HOW TO HIRE A FLORIDA CONTRACTOR
Hiring A Contractor in Florida
Newspapers, Television & Radio News, books, and magazines all have some very disturbing insights of the contracting industry.
It's common knowledge. Contractors, for the most part, have a horrible image. To us here at Professional Services this really disturbs us! We know that we are the most hard working, good, honest, conscientious, and decent group of people a client could ever meet.
Unfortunately, almost everyone you speak to about contractors has nothing good to say about them. Fortunately, for us, we have never had this problem, however, we would like to point out exactly why things of this nature are stated by consumers every day. Below are the reasons why this takes place.
At some point in time, we have all heard someone say that they hired a contractor to complete a project at their home or apartment and it turned into a nightmare. General & Home Improvement Contractors have more complaints lodged against them with the Better Business Bureau than just about any other industry every single year.
The reason for this is a two part problem. The first part of the problem is that you have unqualified individuals or companies posing as true professional contractors. Secondly you have home and apartment owners hiring these companies or individuals simply because their price to complete your work is much lower than a truly qualified contractor. Consumers simply get free estimates from contractor after contractor. They pick each one's brain as they go along until finally one shows up and gives them a price that they can either afford, think is correct, or are willing to pay.
Quite honestly, the average consumer has no idea how much it costs to complete their project or how great the cost of overhead is for a real contractor. What makes matters worse is the fact that many of the Home Improvement Contractors in Florida have very little idea themselves as to how to figure out the cost of a job properly as well, which means figuring in insurance costs, labor costs of employees who are insured, all overhead, and profit for the company. Anyone can figure out the cost of the materials required to complete your project. 90% of all General & Home Improvement Contractors lowball the cost of your work for two reasons, one because they do not have good business sense, and two, because they are all worried about competing against each other which forces them to give these lowball final costs simply to get the project.
So, firstly, you have a group of so called contractors giving you costs without understanding how to really come up with the correct price. Secondly, you have a group of terrible businessmen competing against each other to give the lowest price to the potential client because this is the only way these so called contractors can get work.
Which ever low baller succeeds in being awarded your project will still be stuck in the same position they are always in on any job they can get which is not making a profit or a living for doing your job. When an individual or a company can not make a profit on what they offer you, how good of a job do you think they are going to do for you. How attentive do you think they are going to be to your needs or concerns. What do you think your overall experience with this company is going to be.
Don't hire a contractor based on lowest price alone. The basis of a contractor's price is important. Do not simply hire a contractor with the lowest estimate. Examine and breakdown each estimate. Is the price of materials low compared to other estimates? The materials could be inferior. If one contractor's price is lower than another's his standard of professionalism and workmanship may not be up to par with a more qualified contractor. Or the contractor may have made a mistake on the price. Weigh all factors-price quote, references, professionalism, and especially your gut feeling on who you are dealing with before making a decision.
Sadly, many of the individuals or companies who operate in the fashion stated above desperately need to sign up the next job up so they can get a deposit and use some of the money from their new client to finish up the project that they are currently working on for their existing client. This is simply because they also low balled the cost of that project as well in order to get the work and have run out of money before completing the work. It's a vicious cycle for these types of operations, however there are so many out there. This takes place every day. No wonder why there are so many horror stories regarding horrible contractors. The consumer is equally responsible for these scenarios, and until they understand that there is a major difference in quality, craftsmanship, professionalism, and cost, between an amateur posing as a contractor and a real contractor these problems will never go away.
Unfortunately, you the consumer must live with the serious problems which come along with these tactics, and in one way or another, it is you that will suffer through your renovation. Either due to shoddy handyman type finish work, or In your normal day to day dealings with the unprofessional company you hired, or with the endless time frame it takes for an inexperienced contractor to finish your project, if it gets finished at all.
Not paying enough money to have your work done is far worse than paying a little to much to have it done. If you ended up paying a real contractor more money to complete your work in a professional quality oriented fashion, at least you end up with a beautiful finished product that you can enjoy when it's completed. By under paying, and not being happy with your end result, (if the work ever gets finished and the end result ever comes) you will suffer and agonize over the mistake you made every day you come home and look at the horror that you paid an unqualified contractor for. At this point, the Great Price you thought you were paying, is really not a Great Price at all. It's a waste of money.
You must understand that there are no deals or specials in this industry, you get exactly what you pay for when it comes to hiring a contractor, or for that matter, anything in life. All contractors are not created equal as some consumers may think or want to believe because of price differences in estimates you receive prior to beginning your work. Fraud involving Home Improvement Contractors is at the top of the scam list.
Our company is formerly from New York where we have completed many projects for many years. Below is a list of the licenses we held when we were doing business in New York prior to relocating to live in Florida. We are now fully licensed and insured in Florida to conduct business.
A. Home Improvement Contractors License (HIC) - This is the most common type of license and lowest grade of licensing issued to contractors. Please be aware that just about anyone with some very basic and common knowledge can obtain this license and call themselves a contractor. The License is issued by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.
The main requirement to obtain this License is that an individual must take and pass a 30 question multiple choice test. They must get 21 out of the 30 questions correct in order to pass. Quite honestly, a typical handyman who works as a maintenance man could pass this test with ease.
In New York City, holders of this License must have an HIC Salesperson's License as well to sell home Improvements to consumers which is not required in Florida. We had this license as well back in New York.
B. Registered General or Building Contractor - To become a Registered General Contractor a company must meet strict criteria set by the New York City Department of Buildings and prove that they have a substantial amount of money deposited in a business account in the name which the business operates to ensure that they are an upstanding company. There are many other requirements necessary to obtain this Registration. A company who holds this License is much more reputable than one who only holds a typical Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) License.
C. Construction Superintendent License - This License is also issued by the New York City Department of Buildings. To obtain this License is very difficult and is only issued to a real professional. The qualifications to obtain this license are very stringent. You must supply the New York City Department of Buildings with your verifiable documented work history. You must have been in charge of and coordinated larger construction projects in New York. You must also know the safety guidelines and construction codes for the City of New York. The holder of this license is a true construction management professional who has the right and the ability to supervise your complete project from ground breaking to 100% completion. All trades and all professions.
Professional Services held all of the above Licenses and others back in New York City. The owner of the company, Mr. Nicholas M. Ricci who is the License holder, personally oversees and supervises each and every project we take on. There are no mistakes or misunderstandings on any of our projects period.
A Contractor, whether it be a Home Improvement contractor or a General Contractor, must carry and keep in force at all times, Liability Insurance, and Workmen's Compensation Insurance. The insurance amounts will vary depending on the size of the contracting company. For the most part, they should carry a $1,000,000.00 million dollar liability policy and workers compensation (if covering employees) amount as determined by the state.
Tips On Verifying The Above Items
In Florida you should have the contractor you are thinking of hiring show you visual proof of all Licenses and Insurance certificates. Even with this, you still must be careful because some companies operate under different names to hide the complaints against them should they exist.
Every contractor purchases his Liability Insurance from a broker or insurance company in Florida. Before you sign any contracts with any contractor, ask them to provide you with a certificate of insurance naming you as the insured. (If you live in a co-op or condo the certificate is made out naming the building management company as the insured and you as the additional insured).
References & Complaints
Make sure the contractor you are thinking of hiring provides you with a list of references of recent former clients. This is the most definitive way to come to a conclusion on a contractors experience and professionalism. Ask that they provide at least 3 names, numbers, and addresses of clients who they have completed work for. To make sure that these individuals are real clients (and not friends or relatives) ask if they could show you the signed contracts of these renovation projects. References are not all the same.
After this is satisfied, call the former clients, ask all the questions you have in regards to your concerns, and then ask if would be alright if you could physically come and take a look at the work the contractor performed for them. Don't just read the references a contractor gives you. Take the time to contact several previous clients. When calling the references, here's what you should ask:
How would you rate the quality and craftsmanship of the completed work?
Were there additional charges for completed work over and above the signed contract amount. If so, Why?
Did the contractor give you a change order form with a cost for the change clearly written on it?
Did the contractor work in a timely organized fashion throughout the course of the job?
Were you happy with the contractors attitude when any type of problem came up? (If Any)
How would you rate the employees and subcontractors who worked on your project?
Was the job site kept in a clean safe manner?
Was there a supervisor on the job, and was he knowledgeable in all areas of the work?
Would you use the contractor again for other projects in the future?
Would you recommend the contractor to others?
How did you find this contractor, was he referred to you by someone, or did you find him on your own?
You should also visit one or two of the contractor's references either with the contractor, your designer, or architect, if you have one on your project. We assure you, that if the contractor did the right job for them and took care of them in a professional manner, they would be happy to let you come to their home to view the work.
Anyone can say that they completed work for someone, however you must verify this. This is one area will you will realize and understand the difference in pricing from each of the contractors you may be considering. Also, by contacting all these references you'll learn not only about the quality of the contractor's work, but how well his work and warranty holds up. Additionally, you will get a feel for the contractor's long term standing with his clients.
Before hiring any contractor you should also check for any complaints against him with the Florida authorities and if they are a member, the Better Business Bureau you can check with them as well. Again please keep in mind that no complaints doesn't always mean that they do not exist. They may be doing business under another name as well. You should ask the contractor point blank if he is doing business under any other names. If not, ask him to put a clause in your contract that states this fact before you sign it should you decide to go with him.
Contract & Warranties
Your contractor should provide a pinpoint accurate written proposal with crystal clear specific details describing all work to be completed on your project. Materials to be used. Total cost of the project. Payment schedule, Time schedule with Start and Completion date, etc. If your contract turns out to be a simple one or two page document that does not clearly describe all the work you discussed, we strongly recommend not signing it, or at least having someone with contract knowledge look it over.
If applicable, the contractor should also provide simple drawings and or sketches pertaining to your work along with their contract.
Prior to signing the contract you should discuss your project in detail, have your contractor answer any questions you may have regarding the proposal or the alteration. Modify the proposal should there be any changes, deletions or additions to the scope of work listed after going over it very carefully.
Does the contract provide any warranties for the work that is about to be completed for you. All work should be guaranteed for a period of one year from completion date. This clause should be included in the contract as well.
Project Management & Supervision
Who will supervise and run the work on your project? What qualifications and Licensing does this individual have?
The difference between the success or failure of your renovation project for the most part is in the hands of the construction manager or supervisor.
Some individuals place so much of the blame for poor performance and low productivity on the laborers or other factors such as unavailability of materials, late deliveries, broken elevators, poor weather if the work is outdoors, etc. You hear things from your contractor like "I can't do anything about productivity on your job", labor and building work rules dictate productivity on this project. On a few occasions this statement is true, however, 90% of the time a statement of this nature is simply false and unfounded. The construction manager or supervisor runs the project! How he manages your project is the difference between a productive and nonproductive outcome. This holds true for a whole house remodel, complete apartment renovation, or the constructing of a new building from the ground up.
If you assigned two different managers or supervisors to the same construction project, the cost and completion time of the project would be different for each one of the supervisors. The difference between the project completion time and cost is defined as the impact of the supervisor on your job. How well he managed your project.
Industry studies performed indicate that frequently the supervisor makes anywhere from 5 to 100 decisions each day on your project (depending on the size of the project) which affect the completion time and final cost of the project. Some of these decisions, such as decisions regarding the selection of a particular construction method, are apparent. But decisions such as what particular order your work should be completed in, while appearing less important, also affect productivity, time, and cost.
As mentioned above, at Professional Services all projects, for all clients, are managed and supervised by the owner of the company on a daily basis. He is a Licensed Superintendent of Construction who has over 35 years of construction experience and is recognized as a leader in his field. His knowledge of your project, professionalism, honesty, and care for his clients is unmatched in this industry.
He is also someone who places emphasis on continuing their education. Company owners, Supervisors, and Contractors who attend industry seminars, trade shows, and take industry classes remain abreast of the latest techniques and solutions for improving your home as well as successfully managing their business. He is a former member of applicable trade associations, such as the National Association of The Remodeling Industry, and The National Kitchen & Bath Association. He consistently takes the initiative to stay current with industry standards and business practices.
Services Offered & Similar Projects
First of all, let us start off by suggesting that you hire a contractor with at least ten or more years of experience. Studies have shown that contractor's with 10 or more years of experience are more likely to have a solid business foundation, and are therefore more likely to be reliable.
Ask the contractor what services they offer. Carpentry, Electrical, Plumbing, Tile & Stone Work, Glass Work, Wood Flooring Installations, Doors, Windows, Painting & Plastering, Moldings & Trim Work, etc.
Ask the contractor how many projects like the one you would like to have completed for yourself has his company completed for former clients. Ask him to show you pictures of the completed projects, and if he could put you in contact with these former clients of the company so you may view the work.
About The Contractor or Company Representative
Communication between you and the contractor is key. When you interview the potential contractor, you should feel at ease and comfortable talking with him. Keep in mind, that he will be the one working on your most valuable investment!
Explain the desires you have for your construction project. Can the contractor offer you any real solutions to things that you can't figure out on your own? Communication is the number one factor to a productive client/contractor relationship. By clearly defining your desires and ideas, asking the right types of questions, and listening to the contractor's solutions, you will clearly know if he is the right person for your project, and someone who you feel you can work closely with.
Ask yourself a few questions about the contractor or company representative after your initial meeting with him.
A. Was he easy to talk to, did he listen to your explanations of what you desired on your project?
B. Was he businesslike and professional, did he appear to know exactly what he was talking about?
C. Was he accommodating, did he answer all your questions to your satisfaction?
D. Comfort Level, did you get the feeling he was a good, honest person, would you feel comfortable working with him.