Are You Asking?

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“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than 5 minutes.” – Albert Einstein
 

Identifying a renovation contractor who “best fits” you and your project is a problem solving process.  Simplifying the process requires asking good questions.  And not just your questions, but questions the contractor asks as well.  You, as a customer, ultimately want to know “Am I getting value worth my money?”, while the contractor (at least a reputable one) wants to know, “Am I getting money worth my value?”  A “fit” happens when both sides can confidently answer “yes”.

Here are 7 questions to ask and answer before moving forward with a renovation.

How long will I live in the house I’m renovating? If you’re planning to move within 2 years a major renovation probably wouldn’t make sense.  You’re not likely to recoup money invested. 
How does the renovation process differ from contractor to contractor?Every contractor is different.  Knowing how long a renovation takes, the disruption it causes, how and when selections are made, how change orders are processed, the warranties offered, and other details about the process will help you match yourself with the right contractor.   
How much will I spend?  This may be the most important question you answer.  Coming up with a range is good, but a fixed price is best.  You may need to be educated on how much things cost, but don’t make an impulse decision.  Know your spending limits.
Where do I need help clarifying and describing the renovation I want?   If you need assistance, a design build approach gives you the best idea of what you’ll receive before actually starting construction.
What are reasonable expectations about service and responsiveness?  Expecting daily updates is likely overkill, but not hearing from your contractor in several days is not good.  Weekly communication should be the expectation.  Always wise to stay up to date with your renovation. 
What happens after the project?  Don’t fall victim to a disappearing contractor.  His role after the renovation is every bit as important as his role during it.  Should simple questions or major issues arise, you’ll want a contractor who is responsive to your concerns. 
What have other customers experienced?  Pay close attention when speaking with references.  Obviously, a contractor will provide positive references who say nice things about their work.  Which is helpful (identifying strengths), but you’ll also want to identify “red flags”, or areas where the contractor could improve. Asking a reference appropriate questions will help you figure out those details.  Also, check reviews. Anything you can learn about the contractor’s track record is beneficial. 

These are just a few questions, and they can vary. Just don’t miss an opportunity to ask.  Be professional, be specific, be straightforward, but always ask.  The big question is: What will you ask when your renovation depends on it?