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8 Things to help you prepare to meet with a contractor

Posted by Mike Posted in Blogsouth

Starting a home renovation project can be a daunting task and one that is very time consuming. IMG_5302 You will likely meet with several different contractors and visit multiple vendors to get ideas and research what materials you may want to use.  Depending on the type of project you need to be done, you may need to work with designers or architects, but it usually starts with getting some ideas and budgets from a speciality contractor.  While a lot can happen over the phone, email and internet, eventually you will want to meet with someone face to face.
Follow these guidelines below to make good use of your time and make sure you are prepared when you finally have a face to face meeting with a contractor.

1.  Have a survey if any outside work is done
This is important because if you are doing a pool, fence, deck or landscaping work it is important to know property lines and set backs.  Most areas have certain limits on where you can build and where you can’t.  If design work needs to happen it is a waste of time until you know exactly what the survey says.  A survey might be in your mortgage papers but if not expect to pay $400-600 for a standard survey.
2.  Have a budget in mind
Most homeowners think that if I tell a contractor what my budget is then that is what the price will be but it is actually the opposite.  Most of the time if you give them a budget then they can design the best use of that money for your project.  By establishing even a soft budget then it gives your contractor the freedom to work within those constraints without going overboard on 10 different options.
3.  Look at pictures/Do your research
Before you meet with anyone go online and find some pictures of some things you like.  They don’t have to be exactly what you want but even just finding elements of what you like is very helpful for a contractor.  There are many resources that make it very easy to do this and many of them have great organization techniques as well.  Try Pintrest ( or Houzz (
4.  Be prepared to spend money for designs 
As the saying goes nothing in life is free.  You will get many contractors that say we offer free estimates or proposals and they are not lying, but you might have a different definition of what you are getting.  A free estimate might be a ball park price just over the phone or a consolation on site at your house, but for a detailed drawings or a line itemed detail proposal you will likely need to pay for this.  Keep in mind your contractor has gas, time and usually more than 5 hours or more invested in you, so them asking for a little money is not unreasonable.
5.  Remember they are the expert
As the saying goes anything can be done for the right amount of money, but by working with a professional contractor they can help you know the difference between what can be done and what should be done.  While technically building a rooftop pool on your 3 bedroom house can be done, it may not be the most practical or best use of our money.  A good contractor can tell you the best way to use that money for the most return on your investment.
6.  Know what you want
You can reference back to number 3 on this one, but the main thing is make sure you that you have a general idea of what you want.  When you meet with a contractor and tell him 9 different ideas and sometimes contracting ideas, it makes it very difficult for them to know how to help you.  You want to ask for their help in best ideas, but try and narrow your focus a little before you start meeting with contractors to make your time with them most productive.
8.  Have a time frame
Before you meet with your contractor make sure and have a general timeframe of when you want the project completed.  If you are in no rush and just getting started then that’s great, but if you are having a wedding in the backyard in 3 weeks, that may be the one thing that will help you pick a contractor based on his availability.  Keep in mind that most contractors that are good, are in high demand and have a backlog of work.  Depending on what type of project you are looking to complete a wait time of 1-3 months is not unlikely.

Keep in mind that when talking to a contractor they are the professional.  If you have selected a reputable company to talk then keep in mind that their time is valuable.  It may seem like you are meeting for an hour, but you are really gaining their multiple years if not decades of experience in their industry.  Make sure and value their time and utilizing these tips will help you and them to come up with the best strategy to tackle your home improvement project.

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