Selecting Your Contractor

How to select a contractor to help you create the home you love

Selecting a contractor isn’t as simple as looking in the phone book. But it doesn’t have to be difficult, either, and we suggest you follow these points to find the best contractor for any project.

Check education, experience and references

Your first step is to make sure your contractor is educated, experienced and creative. You can ask your friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors who recently built, remodeled or had additions made to their homer. Select only most educated, experienced and licensed contractors, state registered structural engineers and soils engineers, and only reputable builders and home inspectors. Now that you got a list of potential candidates the next step is to narrow down the choices. Visit the contractor’s website and take time to read about his education, knowledge, experience, business philosophy and objectives. Next call and ask some difficult questions, and if you like the answers arrange to meet in person to discuss how the contractor manages his projects. View or visit contractor’s own home or a recent project and get some references. Ask the contractor for names and phone numbers of some of his clients. The questions to ask should include:

  • Did you enjoy working with AA Designs?
  • Was the contractor easy to talk to and were you timely informed about progress?
  • Did they maintain a neat worksite after they finished the work?
  • Was the crew on time and do you like the work quality?
  • Would you hire AA Designs again?

Interview the contractors

When you speak with contractors please remember you are buying a service and not a product. The quality of that service will determine the quality of the finished product and your satisfaction with it in the future. When interviewing a contractor always check if he does:

  • Have a valid California Contractor License, valid bond and insurance
  • Have a track record of successful projects similar to yours
  • Have a sufficient business history – longevity means financial stability
  • Communicate well and encourage open communication
  • Have a reasonable knowledge of the type and age of your home
  • Have the architectural and technical skills to guess what is behind a wall or ceiling
  • Know what materials he would likely use in your project
  • Offer options when selecting products, materials and techniques

Stay away from contractors who

  • Use high pressure sales and closing tactics
  • Are not educated, sharp and experienced
  • Don’t understand your dreams and plans
  • Are not able to provide good references
  • Want you to pay in full before completing the job
  • Give you hand written proposal instead of a comprehensive legal contract

Compare estimates and never pick the cheapest

Estimate should be based on your plans and specifications. Buyer beware! Never select the lowest price contractor, just like you never buy the cheapest car, food or drink! You want an educated, experienced and competent contractor that aims to provide the best customer service and will work with you to build what you want. Price you paid will be soon forgotten – but the quality of your home will make you happy and stay with you forever. Remember the words of Benjamin Franklin:

The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of the low price is forgotten!

Important facts about contracts

Sign a contract before any work begins.

Make sure your contract includes these basic items:

  • Contractor name, contact information and California Contractor License Number
  • Current Contractor’s License bond number
  • Detailed plans, drawings or sketches showing what will be done
  • Name of person who will obtain and pay for fees and permits
  • Approximate start date and completion date
  • Estimated price and payment schedule
  • Specifications for all products and materials
  • Procedure for handling change orders and additional items
  • Notice of the “Three day right to cancel a contract”
  • “Notice to Owner,” warning notice describing liens and ways to prevent them
  • Signature and place and date of execution of the contract

Read your contract carefully and review it with your contractor to clarify any items you don’t completely understand. When you have answers to all of your questions sign the contract and start your project.

ALERT : Exception to the 3-day right to cancel: Service and Repair Contracts:

Major exception to the “Three-day right to cancel” is a “Service and Repair” contract that covers emergency repairs or services requested by the consumer on a short notice.

The right to a Three-Day notice is automatically canceled the moment the contract is signed and the contractor begins working on a service and repair contract. It should say on the contract that this is a “Service and Repair’”agreement and the total contract price for labor and materials must be under $750.00.

Information used herein is from National Association of Home Builders Council.

Check CSLB (Contractor’s State Licensing Board) to verify license and other data:


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