If you’re considering a home renovation, you’ve got company. In 2018, 58% of American homeowners said they planned to invest in projects around the house, according to data from LightStream Home Improvement. Of the homeowners surveyed, a record 45% expected to spend more than $5,000 on improvements while the number of respondents who said they’d shell out over $35,000 doubled over 2017.
So, if you’re planning that bathroom remodel, chances are, so is your neighbor Sally down the street. You’re going to want to stay ahead of the competition and make sure your upgrades pass inspection, especially if you’ll be selling the house in the near future. Code violations can be prohibitive for otherwise interested buyers who can’t get financing on your home before some major (and potentially expensive) changes have been made.
All this points to the important first step in any big project for your pre-sale projects: assembling your home renovation team to get the job done right. So first let’s define the different players you might need to call on, and then we’ll go through how to get them lined up for a successful renovation step by step.
Who’s on your renovation dream team?
Let’s meet the members of your home renovation team. These are the go-to guys and gals you’ll need to contact so you can make sure your remodeling project goes off without a hitch.
If you’re the producer of your home renovation, the general contractor is the director. They coordinate and execute larger home renovation projects so you don’t have to.
Not all jobs require a general contractor, but if you’re looking at investing a few thousand dollars or more in a renovation that’s going to need multiple subcontractors, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got this professional handling the details behind the scenes.
According to Erin Davis, owner and lead designer of Mosaik Design and Remodeling in Portland, Oregon, choosing a contractor based on the lowest price may not be the best benchmark. Instead, she advises that homeowners ask the following questions when hiring a general contractor:
- Are they well-established in the area?
- What do their references have to say about the quality of work and level of service and education?
- Does the contractor have a reputation for meeting the client’s expectations on time and budget?
- Are they licensed, bonded, and covered by insurance in accordance with local laws?
- Does their prior work speak to the ability that you’re looking for in a remodel?
Look for a contractor who has already established industry connections with top subcontractors in the area. This will come in handy when it’s time to hire a team to handle the nitty gritty tasks of your renovation.
A good general contractor knows what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to getting a home renovation done efficiently, and they’ll make sure your job is done right the first time without wasting time or money.
When you need a niche job done correctly, you’re going to want to hire someone who is trained and experienced in that specific skill. Painters, plumbers, electricians, roofers and window hangers are all examples of trade professionals you might call upon to work their magic during a home renovation.
These professionals might cost a little bit more cash upfront, but their services are worth the investment. Sure, you could hire one of your buddies to climb a ladder with a pocketful of shingles, and there’s no doubting it would cost less at the time.
However, when that roof starts to leak because it was built by an amateur, the cost can begin to mount quickly. The average cost of a roof repair is $650 per call, and that’s not even factoring in the water or structural damage that a leaky roof can cause (which can come back to haunt you the next time your home is appraised).
Your contractor should be able to steer you in the right direction to find the best skilled trade workers in your area. Otherwise, steer clear of customer reviews on sites like Yelp or Facebook, and opt to chat with other professionals who have worked with them instead.
Public reviews tend to be biased (both positively and negatively), and talking with someone who can vouch for their work as a professional can give you a much more accurate idea of who to hire to take on your home renovation.
A handyman is the jack-of-all-trades that many homeowners call for small repairs and easy renovations. What a handyman lacks in niche skill, he makes up for in the wide range of issues he can competently take on. A handyman is the person to call when you need your light fixtures replaced, your gutters cleaned, or a leaky shower head repaired.
A good handyman will be able to refer you to a skilled professional to tackle any problems that are outside of his range. When hiring a handyman, ask prospective candidates for a list of references and take the time to make some phone calls.
A great handyman is one that you’ll want to keep on call after your renovations are finished, so it’s definitely worthwhile to make sure you’re hiring the very best.
If something needs to be built, a carpenter is the crew member for the job. Stairs, railings, cabinets and house framework are all tasks that your carpenter should be adept at handling.
The carpenter you hire for your home renovation should ideally have:
- Mechanical skills (with tools and equipment)
- Critical thinking skills
- Mathematical ability
- Spatial awareness
- Communication skills
It’s also vitally important for your carpenter to pay meticulous attention to every detail and have a strong knowledge of building codes. When the structure of your home is at stake, even a miscalculation of just millimeters can cause major issues down the road.
Your interior designer is hired to work within your budget and preferences to make sure that your home’s aesthetic and structure flows as coherently as possible. They have the instincts and experience to know what works and what doesn’t, which becomes especially important when it comes time to stage your home for an upcoming sale.
Some important skills your interior designer should bring to the table include:
- A great eye for color and space
- Knowledge of what looks can increase a home’s value
- Awareness of what’s trendy and what will make your home look dated
- Great communication skills
- Creativity and artistic vision
A good interior designer will have a portfolio and references for you to check out prior to hiring, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Not to be confused with a general contractor, a professional remodeler creates a large scale vision for your renovations. These professionals are typically hired for major projects; if you’re redoing your bathroom, you probably don’t need a remodeling expert.
However, if you’re gutting a large part of your home, including significant structural changes, you may want to enlist the expertise of a professional remodeler.
Here are some important things to look for when you’re in the market for one of these remodeling pros:
- Great relationships with other industry professionals
- Ability to lift and bend
- Verbal communication skills
- Some handyman skills (or working knowledge of what goes into them)
When it comes to creating great curb appeal, a good landscaper is second to none. The outside of your home factors into the home appraisal and your house’s overall appeal in a big way, and digging up any part of your yard without the expertise of a professional is risky at best.
A landscaping team can design and create a beautiful exterior for your property, as well as handle any land alterations that might be needed for a home remodel.
When you’re hiring a landscaper, be sure to hire someone with:
- Council of Landscape Architectural Registration Boards (CLARB) certification
- Great references from respected, non-biased sources
- A solid portfolio that showcases multiple examples of the aesthetic you’re looking for
- Experience that reflects an ability to meet your needs (for example, look for landscapers who have worked on properties and projects that are similar to yours)
Putting your house on the market? Add a real estate agent to your bench.
Nobody knows the ins and outs of the housing market in your area like a local real estate agent. They’ll have a better sense of what features and amenities are popular in the other homes in your neighborhood, so they won’t recommend investing in renovations that won’t ultimately put money back in your pocket when the time comes to sell.
Connect with a top-selling agent in your area and ask them to perform a walkthrough of your home to figure out which renovations will be worth doing before putting your home on the market.
After the work is done, you’ll have an agent on call who is already familiar with your property and priorities.
How to make sure you’re hiring the best crew for your home renovation
With so many potential candidates to hire in your home renovation team, you’ll need to know how to weed out crew members that won’t be a good fit.
Here are the steps you’ll need to take so you can figure out which renovation professionals in your area will be the best men and women for the job.
1. Start with a master list of candidates
Start your search by gathering a list of potential team members. If you’re undertaking a major project, that should start with a general contractor.
Referrals from trusted friends and family can be a great place to start. You’ll have a real life connection to candidates’ past work so you can see for yourself whether their skill and style will be a good fit.
Once you’ve picked the brains of people you know, you can move onto the resources available on the web. Sites like Angie’s List, which has provided millions of homeowners with peer reviews and local service connections since 1995, and even local classifieds can be valuable sources of information.
2. Start making phone calls
Once you’ve narrowed a list down to your top candidates, it’s time to pick up the phone. Narrow down your candidates by giving them a call and asking these questions, shared with us by Todd Miller, president of Isaiah Industries, a roofing solutions company founded in 1980:
- How long have you been in business?
- How local is your business?
- Who owns your business, and how long have they owned it?
- What jobs have you done that I can go see?
- Who, exactly, will be working on my project? Are they employees or subcontractors? Can I visit a project they’re working on right now to see them in action?
- What training and experience does your crew have?
- When are you free to schedule my job?
- What past customers can I talk to? Can you give me a list of references?
- Do you have proper licensing and referrals? Insurance? Workers’ comp? Can you provide proof?
- Is a building permit required for my project, and if so, will you be pulling one?
- What steps do you take for the safety of your workers?
- What steps do you take to ensure the safety of my home and family?
These questions will give you a sense of which candidates you’d like to discuss working with further, and which ones you’d prefer to steer clear of.
3. Meet with your candidates in person
An in-person interview with your candidates serves a couple of important purposes prior to hiring your renovation team.
Meeting face to face with your potential contractor is a great way to get a sense of how well the two of you are able to communicate. You don’t want to hire someone that you end up not being able to stand, and unfortunately that’s a real issue that some homeowners end up dealing with.
Meeting in person gives you a snapshot of the professional chemistry the two of you have, and can give you a sense of whether you want to go forward with working together.
In addition, a meeting at your home gives your candidate an opportunity to see whether they feel that they could do your space justice. Nobody wants to take on a job if they think it’ll result in poor reviews—ask your candidates directly if they think your project will be a good fit for their skill set.
4. Check for licensing and insurance before you sign anything
“The job’s probably going to cost a little bit more because of the overhead that person has to sustain, but from a risk perspective, it’s going to be smarter to make sure they have an insured guy working on the house, depending on what they’re doing.”
Check with your state’s licensing website to verify the validity of their license number. It’s better to take the time to do your research ahead of time than to deal with any unpleasant (and costly) surprises down the road.
5. How to work with your team during the renovation
Once you’ve hired your home renovation team, the ball is largely out of your court. However, since work is still being done on your home, you should be accessible to your team without micromanaging.
Let your contractor (or another team member) know how to contact you in case of emergency. Be available without smothering your team; often, the best work is done when the homeowner isn’t there looming over their home renovation team.
Hire the best home renovation team for your job
Embarking on a home renovation can be stressful, but with the right amount of preparation, your project is more likely to go off without a hitch. Use these tips to assemble your dream home renovation team, and you’ll enjoy the benefits of an easier sale once the job is done.