Every remodeling contractor in the Naples area who wants your business is going to give you a list of references from past clients. That’s not surprising. It’s pretty much standard operating procedure for the industry.
What is surprising however, is how few people bother to check out those references. But here’s the thing: Until you do a bit of due dilligence, those references are just names on a piece of paper. On top of that, any builder is going to be selective about the names and projects he or she puts out for potential clients to review.
Does that mean checking references is a waste of time? Not at all, but if you want to get a real sense of what the contractor is like to work with, you’re going to have to dig just a little bit. It’s not enough to find out that a client was “satisfied” or that the price was “as expected.” If you’re getting ready to let someone into your house and spend weeks demolishing and rebuilding the place you call home, you’ll want to know more.
You’ll want to talk to one or two past clients and ask them some in-depth questions that will tell you important information about a possible contractor. Here are some questions to ask past clients– ones that can reveal what you really want to know about your contractor.
- How well did your contractor communicate with you during the project?Design and building skills are important, but being able to communicate clearly and express questions and concerns is a special skill. You want to make sure that your remodeler will listen to you and keep you informed. That takes a lot of stress out of the remodeling process.
- Were the remodeler’s business practces clear and straightforward?The last thing you want to deal with are unclear invoices and change orders. If you don’t know what to expect or if you aren’t sure what you’re paying for, that erodes trust and makes for an uncomfortable relationship.
- Did the crews consistently show up on time?This is simply common courtesy. It allows you to schedule your life and to know what you may have to work around. It’s a small thing that can have a big impact.
- Were you pleased with the quality of the workmanship? You may not be able to evaluate everything, but good work shows. If there is poor workmanship in what you see, what’s happening in the areas you can’t see?
- Was the work area kept clean and safe? Again, this may seem like a small detail, but it’s a sign of courtesy and professional pride.
- How were changes handled? Changes are a part of the process, but there shouldn’t be surprises. The builder should acknowledge changes to be made and should immediately inform you (in writing) what those changes will cost.
- How did the remodeler deal with unexpected obstacles? Even professionals can run into unforseen problems they didn’t create. How a remodeler addresses those surprises tells you a lot about his or her professionalism and skill.
- Why did you choose this remodeler in the first place, and were your expectations met? The answer to this question helps you determine if you and the previous client (and the remodeler) are on the same page and share similar values.
- Would you hire this contractor again? This is the ultimate question. Someone who claims to be “satisfied” —but wouldn’t use a company again—is telling you that they really weren’t satisfied at all.
You may not want to run through all of these questions with a former client. Focus on the ones that are most important to you. And of course, you’ll want to be courteous and respectful when asking someone their opinion. These kinds of questions are important because they reveal a bit of a remodeler’s character in addition to his or her building or design skills.
Of course reading actual comments from past clients can be helpful—especially when you can see some of the work their remodeler has done. It may not tell you everything you need to know, but it’s a good start. We invite you to check out some of the projects we’ve worked on and to listen to what our clients have said about working with us.