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Five questions to ask contractors amid COVID-19 shortages

Outdoor kitchen stock photo
Kitchens of the indoor and outdoor variety are a highly sought after renovation this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders. (Source: Adobe Stock)

Coming off over a year of COVID-19 quarantine, many homeowners have a year’s worth of projects and renovations to tackle around their house. 

The good news is that the remodeling industry has made a strong comeback from the effects of the pandemic in 2020. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in May 2021, many home remodelers are actually facing intense backlog on projects. 

The bad news, especially for homeowners, is that this backlog is due to supply chain delays, continued labor shortages and an overabundance of project leads. 

In the same NAHB survey, 5% of remodelers reported that over half of their projects in 2020 were a direct consequence of the pandemic. Seventy-four percent of all projects were bathrooms, followed by kitchens at 67%. Whole house renovations came in third at 51%. The top motivation for remodeling cited in the survey was “better/newer amenities” followed by a need to repair or replace older components, and a desire or need for more space. 

In short, many remodelers are swamped this season, meaning homeowners may have to shop around more to find the perfect contractor to tackle their projects.

This means having the right questions in your tool belt to find trustworthy professional with plenty of experience and a good reputation to make sure the job is done correctly – and to the homeowner’s satisfaction – the first time.

“How long have you been in this business?”

Remodelers and contractors that have been in business for years or even decades have the advantage of already having worked through a lot of the growing pains that usually come with new business ownership.

On the flip side, homeowners may decide to hire a contractor with years of industry experience, but they might be new to the world of business ownership. If you do have concerns, ask a contractor questions directly. In a competitive market, contractors and remodelers of all backgrounds prefer addressing questions and concerns to having clients spontaneously run to cancel appointments without any explanation. 

“What is the time line for completion?”

Having an estimated time line of completion is advantageous to know for any project, especially in one’s home, but it’s equally important to talk with the contractor about how any potential scheduling changes would be resolved should they arise in the thick of construction.

A condition that could affect project scheduling this season is the availability of products. For example, Consumer Reports announced in April that freezers were completely sold out at many of the country’s top retailers. The same publication said the product is not expected to be available until mid-summer, which would obviously have an impact on potential projects. Professional contractors and remodelers would not only be aware of these challenges, but be able to schedule around them accordingly. 

Price tags on consumer goods have risen over 10% from a year ago, according to data from NielsenIQ. 

The advantage of hiring professional remodelers or contractors is that they will not only be aware of current market trends, but will also be able to anticipate and work around intentional hang-ups thanks to inside knowledge.

“Do you have a contracting license?”

According to the Better Business Bureau, homeowners should always confirm that the company they agree to work with has the necessary licenses and contracts required to work in the region.

For homeowners, this also helps reassure the right professionals are hired for the job for example, you wouldn’t want to hire a roofer who is actually licensed in carpentry. Having a business license alone is not enough because the same credentials that allow an individual to own and operate a business do not make them licensed or credentialed contractors. In the United States, information on state licensing agencies is available through National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies’ official website, morenascla.org

“What is the payment schedule?”

Payment details should be discussed and fleshed out before any project begins. When it comes to having contracting work done, the Better Business Bureau recommends working with your contractor or remodeler to devise a payment schedule, with the final payment coming after a final inspection. Always discuss payment terms before construction begins. Homeowners should know exactly how much is due, and what the deadlines for payment are as the project progresses. 

“What will the work day schedule include?”

Before work can officially begin, homeowners and contractors should let each other know what to expect on upcoming construction days. This is true even if you aren’t home while the team gets to work. The targeted questions you’ll want to ask include:

• What are the daily approximate start and end times for construction?

• Do I need to remove any items that are in or near work areas?

• What will noise levels be like?

• Do you need me to be home at any point during the day?

Two-way communication is just as important as checking out the finances and contracts. When getting quotes from various remodelers or contractors, be ready to let them know information that will help them plan out how to complete the project. This includes:

• The parking situation around your house or neighborhood.

• Which restrooms, if any, are available for use.

• Where available power outlets are located in the interior or exterior of the home.

• Who, if anyone, will be home during any construction, including pets, which may impact some procedures.

At the end of the day, it’s in the best interest of local remodelers and contractors to be open and honest with clients because they want to be known as trustworthy professionals should homeowners positively recommend them to their friends and family.

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