5 Tips When Hiring a Contractor
1. Get Estimates
Get estimates from at least 3 different contractors for the same job to compare prices. Remember the cost of materials and quality of materials will affect the bid. A low bid based on inferior materials may not be any bargain, so consider more than the price alone. Be sure the estimate specifies the total price, the terms of payment, the kind of materials to be used and the expected time it will take to complete the job.
Be aware of special prices because of left over materials, other jobs in the neighborhood or discounts if you agree to get the other customer.
2. Always Ask for the Contractors License
Working with an unlicensed builder, or contractor is done at your own risk!
Florida Law dictates that contractors advertising in various newspapers and the phone books MUST have their contractor license number in the advertisement. If a person who is advertising states licensed and insured in their advertisement but fails to put their contractor license in the advertisement, there is a good chance that they are not properly licensed. Contractor licenses are comprised of a combination of letters and numbers. (Examples are: CGC, CCC, CFC, CAC, RR, RA ER, EC…..).
Make sure that the contractor you choose is licensed by the State of Florida or your local county government. To verify if a contractor is licensed with the State of Florida, visit MYFLORIDALICENSE.com or call (850) 487-1395.
To verify if a contractor requires a local license, contact your local building department.
(see Helpful Links below to further assure you are hiring a licensed contractor)
3. Check References
Ask your contractor for references, and follow up with those references. You can also check to see if the contractor has a website and look for testimonials. References can be past customers or subcontractors that they do business with.
4. Get It In Writing
When you have selected a contractor, get all agreements in writing. A written agreement will make sure that there are no misunderstandings about the work or the terms of the contract.
Read your contract very carefully, including warranty information on any products used to strengthen your home. While it is not required, it is often a good idea to have an attorney review the contract and any other forms before you sign them, especially if a large sum of money is involved. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about anything you do not understand. Ask for any changes or modifications before you sign the contract.
Get a contract that includes:
- The company name, address, phone number and the full name and license number of the builder/contractor and the salesperson.
- Detailed job specification, which include a description (brand names, colors, grades, styles and model numbers) of materials, a list of all costs spelled out clearly, and any architects or engineers drawings, which are required.
- Start and completion dates. These should allow for any reasonable delays, but should include a clause allowing you to withhold payment if work slows down for no apparent reason.
- A statement that all required building permits and variances will be obtained by the contractor before work is begun. The building permit is for your protection. An inspector will make sure the finished job meets all codes and safety standards and make the contractor responsible for corrections.
- A guarantee that the contractor carries liability insurance and has Workers Compensation coverage, in case of accidents on the job.
- A statement of warranty on the work. Be sure it tells if labor and materials are guaranteed, and for how long. A statement that cleanup will be done by the contractor should be allowed.
- A provision for credits if there are large amounts of materials left over. On the other hand, you should be prepared to pay for extra materials if the project takes more than anticipated. Your builder should provide you with a description of these extra costs in writing, so that there are no surprises on your final bill.
- The terms of payment should be clearly stated in the contract. Never pay for the entire job in advance. Make a deposit when work begins to cover materials and startup cost. Pay by check to the company name and always get a receipt. Make scheduled payments as work progresses.
- A right to cancel clause. If you are solicited and have signed the contract in your home, you have three days to cancel the contract if you change your mind. You must send the contractor a registered letter stating you wish to cancel. If everything in the agreement is satisfactory, both the contractor and the homeowner must sign and date the contract. Any changes or revisions must be dated and initialed by both parties.
Be sure that the contractor gives you a copy of the contract, with any changes noted.
5. Things to Beware of
- Make sure that the products used meet code requirements in your area and all appropriate building permits have been pulled.
- An unlicensed contractor will usually ask you to obtain the permit or will advise you that a permit is not required. When in doubt, call your local building department.
- An unlicensed contractor cannot legally file a lien against your property.
- Homeowners face penalties for Hiring Unlicensed Contractors. According to Florida Law, consumers who knowingly hire unlicensed construction contractors could face a fine of up to $5,000.00. (Chapter 455.228)
- Complaints against unlicensed contractors should be reported to the appropriate licensing agency and the Sheriff’s Office. They are not a civil matter.
If you have problems you should first try to resolve them with the contractor before making the final payment. You may contact the local building inspector for assistance in resolving workmanship and code violations.
Small Claims Court is another alternative if the dispute involves a sum within their jurisdiction.
At the Tallahassee Builders Association, our mission is to ensure a successful environment for the building industry and to advocate for a better community. We are here to assist and educate the consumer. Your safety is our first concern.
- HELPFUL LINKS
For more information about how to find the right builder ore remodeler to create your dream home, contact the Tallahassee Builders Association at 850.385.1414 or visit our membership directory located on our site at www.tallyba.com.
- Home Buyer’s Dictionary
- Beware of Buying a Foreclosure Bargain
- Before You Move In: The New Home Walk-Through
- Closing on Your Home
Choosing a Career in Construction
Did you know that it takes an average of 22 different subcontractors to build a home?
October is Careers in Construction Month and it’s a perfect time to recognize the contributions of all the professionals working in residential construction as well as highlight the rewarding careers available in the industry.
Indeed, a home builder relies on a number of highly trained workers to get the job done right. This includes dozens of skilled artisans and professionals, including carpenters, architects, engineers, plumbers, electricians, painters and landscapers. Analysis from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that 70% of builders typically use somewhere between 11 and 30 subcontractors to build a single-family home.
As the housing market continues to strengthen, home builders across the country and here in Tallahassee and our surrounding counties our industry is seeking skilled workers – such as carpenters, framers and roofers – to help them build the American Dream. In fact, according to NAHB analysis of the federal government’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, the number of open construction sector jobs (on a seasonally adjusted basis) rose to 214,000 in July.
This means there is ample opportunity for motivated students seeking a rewarding career path. Residential construction workers consistently express high job satisfaction. And average salaries in the Big Bend remain competitive with other industries in our area. For example, the average annual salary for the following trades recorded by NAHB as: Carpenters ($39,810); Electricians ($42,820) and Roofers ($34,430). And projections from all sources predict that construction jobs will see steady wage growth for at least the next five year.
The building trades offer a great career path. And, the residential construction industry is one of the few sectors where demand for new workers is rising. Parents, teachers, counselors and students must once again recognize that a vocational education can offer satisfying career paths and financial gains.
To learn more about job opportunities in Tallahassee, visit www.tallyba.com. Visit Lively Technical Center or the Tallahassee Community College for details on programs in Housing. Both schools offer certification programs and dual enrollment for High School Students.