So, you were able to secure a mortgage and buy your dream house. OK, so maybe it isn't your dream house as it currently stands, but it has tons of potential, right? All it takes are a few tweaks and renovations and voila! It will be the perfect property and exactly what you've always wanted.
The first step is to secure a contractor for the job or jobs, depending on how large a project you're taking on. Whether you know a friend of a friend who is talented – or so you've heard – and will accept cash under the table or you go the route of hiring a true-blue professional, remembering one key factor: Always get everything in writing. All the time. No exceptions.
Still thinking about that cash-under-the-table contractor? You know, the one who promised you the moon, stars and a granite countertop at a quarter of the price? Before shaking hands and sealing the deal, it's wise to make sure this person is aware of laws and rules surrounding home renovations. OK, so if it's a bathroom tiling project, it's probably fine, but what if you're looking for someone to help you build a deck or add a room onto the house?
How do you know that this friend of a friend is considering unique province regulations, building codes and has amassed the correct permits? The last thing you need is to be slapped with penalties and have the project halted halfway through – what will you do about that giant hole in the side of your house?
It's also wise to double check your homeowners' insurance policy to see if construction-related risks are covered under the policy? Does the contractor have sufficient business liability insurance to protect your largest asset – your home, for Pete's sake – from mistakes and accidents? The last thing you need on top of mortgage payments, bills and renovation costs is even more bills thanks to a job done poorly.
And speaking of insurance, have you considered workers' compensation insurance policies? When contractors come on your property to do a service and they get injured on the job, you may be held responsible for that person's medical bills and lost wages while they recover. Do you think you can afford that? Didn't think so. Check province regulations regarding workers' comp to ensure all your bases are covered.
How do you find a reputable contractor, anyway?
So glad you asked! The most helpful avenue may be contractor references. Ask around the neighborhood or to families and friends and find out if they have had any good – or terrible – luck with contractors. Ask your neighbors and family members to show you the contractor's work, then ask for contact information if you're pleased.
It may be necessary to interview several contractors before deciding on one to hire, especially if the project will be large and take a good chunk of time to complete. Ask potential contractors to supply quotes that detail specific services and provide cost breakdowns for everything. Remember that even if a project aims to be completed within a certain budget – aren't they all, really? – the lowest price does not necessarily indicate the best deal.
One other tip when shopping for contractors is to review the contract carefully, combing through complicated wording when necessary and making sense of every single project term. Although this sounds like basic information, it is often overlooked and can cause plenty of trouble in the future. Make sure the contract contains accurate information and agreements, a clear warranty and keep a signed copy in the same file as project receipts and other related paperwork.