Buying a Home During a Pandemic – and Afterward
Selecting the Contractor
1. Use your resources.
- Seek referrals from your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, but DON’T STOP THERE. One good reference is not enough.
- Search for contractors on the Better Business Bureau website.
- Search for reputable contractors with the National Association of Home Builders and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
- Never forget the power of the internet. Search for local contractors, read homeowner blogs, and look for articles in your local magazines and newspapers.
2. Investigate each contractor’s license, claims, and work history.
- Check with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries to make sure the contractor is registered with a bond or savings account and is insured.
- Ask for references, and contact each. Consider asking the following questions:
- When was the work performed?
- Was the contractor timely?
- Was there a signed contract?
- Did the contractor provide any guaranties or warranties?
- Did the homeowner experience any surprises such as increased costs, defective work, or improper materials?
- How did the contractor handle surprises?
- How accessible was the contractor during the project?
- What was the homeowner’s overall opinion of the contractor’s quality of work?
- Did the contractor need to come back to make repairs?
- Would the homeowner hire the contractor again?
- Visit the current jobsites of the contractor to see how the contractor maintains the jobsite, and how the contractor protects the homeowner’s property.
- Get bid proposals in writing from at least three contractors. Ask questions regarding large discrepancies between the bid proposals. Refrain from automatically choosing the lowest bid price.
- Ask for the contractor’s availability. If the disaster was widespread, many contractors may be booked for months. If a contractor is available immediately, this may be a sign that the contractor is not desirable.
- If the contractor advertises it is affiliated with trade organizations, confirm the membership.
Hiring the Contractor
1. Put the agreement in writing
- Make sure you and the contractor agree on the following terms:
- Scope of Work
- Payment Schedule
- Fixed Price or Time and Materials Pricing
- Change Orders
- Start and Completion Dates
- Confirm that the contractor carries workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance.
- Confirm that the contractor will only hire licensed and insured subcontractors
- Pay with traceable means such as credit card or check.
- Do not pay more than thirty percent up front.
- Always use joint checks when possible, to avoid liens being filed by the contractor’s subcontractors or material suppliers.
1. Document the repairs.
- Take photographs before, during, and after repairs.
- Keep a file of all receipts, invoices, and permits.