Home remodeling is projected to increase over the next 3-5 years according to the Center for Joint Studies at Harvard University. The increase is due in large part to the purchase of foreclosed properties and the need to make improvements. Another factor are the “Baby Boomers” who are choosing to age in place and need to make modifications including creating surroundings that are more like a retreat.
With construction being in a downward turn the last 3 years some people believe that contractors are hungry for work and that now there are deals to be made and discounts to be had. Though it’s true that some materials are lower in cost due to supply and demand, it is a fallacy to believe that contractors are going to be drastically cutting costs to get your business. In fact, this is where if a deal is too good to be true, watch out; you’re being blind-sided!
Unethical contractors will use this idea of “great deals to be had” against uninformed and unsuspecting homeowners who are typically interested only on the bottom line: how much is it going to cost me? They are betting that you will know little about a well written Scope of Work and Specification Sheet that contains the details of just what it is you’re getting for your money. The risk of not knowing this is what will make that “great deal” turn into a rapid series of cost overruns in the form of Change Orders.
So many homeowners find themselves in this very position and invariably become confused and frustrated. They thought everything was in their contract and Scope of Work only to find out too late that it was not clearly spelled out and their agreement is riddled with vague references that do not support their arguments. And when they file a complaint or hire an attorney they quickly learn that what they have is a contract, Spec Sheet and Scope of Work summary so sloppy, so devoid of specifics that unless the work is substandard – and often it is – they’re better off letting the contractor complete the project as is.
Not what anyone wants to hear when your money is quickly being depleted in the hopes of achieving a newly renovated home you had envisioned. Instead you’re going to have to deal with getting less than you had planned on and wanting to get it over with and the contractor out of your life. A hard lesson learned but one that could have been easily avoided with some thoughtful planning and education.
These kinds of complaints have long plagued the construction industry that has more than it’s share of unscrupulous contractors. It is why, according to consumer organizations, home improvement typically makes their lists as one of the top complaints made for unscrupulous business practices, customer dissatisfaction and fraud.
But if you’re a homeowner looking to do some renovations there is a way to avoid becoming a sorry statistic. All you have to do is get informed, get educated on all the pre-renovation homework that will help you understand just what the risks and realities are, what you need to do to protect yourself, how to be in control of your money and project no matter what transpires. Understanding the importance of a thoroughly written specifications sheet, scope of work and why having proposals that are identical in content makes for an easier comparison of bids. And understanding too, that referrals reveal little and background checks are a must.
Yes, it does take some work but it’s actually an enlightening study on what the contractor laws are, what documents you need to be collecting and why you need to put your own rules into place for greater protection.
But once you’ve done all the work you’ll understand why so many folks get into trouble with their remodeling projects and how they came to choose their contractor so poorly. And you will be thanking your lucky stars that you’re not going to be one of them.