Sebring Services, which provides remodelling contracting for Chicago’s western suburbs, has developed a truly powerful blog, with plenty of content.
One powerful post caught my attention, because if we had followed the concepts outlined in it, we would have saved ourselves quite a bit of grief on a renovation project at our own home.
How to Systematically Choose The Right Contractor suggests that, after narrowing down a list of a few contenders, you rank each contractor on a score of 1 to 10 in five key areas: People, process, portfolio, past clients and price. After you score each, you add up the numbers and the highest wins.
The “People” choice is the one that caused grief for my wife, who selected the contractor for a bathroom project at our home a few years ago. (She made the choice without my input because (a) she used her own funds to pay for the job and (b) I need to stand aside direct decisions here because of my ongoing relationships with several competing local contractors through the Greater Ottawa Home Builders’ Association (GOHBA) and our publication of Ottawa Renovates magazine.)
Owner Bryan Sebring‘s blog says the “people” decision should come first (but it is only one of the five variables that count):
It is important to remember that you are hiring people with whom you are going to spend quite a lot of time with. You will frequently talk to them, discussing various options. You will work together trying to make decisions on various issues. The project period is sort of a marriage. If you do not connect with your contractor, the whole thing may end up in shambles with you suffering the most.
Research the contractor and their staff. Check online to see whether they have been mentioned by a past customer in a negative light. When you interact with prospective contractors, try to examine their social skills. Imagine it is a first date and you are trying to find out whether someone would make for a good partner. After all, you are going to be actual partners in the remodeling project.
Ask plenty of questions and see how they respond. How easy is it to talk to them? Are they friendly when answering questions and providing explanations or do they seem impatient? Do they come across as overly forceful, pushing you to make a certain decision even if you do not want to?
As you talk to contractors, your gut will automatically tell you which one is the easiest to deal with. Rate each of them on a scale from 0 to 10. The goal here is to find someone that is easy to work with.
In the case of the bathroom job, the tension in our home grew as my wife discovered the contractor would not communicate with her, and worse, if she had a legitimate question or request, she was treated with hostility — as if she was interfering with the job (in our home, which we were funding!) In the end, the work was completed okay; the new bathrooms function and they aren’t falling apart, but the job was hell.
If she had followed the ranking process for a more recent project, the contractor would undoubtedly have scored much higher. Right from the start the service provider communicated the project’s scope, challenges, and schedule (and stuck to it). He took care of unexpected extras or surprises without hesitation. He had great references from other clients. Best of all (but last in the picture) he set an entirely reasonable price and payment schedule.
I expect in Chicagoland, Sebring knows that if potential clients followed the rating grid provided in this blog, they would win the work. The concept is reasonable for any other renovator to follow, in my opinion. How would your clients rate you on the scale compared to your competitors?
You can vote for Sebring Service’s blog and others of your choice until March 31 at the link below.