Hiring a Contractor? Read this First.

Have you ever wondered if calling a local electrician or plumber constitutes hiring a contractor?

If you don’t know the answer to this question, the answer is Yes!

In many Cities and States, Contractors are usually required to hold business and occupational licenses, be state licensed, carry insurance for any kind of liability, and also possibly possess business certifications. In order for any professional to conduct their business, many usually need some or all of the above requirements. These requirements of course vary from profession to profession.

Whenever you consider hiring a contractor for any work that needs to be done in your home, there are many resources that can be used to research and make the best selection. When setting out to hire your specific trade professional, it is very important to do some research and to seek referrals from others that you may know and trust. Consider researching your local Chamber of Commerce, the Better Business Bureau website, Angie’s List, Fixr and/or Home Advisor.

As an additional tool for you to review, please read this excellent article posted in Angie’s List website.

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It’s important for contractors and homeowners to communicate well in order to avoid misunderstandings. (Photo by Jeff Janowski)

ANGIE’S LIST GUIDE TO Working with contractors

Although anyone you hire to do a job is legally a contractor, as the job gets bigger and more complex the contractor’s job does also. In a major work project, the general contractor is in charge of bringing everything together efficiently and making sure everyone gets paid.

What is a contractor?

Every time you sign your name on the dotted line, you are legally staking your name to a contract. A contract is a legal document that guarantees a service between two or more people.

Generally speaking, a contractor is any person who agrees to fulfill the demands of a contract. When you hire a lawn care company to mow your grass and a plumber to fix a leaky pipe, you are dealing with contractors. The contractor then legally binds his or her name to the action spelled out in the contract – and so do you.

When it comes to home remodeling, a “general contractor” is the person who is in charge of the construction site. Contractors use their contracts, agreed upon by both the homeowner and the contractor, as the blueprint for all aspects of the job.

The vast majority of contractors are honest people who simply want the opportunity to do the things you want done, and they want you to be happy with the work. A contractor’s whole livelihood is based on your satisfaction, but every contractor has had a combination of good and bad experiences with customers.  As a result of those experiences, contractors rely on the written contract to resolve any dispute over what was agreed.

Types of contractors

In a big remodeling job involving several trades, there are two main types of contractors: General contractor and subcontractors.

A general contractor is a type of manager who is in charge of overseeing the entirety of a project. For a home remodeling job, the GC will meet with the homeowner to go over the initial project details, estimate the cost of the project, draft a contract, hire workers and handle the daily operation of the job. General contractor usually don’t perform any of the labor, but instead hire skilled tradesmen as subcontractors.

A subcontractor is a worker who is hired by a general contractor to perform the obligations of another’s contract. Also referred to as specialty contractors or “subs,” subcontractors are typically hired to perform a specialized type of labor. They are the plumbers, roofers, carpet installers and electricians who are essential to any large remodeling project. As the name implies, subcontractors work under contract with, and get paid by general contractors.

There are also specialized, trade-specific contractors who manage groups of workers under the same trade. For example, an electrical contractor could be a business owner or firm that employs a team of electricians. This type of contractor is usually needed for large projects, or highly-specialized work.

General contractors

Homeowners are used to hiring repairmen for specific jobs – replacing a toilet, putting down carpeting, etc. But when it’s a big job, like remodeling a kitchen, things can quickly become complicated. Several specialists will need to be hired, and scheduled to perform their work in the proper order. Plumbers, flooring installers, countertop specialists – all of these workers need to managed and coordinated with each other.

This is usually when a general contractor is needed. A general contractor will assess the project from the initial meeting with the homeowner and devise a plan to guide the job all the way to completion. Seasoned contractors should have a strong understanding of every aspect of home remodeling and be able to answer questions on everything from the types of building materials needed, the skill level and number of workers required, timelines for completion and the necessary building permits to ensure the project is finished in a safe manner and up to code.

General contractors get paid by taking a percentage of the overall cost of the completed project. Some will charge a flat fee, but in most cases, a general contractor will charge between 10 and 20 percent of the total cost of the job. This includes the cost of all materials, permits and subcontractors.

Ultimately, the role of a general contractor is to oversee the day-to-day operations of a project while acting as the communication liaison for all parties involved. As homeowners who have been through major projects can attest, this can go very smoothly or it can go badly. The most important thing the homeowner needs to do is hire the right contractor, and then make sure that contractor fully understands the homeowner’s intentions – down to the last detail.

The homeowner’s responsibility

Hiring an experienced, professional contractor to help with your home improvement projects is already a step in the right direction. However, if you haven’t worked with contractors before, you may not be aware of the dynamics involved in a contractor-customer relationship.

If you’re new to the process, or just want to work on improving your relationship with your existing contractor, consider the following tips:

1. Be clear about what you want, and don’t be afraid to speak up. Contractors say homeowners with realistic and well-defined goals are usually the most satisfied. Make your expectations clear during the discussion stage, and then when the contract is written take the time to read it, and discuss the details again. If you have a question or you’re unhappy with any aspect of the project, bring it to the contractor’s attention as soon as possible. It’s your home, your project and your money. One of the worst things you can do to contractors is let them get started on a job and then say you meant something else.

2. Be available for the estimate. Although it depends on the scope of your home improvement project and the contractor’s preferences, contractors may provide you with an estimate anywhere from one day to several weeks after you submit your project. This is because it will involve researching the cost of materials, calculating the time needed to complete the project, number of workers needed and so on.  As a customer, the best thing you can do is make an effort to be available when the contractor contacts you, and don’t be late. Driving to the site, discussing the job and preparing the written estimate all cost the contractor time and money.  A “free estimate” isn’t really free for contractors — it’s an investment cost that they absorb.

3. Inform rejected contractors of your decision.  Since you have likely contacted several contractors to find the best price for your home improvement project, it’s important that you let the rejected contractors know that you won’t be using their services. While an estimate may be free to the consumer, it can cost a contractor time, effort and money to meet with you about your project and provide an estimate.  Sure, they’ll get the message if you ignore their calls for a month, but it’s always more professional, polite and considerate to call the contractors personally so they can focus their time and efforts on other projects.

4. Make payments on time.  As a customer, you are responsible for making payments to contractors according to the guidelines set forth in your contract. In the same way you would be frustrated by a late payment from your workplace, contractors will grow impatient when payments are consistently delayed.  The best thing you can do to maintain a positive relationship with contractor sis keep track of when your payments are due and make an extra effort to submit them in a prompt manner. This shows the contractor that you appreciate his or her work and encourages them to continue the job in a timely manner as well.

5. Have some trust in your contractor.  Once you have verified the contractor’s certifications and experience level, checked customer references and established a contract, you should trust in his or her ability to effectively finish the job. If your contractors have proved to be capable of providing quality work, try to avoid hovering around the worksite. Not only will it slow progress on the job, it can lead the contractor to believe you have no faith in his or her work.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please let me know!

As a Home Renter or Home Owner, do You know what NextDoor is?

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Nextdoor is a private Social Network for neighborhoods and communities. In order to join this network, you would need to receive an invitation from an already existing neighbor or by simply signing up and receiving a mailed verification at your home address. Through their site, you can sign up to have an account or download their mobile app to access the network.

Why use NextDoor? Why join another Social Network site?

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Here are 5 reasons to join Nextdoor today:

  1. Nextdoor is the best way to stay in the know about what’s going on in your neighborhood—whether it’s finding a last-minute babysitter, learning about an upcoming block party, getting feedback or recommendations on local businesses, lost pets, wildlife animal sightings or hearing about a rash of car break-ins.
  2. Nextdoor is also available for Public Agencies. This means you can get immediate alerts any time your local city posts an update on community events, resident public input sessions and any other news affecting local residents.
  3. This neighborhood network has proven to be useful with over 99,000 neighborhoods across the country currently participating.
  4. As a home renter or home owner, this network will become useful as you engage with other home renters or home owners in your community. This will become a top source of information for research and/or finding out what truly goes on in your neighborhood from people near you!
  5. Just like any other social network, Nextdoor offers a timeline of updates posted by your neighbors with a reply/comment and “Thank” option for engagement. Being able to send a private message to a neighbor is also one of their options.

I hope you find this post helpful and use Nextdoor as a resourceful social networking tool.

Did you sign up? Let me know what you think!

Have questions or comments? Let me know!

As a Home Buyer, What happens if I back out of a Home Purchase and Sale Contract?

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As as Home Buyer, the home purchasing process can be overwhelming. There are so many things to consider in making your decision. You have to differentiate between your needs or wants, choose the best location to meet your needs, research community amenities and so much more. Once you find the right house for you, come other Financial and Legal aspects to consider. Keep in mind that when you sign a Purchase and Sale Contract on a property, you are signing a legally binding document.

Here are 5 Things that Can Happen if You back out of a Purchase and Sale Contract:

  • During Due Diligence Period

If during the Due Diligence period (usually first 10 days after the contract goes binding) you decide to back out of the contract, there are usually no Financial penalties that will apply to you. However, you will forfeit the home inspection fee that you probably already paid for the home to be inspected and any other fees you may have already paid for out of pocket.

  • After Due Diligence Period

Once the Due Diligence period is over, buyer’s remorse will come with a penalty. Let’s say you decide you no longer like the kitchen size or the bedrooms are too small or you just change your mind on the property altogether. What can possibly happen right?

  1. The Seller can file a lawsuit against you that will inevitably force you to purchase the home.
  2. The Seller can legally claim and keep the earnest money deposit.
  3. The Real Estate Brokerages involved in the purchase and sale transaction can file a lawsuit against you to have the Real Estate commission paid.
  4. All lender fees, inspection fees, appraisal fees and any other fees already paid for the purchase of the home will be lost.
  5. You would have also lost very valuable Time.

As you can see, when deciding to purchase a home, it is important to be ready and fully mindful of the decisions that will be made. Once a Purchase and Sale Contract is signed, it has then become a legally binding agreement.

 Do you have Questions or Comments? Please let me know!

As a Home Owner, Where can I find Reputable Sources for Repairs and Who to Hire?

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As a Home Owner or future Home Owner, you will more than likely find yourself visiting the Toys-R-Us store for property owners quite often. Which store is this you ask? Well, Home Depot or Lowe’s of course.

Common questions that many of my clients ask are:

  • Where can I research how much a repair or renovation for a kitchen will be?
  • I want to change the bathroom fixtures, how much will that be?
  • Where can I find reputable contractors?
  • Can I see reviews for reputable contractors?

Because these common questions are highly asked, I have put together this post to help everyone find the sources to aid in their research.

Angie’s List is going to be the first site I am going to talk about. This site is an excellent source for finding contractors or any business in your local area. This site works through a paid ‘membership’ fee that enables you to log into the site, view past client reviews, and research companies while being matched to the best one for the job.

The Better Business Bureau is a national site that enables consumers to search for businesses locally and provide consumer feedback of their service. This site is commonly used to report any dissatisfaction with a company that failed to address a consumer complaint or request. For the Atlanta Market, the Metro Atlanta, Athens and NE Georgia is the local bureau.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is another excellent site and tool available to consumers to research local businesses. The local Chamber of Commerce for North Atlanta is the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. These sites are helpful to determine if perhaps a specific business is part of the local chamber of commerce.

HomeAdvisor is going to be the fourth site I am going to write about. This site comes in handy if you are trying to find home improvement pros, trying to see reviews, and my favorite: if you are trying to see a “true cost guide“. This site is completely free to use and allows you to create an account.

The last site I will mention is Fixr. This site is perfect if you are considering a kitchen remodel, painting a room, building a home, needing a new roof, etc. This site lets you search by project type and allows you to tailor the search further by whatever project you are needing specifically. Once you fill out the form, Four service pros in the area will contact you with estimates.

I hope this blog post provided helpful tools to aid in your home projects. Feel free to reach out to me if you have questions.

Do you have Questions or Comments? Please let me know!

Coyotes: Our Atlanta next door Neighbor.

coyoteAs an Atlanta Metro resident, I am sure you have heard the stories or personally witnessed our next door neighbors. The neighbors that I am referencing in this post are “Coyotes”.

If you are new to the Atlanta Metro area or are planning your move, please be mindful of this common Georgia wildlife.

Among the non-native wildlife found throughout the southeast, coyotes are unique in their ability to rapidly acclimate to a variety of habitats. With the extirpation of the red wolf in the last century across Georgia, the coyote (Canis latrans) has been able to fill a once occupied void and now can be found statewide.

Resembling a small dog in appearance, distinguishing characteristics of a coyote include pointy ears and snout, mottled color fur pattern ranging from black to reddish-blonde and a bushy tail. As with most canines, coyotes are equipped with keen eyesight and an acute sense of smell to seek out their diet of small mammals, carrion and succulent vegetation. High pitched cries, shrieks or yips can be heard late in the evening as these animals communicate. Growling, barking and whining also are commonly used methods of communication. Breeding usually occurs in late winter to early spring with five to seven pups born in excavated dens or brush piles. Pups are weaned at about five to eight weeks of age. Socially, these creatures may mate for life and commonly can be found living within a small community (or pack) of related individuals. If mated with dogs, a female coyote can produce a coyote/dog hybrid called a “coydog.” However, this is uncommon due to the unsynchronized breeding cycles of the two species.

Download a Coyote Fact Sheet

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  • In many Cities throughout the Metro Atlanta area, you will find this common saying: “Coyotes are here to stay”.

In the City of Johns Creek for example, this useful information is available to residents:

Canis latrans are present in all 159 counties in Georgia. In suburban areas, coyotes typically live in wooded neighborhoods or areas like the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, but they can range. Coyotes are generally frightened of humans and will avoid contact when possible. However, they will prey on cats, small dogs, rabbits, chickens, etc.

Although Coyotes don’t usually attack humans, they are animals that adapt to their environments. Because of this it is important to be careful and mindful of them, especially while being out at night.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has a list of trappers for nuisance wildlife, but trapping and removing coyotes is often a temporary solution. When one family is removed, others will move into the vacated territory. As long as food exists, coyotes will be present.

Prevention:

  1. Bring pets indoors at night – this is the coyote’s primary hunting time.
  2. If a pet must be kept outside, install fencing and motion-activated lighting.
  3. Clean and store grills when not in use.
  4. Keep pet food indoors or feed your pet indoors, and refill bird feeders in small amounts. Large amounts of bird feed attract squirrels and other rodents, which draws coyotes.
  5. Keep trash can lids securely fastened, or store trash cans in a secured location.
  6. Cut back brush where coyotes can hide.
  7. Do not feed coyotes!

If you encounter an aggressive animal of any kind, please call 9-1-1. For more information, please see the synopsis on coyotes from Georgia Wildlife.

Read more information on Coexisting with Coyotes from the City of Roswell.

Do you have any questions or comments? Please let me know!