We have all heard horror stories about what can happen when people hire the wrong contractor. “It took three times as long as it should have!” “They wound up charging me half again what they said it would cost!” “They never even called me back!”
Those kinds of tales can be enough to keep you from even considering starting any of the home improvement projects you may have been thinking about for the summer. But that doesn’t need to happen – and it shouldn’t happen: protecting and improving your real estate investment is too important to your financial future. Sometimes the difference between a successful outcome and a disappointment is as simple as getting started the right way. Just three simple steps (combined with your own good common sense) will get your own Santa Barbara or Montecito real estate improvement project off on the right foot:
1. Get Recommendations
Most important is the first step: get recommendations. Trusted real estate agents usually know some of the most reliable local contractors (I always have a few recommendations or know where to point you to get them.) Take enough time to collect as many names as possible. Friends, family, neighbors, co-workers – even the local hardware store proprietor -- can offer names and first-hand experiences. Then check reputations: use the Better Business Bureau for their accreditation, and see what people on the Internet have to offer (though I always take Web gossip with a grain of salt!). Usually the best recommendations come from people you know who relay their own experiences, good or bad.
2. Meet Each Contractor
You are looking for a licensed professional who does excellent work on time and on budget. After creating a short list of contractors, take the time to meet each of them at your house. The contractor can then give you a written estimate of how much the work will cost you and how long it will take.
After you have settled on a final candidate or two, don’t be shy about asking to speak to a couple of recent clients about their experiences. It’s not unreasonable to ask; after all, if your job gets done on time and on budget, won’t you be willing to answer a phone call or two?