Tips for your Remodeler Search
There are a LOT of contractors out there. It is not a simple task to find the one that is going to be perfect for your job. Of course we think you should use a NARI member, but even we know it’s not as simple as that. Step one is checking out the different sources where you can find a contractor.
You can count on your friends to be honest about their experience with remodelers, so find out who among them has done work to their homes and see who they recommend. This is a great way to get some candid information about what it was like to work with that remodeler. The down side is, you’ll only find out about a handful of companies, so you’ll need to broaden your search. And whether your friends have good or bad things to say, you also have to take it with a grain of salt. Everyone’s project has unique challenges and opportunities, so their experience will not always match your experience.
If you Google “kitchen remodel dc” you will get 1.3 million results in less than a second. Great. Maybe that broadens your search a bit too much. But if you need a long list of companies to contact, this is the easiest way. Remember, the companies at the very top paid to be there, as did the ones on the side (those are ads). Of course the ones at the top of the “organic” results also worked very hard to achieve that search result. Location on the list doesn’t guarantee quality of work, so make sure you scan as many pages as you can.
NARI Metro DC
Okay, you knew we would suggest looking in our directory, didn’t you? We are proud of our members and we do have an online directory, where you can search by location and by specialty, or look up specific contractors by name. We do background checks on our members when they join and we verify their licenses. Searching our site is a great way to verify some of the names that come up through your other searches.
More and more social networks are popping up where you can get feedback from consumers about their experience with contractors, even if you don’t know these people personally. Angie’s List is probably the most famous, though you have to pay to be in that network. Washingtonpost.com just launched “ServiceAlley” where consumers can make lists of their favorite service providers. Take advantage of social media to get a variety of perspectives.
Lead Referral Services
A lot of sites that offer to help find a contractor near you are lead referral services. Contractors sign up with the service and typically pay a fee depending on how many leads they get. There is nothing shady about this. You can find good remodelers on those sites, and it doesn’t cost you anything. Do remember, though, that anyone who is willing to pay for leads can be listed there.
Narrowing It Down
In your initial search, you’ll go through a long list of potential remodeling contractors, and if you do your search right you’ll get enough information to narrow it down to the ones that look like they are the most responsible and will best meet your needs. Then you need to start contacting your list and having conversations with them about the project.
Tip 1. Ask the right questions.
Make sure they know what they are doing and will be responsible and competent. We have a list of specific questions we recommend asking.
Tip 2. Do your financial homework.
The remodeler will know more about what the work will actually cost, but only you know what you can afford, and you should figure that out before you start talking about the project. NARI National has a nice worksheet for calculating your Debt-to-Income (DTI) ratio and other calculations that will help you figure out how much money you have to work with. Oh, and don’t forget to budget in 10% for unplanned contingencies.
Tip 3. Know what you need.
The word “contractor” can be used pretty loosely, when in fact there are many different kinds of professionals you might need on your project, including architects, designers, general contractors, or design/build firms. We spell out the differences on this page.
Tip 4. If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Tip 5. Share, listen, and learn.
There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach for hiring a remodeling contractor that works for every project. You need to really engage with the potential contractors, share openly about what is important to you, and listen carefully to the information they provide. That way you and the remodeler can start solving problems together, and that is typically the beginning of a “dream” remodeling experience, rather than a nightmare.