Welcome back to “Remodeling and Construction Tips- Getting Started” . I suggest, if you haven’t already done so, to read Tip #1 which will then assist you in making sense of Tip #2. No…..really…..I mean it. Done? Good- ok, let’s proceed.
So you have prepared your questions for your interview with three prospective contractors. By the way, it’s fine to let them know that you are interviewing three contractors in order to make an informed decision. This is another mark of a well-prepared homeowner. Conversely, telling a contractor that you are interviewing a lot of contractors will cause some of them to withdraw immediately because it sends the message that you are only shopping “price”. In your case I’m sure that what you are shopping for is quality at a reasonable price. We all understand that!
Tip #2 is about changes on the job once it has begun. One of the biggest obstacles that homeowners tend to run into once their project is underway is the “change orders”. These are the changes that come along in the job that you were either not expecting, or that you requested over and above the original scope of work. Both of these types of changes can be very costly to the homeowner and can sour the relationship between you and your General Contractor (GC). Getting very clear about change orders before the job begins will have a big impact on the progress and momentum of your project (and your pocketbook!).
Firstly, you want to ask this question of a prospective GC: “How do you handle changes on the job?” (For example, a wall is being demolished and the workers find that a water pipe is in the way and the pipe will have to be re-routed by a licensed plumber. That’s an extra cost to you.) These are the kinds of answers you want to hear:
“First we determine the scope and cost of the work. Then, before we go any further, we will discuss the change order and the cost with you in person or on the phone and will not proceed until we receive your permission to do so. Then, within 24 hours, you will receive a written confirmation of our agreement of the change and its costs for your records. Once we receive your verbal confirmation, we’ll go forward so that we don’t hold up the progress on your job.”
Okay, okay, most GC’s in Texas don’t really talk like this. You may hear something more like, “Well, if sumpin’ comes up we ain’t expectin’, we’ll sure stop and let ya know the price before we do anythin’. Then, ya know, we’ll put sumpin’ in writin’.
That response is every bit as good as the first one. Honest!
Your second question on this topic needs to be: “How do you figure the cost of change orders? Are they figured the same as the original bid, or differently?” Here’s the sad story in some cases, folks. A GC is into a job and realizes that he bid a little too low, or the job is going to cost more because it’s taking longer than he (might be a she!) anticipated, so he adds extra money to the change orders to make up what he thinks he’s lost in the overall project. This is absolutely the best reason to make all of your decisions ahead of time so that you do not become a victim of this very common scheme. True, you can’t anticipate the unexpected, but you have control over your own decisions and, unless you have deep pockets that you don’t mind emptying, make the decisions that you are responsible for before the job begins. That’s the best way to protect yourself from this situation!
The answer you want to hear to this question would be something like, “We add on the same percentage that we do on each of the items listed in the contract. ” (That’s fair.) Or, “The overall percentage added on to your job includes any changes – you pay only for the price of the change.” (That’s very fair!) Whatever the answer, make sure you understand it and agree to it before the start of work.
By the way, did you know that, as a homeowner, if you make too many changes once the job begins, your GC has the legal right to stop and go back and re-bid the entire project? So keep it fair to everyone. Do your homework as far as picking out your materials and if you’re not sure, call in the services of an interior designer. Just make sure you present your prospective GC’s with a finished plan. Then, let them tell you about how they handle the changes on the job. It should be an answer that’s organized and fair for everyone.
How do we do it?
Well, our GC is a college graduate (with honors!), so he’s more likely to sound like the first answer than the second. An experienced GC knows that over the course of many jobs, you sometimes come out a little further ahead than you expected or perhaps a little behind. It should all equal out in the end. The important thing is to build relationships based on trust. That’s the best way to stay in this business and earn the reputation that we at Acadia Custom Builders, Inc. work very hard every day to maintain.
We’ll be back with you for Tip #3 about getting the right start on your project. In the meantime, keep us in mind and give us a call for your next project!