Springtime is prime time for home renovations. Getting large-scale projects done right and in a timely fashion takes the skill of a trustworthy contractor, but finding one who shares your vision can be confusing. To take the guesswork out, Jean Brownhill, founder and CEO of Sweeten, has a checklist for hiring the right contractor. Based in New York City and founded by trained architects, Sweeten is a free renovation platform that matches homeowners with licensed general contractors and monitors projects to completion. Brownhill’s expertise simplifies the vetting process.
Create a “must-have” and “nice-to-have” list. The must-haves are what motivated the renovation to begin with: the dream of having a big kitchen island for the kids to do homework, for example. The “nice-to-haves” are items on your wish list if time and budget allows. “Having a clear vision of what will make this a successful renovation is the first step to finding the right professional for the project,” Brownhill said.
Hire a licensed general contractor. The list of reasons is a long one, but it all comes down to protection. Home insurance might cover a few things, but when something goes wrong with a renovation, an average policy won’t cover everything. For example, if a bathtub is installed incorrectly and causes water damage, home insurance might cover damage, but won’t help fix the botched installation. With people working in your home, you are something of a pseudo employer. If any workers are injured while on the job in your residence, you could be vulnerable to a lawsuit. An unlicensed general contractor can be a serious liability, which is why Sweeten only works
with licensed and insured general contractors.
Get multiple bids for the project. You want to be a smart shopper. Brownhill recommends securing three estimates. But comparing bids apples-to-apples isn’t always easy because there is no industry standard for what a bid ought to look like so you are likely to have received estimates that look drastically different from each other. To streamline the process, Sweeten has an in-house team that can provide personal support in breaking down and comparing bids.
Find the right fit. “The contractor you choose will be your partner—and be in your home— for months,” Brownhill said. “Make sure you have a similar communication style and that there’s good chemistry personality-wise.” Among the questions to ask is if a contractor has done work similar to yours, and in your area. Ask for quality references and photos of past work, too.
Check references of the contractor’s most recent jobs. Not the favorite clients they want to give you to call, the last three projects they did. “It’s amazing how many people ask for references and then don’t call them,” Brownhill said. “A collaboration with a talented general contractor is the best way to achieve your vision.”
Visit sweeten.com for more tips, tricks and help for finding your perfect contractor.