same era as yours, and therefore know which type of plumbing connections they are likely to find behind the walls – and what any issues with those connections might be. Someone who has not tackled your type of project before is literally starting from square one. While they may be able to learn as they go, do you really want your home serving as someone’s training ground?
Aside from the practical experience they will bring to your jobsite, an experienced licensed professional contractor also has something else that will prove invaluable – connections to other well-established professionals. These connections help smooth the scheduling process more than you can imagine. For example, if a contractor has worked with a particular kitchen cabinet supplier in the past, he can anticipate exactly how long your order will take and can accurately devise a work schedule around your delivery date. He’ll also understand the nuances of working with the supplier in question. He’ll know exactly what he needs to have onsite and which subcontractors (tile masons, plumbers, sheetrockers, etc.) he needs to have at your home to successfully install both your cabinets and the components that surround them quickly and efficiently. In contrast, an inexperienced contractor might not be able to anticipate when the plumber will need to be there to complete hookups, which can push your schedule back by days or weeks once you factor in inspection times. Frustrating delays like this can cause a project to take much longer than necessary, and become more costly to the contractor and in some cases, to the client. This can make a remodeling project become a very stressful experience and can cost you financially, if you have to pay to live somewhere else while construction is underway.
A higher level of preparation usually results in something that you can’t put a price tag: a good remodeling, new construction or repair experience. If your contractor knows what he or she is likely to encounter and has dealt with it before, they can prepare you for it. If their team has experience on similar projects, your jobsite – which is also your home – is likely to run much more smoothly and be as stress-free as possible. Because they have worked with suppliers and subcontractors before, things will unfold as scheduled, and any surprises that may pop up can be dealt with efficiently and will be tackled in a professional manner.
Finally, an experienced licensed professional contractor is much more likely to do things correctly the first time and make certain that your project is built to last. There is perhaps nothing more financially and emotionally devastating than investing your time and money in a project and having to do it twice because it wasn’t done correctly the first time.