5 Questions to Ask Every Home Remodeling Contractor Before You Meet

We receive 900 to 1000 new customer calls a year here at Sebring.  These calls can range from adding extra space in a basement to redesigning a dated kitchen into a chef’s dream.

Our process begins with a 15 to 20 minute conversation.  During this initial conversation we ask 5 key questions of our clients:

  1. When do you want the renovation to start and end the project.
  2. Why are you renovating (more space, aesthetics…).
  3. Where are you renovating (kitchen, bathroom, entire house…).
  4. What changes do you want to make (change cabinets, new flooring…).
  5. How much are you planning to spend on the remodeling.

From there, we end up scheduling an in-home consultation with the 300 to 350 qualified clients. Approximately 70% of the people that call us are not the right fit for our project niche.

So what makes a client “qualified” or a project “not the right fit”?  These are great questions and things you should be focused on when interviewing contractors.  The days when any contractor was good at doing any type of remodeling to your home are gone.  The Jack of all trades tends to be the master of none. You will end up paying a lot of your hard earned money for a sub-par job. Hopefully, you won’t have to spend even more when you need repairs later on to fix the issues from the first time.

Hiring the best contractor for your project takes time to research and ask the right questions. But meeting with contractors can be a significant time commitment for both you and all involved.  So before you set up an appointment, it’s best for you to ask a few key questions over the phone to help ensure that an in-person meeting will be time well spent.

1. Am I Located in Your Service Area?

Not every contractor will travel across the entire Chicago Metro area.  Most have restrictions based on travel time.  Here at Sebring Services we try to keep our service area within a 40 minute driving radius around Naperville.  This covers areas like Oak Brook, Hinsdale, Elmhurst and most of Batavia.

We have found that keeping projects to a limited geographical area typically means a faster response time, which you should consider a plus.  Being close to your house means better customer service and you do not have to wait hours for us to arrive after making a call.

If you are located outside a remodeling contractor’s service area, consider asking them for a recommendation of another company that is closer. You can also do some research on your own before you start contacting contractors. Using Google (or other apps, such as Yelp), you can easily locate home remodeling contractors near you. But do not be afraid to contact your preferred contractor if they are located further away than is recommended. They just might make an exception for you depending on your type of project.

5 Questions to Ask Every Home Remodeling Contractor2. Is My Project Something You Specialize In?

Many contractors restrict the type of projects they will do. Keep in mind, this is a good thing!  The Jack of all trades with his fingers on everything is a bad idea for your home and your pocket. Before you call any contractors, write down on paper a short description of your project.  For example “I want to remodel our small kitchen and it will involve removing some structural walls.”  Not every home remodeling contractor has experience dealing with relocating of load bearing walls.

So ask the question and make sure your project is something they are interested in working on and that they are setup to handle as well. While a phone call is not the place to elaborate on the details, be careful not to leave out something that can help the contractor decide whether they can take on your project. Try to provide a short but exhaustive summary of what the project entails.

It is also worth asking whether the contractor has completed many such projects in the past. Knowing that a contractor is skilled and experienced in your specific type of renovation will give you peace of mind.

3. Can You Complete My Project by My Deadline?

This can be a difficult question for a contractor to answer because it involves how quickly the client can make decisions and not just how fast the contractor works. Some homeowners are really good at making selection and design decisions quickly, while other homeowners need time to think about these things.  There is also the issue of plans and permits, which may take several months before they are ready, especially for extensive renovations.

While a contractor may be able to give you a rough range of time, a more certain timetable can only be prepared after a full in-person consultation at your home. And even then, adjustments to the timetable may need to be made in the course of the project.

Remember two things:

  1. A good home remodeling contractor should be in demand and typically carry a backlog of work.
  2. Rushing through the design process can ruin a project, so take your time. If you need the project completed quickly, you can talk with your contractor and see whether there are ways things can be speeded up without compromising the quality and integrity of the work done

4. Why are You a Home Remodeling Contractor?

This may sound like a weird question, but the more you get to know “each company’s why”, the more you will connect with the right company to hire.  I tell our clients all the time, in the beginning, treat the meetings and phone calls with contractors like a first date.  Would you want to see this person and their staff every day for 2-6 months? They will be ‘invading’ your personal space every day and things can get a bit testy over time, if you do not have a good relationship.

Find out why they love doing what they do, find out their mission statement, and their beliefs. Make sure their beliefs line up with yours, because when you sign that agreement, you enter into a marriage of sorts.  This marriage can be a long term trusting relationship or it can end in a nasty divorce.  And the only ones that are happy in a divorce are the lawyers.

5. My Budget Range for this Project is in a Range of $X to $Y.  Is this Realistic?

We use budget ranges to help our customers down a path of less frustration, almost like a restriction plate on a race car.  Good designers have a lot of great ideas, but if you can’t afford these exotic materials or designs, why waste your time.

Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but it’s important, particularly if you have a specific amount you want to spend.  So do your research on approximate remodeling pricing, so that you that you feel more confident in your discussions. Find out how much similar remodels in your area cost and then decide what budget range you are most comfortable with.

Be honest with your contractor!  If you don’t trust the contractor with this important information, you shouldn’t move forward with them. Do not be shy about discussing the possibility of lowering the budget range. A good contractor will work with you to see what can be realistically achieved with less cost.

If you are looking for a great website that can help with budgeting check out: Remodeling Magazine: Remodeling Magazine: Cost vs. Value.

One last tip

Make sure to have a phone conversation, not an email.  You really need to get an idea if your personalities will fit. Email doesn’t give you an idea of how they will be in person. So make sure to have a frank, honest conversation. By the end of the call you should be able to answer these two questions:

  • Is this contractor qualified to do my project.
  • Will the company be the right fit.

For more help on finding the right remodeling contractor, check out our Free E-book.

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