How to attract busy contractors to do your home remodeling | National

Brian Gawthrop waited over six months to remodel his home.

The Washington-based certified financial planner and wife have a wish list long enough to keep a contractor busy: a kitchen remodel, new flooring, patio, and many other upgrades.

They ran a cash out refinance last summer that cut their mortgage rates and gave them money to do home improvement. They wanted to start soon after receiving the money, but by mid-December Gawthrop still hadn’t found the right contractor.

Contractors say the pandemic-triggered home conversions have kept their schedules on schedule, while labor and material shortages have lengthened project timelines. This means that the next contractor you call may be more selective about the projects they accept and your offer may be higher than you expected.

This is how you stand out from a crowd of homeowners vying for a contractor’s attention.

You are more likely to have a contractor call you back if an existing customer recommends you. You can try a friend, family member, or neighbor who has recently had a job.

Mike Williams, owner of Maryland Professional Contractors, says when he has dozens of voicemails, referrals get the first calls back.

Williams says he enjoys working with new clients, but the referral network supports his business.

“This base currently supports around seven full-time employees,” he says. “I know it was there before this boom, so I’m pretty sure we will have this referral base after the boom.”

You can also hire your real estate agent. Williams says about half of his referrals come from agents.

Summer is the peak season for Williams and demand begins to decline in the fall; however, last year he stayed employed until the end of the year. Renovation schedules could be delayed due to backlog of city permit applications, a lack of subcontractors, and backordered materials.

Christina Starmer, a contractor at CenterBeam Construction in Jacksonville, Florida, says she answers every customer call but admits that not all contractors do.

“I think it’s really important to be really nice to customers and call them back, but customers are extremely frustrated right now because they can’t get someone to pick up the phone,” she says.

As frustrating as it is, don’t let anger overwhelm you. Starmer says renovations are hard work, and a little empathy goes a long way.

If someone is rude to begin with, Starmer assumes they’re rude to their co-workers too, and usually moves on to a new customer.

Before calling a contractor, do inquire about finishing work like cabinets and countertops, as they can make a huge difference in project costs, says Jonathan Larkin, sales director for JoNick Construction, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“It’s a lot easier to come up with a quote when someone has a specific idea of ​​what they really want,” he says.

If you haven’t ironed out the details, Larkin recommends setting a budget in advance.

Providing a number might feel like foregoing leverage, but it does say that a reputable contractor will use your budget to help you evaluate options rather than overcharge you.

Your budget may need to be higher than it was before the pandemic, he says. Timber prices skyrocketed last spring and still haven’t fallen to pre-pandemic levels. Other materials like clapboard and siding are also more expensive than 2019, Starmer says.

Larkin recommends that you obtain a detailed estimate in case you need to find ways to reduce costs.

Gawthrop says his wife wants to start the renovations sooner or later, but he wants to stay budget conscious. In this market, he says, the price is largely at the discretion of the contractor.

“It feels like the Wild West,” he says.

But you are in control of your finances.

For example, ask for a price buffer to be built into the contract. Larkin says if the cost of materials increases or decreases by more than 12% between submitting a bid and starting the project, he will correct the bid. This helps protect him and his customers from volatile material prices, he says.

If you’re not paying for the renovation in cash, compare funding options. For example, home financing has single-digit interest rates and repayment periods of 10 or more years, while personal loans can have interest rates between 6% and 36% but shorter terms of one to seven years.

Weigh each type of financing to find the one that works best for you.

This article was made available to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Annie Millerbernd is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]

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