Whether you’re conducting a total remodel on an aging rental home or preparing a new investment property for the rental market, you may find yourself needing the services of a contractor. The individual you choose to work with will have a huge impact on your project’s budget, timeline, and ultimate success.
Do you know where to find a contractor, and how to hire one?
Ask for referrals and recommendations if you’re not sure where to start looking. Talk to local Las Vegas property managers or look for referrals from organizations like the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Check out online reputations and visit websites.
Once you have a working list of contractors you might want to work with, schedule some interviews so you can get to know how they work and what kind of work they have accomplished in the past.
Before you talk to your prospective contractors, prepare a list of questions. Ideally, these questions will lead to conversations that will tell you what you need to know.
This isn’t always an easy process. Everyone has a story, it seems, about working with a less than honest contractor in the past. Maybe you’re worried about finding someone you can trust. It’s likely you have noticed that costs are rising, and you’re worried you won’t be able to afford a good contractor.
Understand the Value of a Reliable Contractor
Finding a good contractor requires time. It’s worth it, though. You don’t want to pick a random contractor out of the phone book. You don’t want to hire the first person you talk to (unless they’re really the best).
Contractors bring value, and when you’re comparing different contractors to each other, don’t just compare the prices they’re quoting. Compare the value you’re receiving.
Here are some of the reasons that these questions matter so much:
- Quality Contractors Deliver Quality Work
When your property needs something fixed or replaced, you want the problem taken care of correctly the first time. A licensed, experienced contractor is the best and safest way to go. An excellent contractor will lead you to a team of professional plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers, and other repair people who have the experience and the expertise required to complete the work you need.
- Protecting Yourself Against Risk and Liability
Protect yourself by asking contractors to see their license and proof of insurance. If an unlicensed contractor falls and gets injured or a worker without insurance ends up missing weeks of work because of a fall, you’re likely going to be sued. Avoid that liability by thoroughly vetting your contractors.
- You’re Trying to Retain Tenants
The work performed by your contractor will impact your tenant retention rates. When you send over a contractor who is disrespectful, messy, or rude to your tenants, you’ll likely lose those residents when the lease ends. Tenants are customers. You owe it to your residents to send high quality, professional workers over to the property. Tenants don’t want to open the door to someone who has not been properly screened. Your residents want to know you’re sending a professional who is licensed, insured, and respectful.
Now that we understand why these contractor interviews are so essential, let’s take a look at the questions you want to ask.
How Long Have You Been in Business?
When you’re working with a contractor that has been in business for many years, you can see a record of their accomplishments. Ask about what type of experience they’ve had. Talk about whether they’ve worked on properties similar to yours. You can find out how long they’ve been in business by checking their website or doing some online research, but you want to verify your findings. You also want to talk about specific experience that they’ve accumulated over their time in business.
Always ask if they’re licensed and insured. Then, verify that. You want to know that your contractor has taken all the necessary classes, obtained all the required certifications, and purchased all the right insurance. Having a business license may not be enough. Look for evidence that they have liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. You don’t want to find yourself responsible for a worker being injured at your property.
Are You Able to Gather Permits and Schedule Inspections?
Not every renovation and project will require a permit. You’ll count on your contractor to know what does require a permit and what does not. If there are any structural changes being made, you’ll need a specific level of expertise, and likely a permit and/or inspection. Ask your contractor about the permits you may need, and find out if they’ll take the lead on obtaining them. The answer should be yes.
How Do You Hire Subcontractors?
The contractor you choose will likely hire subcontractors to work on your property, and you won’t have any control over who those people are. So, it makes sense that you would want to understand how those professionals are chosen and what their qualifications are.
Consistency is important when you have people working on your investment property. Ask about whether there will be a solid team who shows up to work throughout the project, or whether you’ll have new people coming and going from day to day. If the contractor hires subcontractors, ask about their qualifications and if they’re covered by the same insurance.
You’ll also need a main point of contract, so it helps to ask who that would be. Is it the contractor you’re talking to right now, or is it someone else? Most contractors take on multiple projects at the same time, so you might not have your general contractor on site every day. Who do you check in with when you have questions? You need to have a designated point of contact and know the best way to reach that person.
How Much Time Will This Work Take?
Most contractors will tell you what you want to hear, and you can get a more accurate answer about the timeline by assuring the contractor you’re talking to that you want an accurate estimate. Transparency and trust are important to this relationship, and it’s better to be surprised that the work is done sooner than expected then to be dismayed at a delay.
Find out how updates to the timeline will be handled. Will you be notified as soon as there is a delay, or will the team try to catch up and make up for the lost time to remain on schedule? Understanding the logistics and the workflow will help you plan for how much time this project will take.
Can You Protect My Las Vegas Investment Property While You’re Working on It?
Liability insurance aside, you want to know your contractor is going to treat your investment property with care. A good contractor will take reasonable precautions to protect your property and any appliances or landscaping or additional structures at the property. Tarps should cover your floors, for example.
How and When Will the Contractor be Paid?
Best practices say that while a deposit may be necessary, you should never pay contractors the full amount upfront. A reputable contractor will provide a complete and itemized estimate. You should not have to pay the grand total before the work begins, but you should understand exactly how much you’ll be paying by the time the project is complete. Ask for a schedule of what is due and when it’s due.
Some contractors will organize payments on specific due dates. Others will ask for payment when certain milestones are reached.
There may be some surprise expenses along the way. You’ll want to ask how those extra costs are factored into the work that’s done and the payment that’s expected. Contracting work can be unpredictable, but you want to hire someone with a plan for unexpected problems and additional costs. You shouldn’t be expected to spend extra money when you have not approved the work.
Is There a Warranty or a Guarantee?
Good contractors will stand by their work. They know that they succeed based on their reputation, and they’ll want to make sure you’re happy with the service they’re providing. So, ask about a warranty. You’ll need to know what that warranty covers and how long it pertains to the work that was done. Some of the materials that are used might have their own warranty. Be sure you’re tracking that.
While you’re talking about how the work is guaranteed, explore how conflicts and disputes might be handled. You don’t want to think about or expect that you’ll have a disagreement with your contractor, but what if you do? Find out how these situations are handled.
Don’t hold back when you’re asking questions. You’re about to invest a lot of money in your contractor. You need to be sure you’re choosing the right professional. If you’d like some help finding the right partner, we can work with you. Please contact us at New West Property Management. Our team expertly manages residential rental homes in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County, including Henderson and North Las Vegas.