How to Hire Professionals

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How to Hire Professionals

Don’t you love to hire professionals to work on your home?  You just look up interior designer in the yellow pages and hire them over the phone! OK, I know. It is a nightmare! After flipping over 300 homes and working with hundreds of clients over the years, hiring the RIGHT person is NOT easy!

If you are building a home or renovating a home there are many trades who are involved in the process.  For example, you decide to renovate a kitchen, how do you start? Do you hire an interior designer, an architect or a contractor first? Do you have to hire all three right away? It is kind of paralyzing. Each professional has their own opinion and their next steps are all different.

I wish I could tell you exactly who to hire first, but every project is different. One thing is for sure, get everyone involved in the beginning! If you start with an architect, you may be designing something that will put you waaaayyyy over your budget. However, if you get some checks and balances by running preliminary drawings or sketches by a contractor and a designer, they can help you keep your budget in check.

You may think it is a waste of money getting a designer in on the beginning of a home build, but let me tell you the thousands I have saved for clients by brainstorming with the contractor on how we could build, for example, a fountain a different way than was specified by the  landscape architect.  We saved $25,000 on that little fountain alone!

Whether you are doing a small or LARGE project, the good news is that I have some tips that will help you during the process:)

Tips on How to Hire Professionals

  1. Look for homes in your neighborhood that you like and jot down the addresses. (AKA. Stalking!)
  2. Call or knock on the front door to ask the home owners who was their architect/builder/contractor/designer. (AKA. Stalking!)
  3. Ask if the homeowner if s/he enjoyed working with the person/team.
  4. Were they prompt?
  5. Were they on budget?
  6. How was their follow through?
  7. Ask the homeowner is s/he knows of any local zoning rules or HOA rules that may prohibit you from doing what you want (ie. a fireplace against your backyard fence)
  8. If you can’t get any information from your neighbors, you can ask the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area.
  9. You can also talk with a City building inspector, who’ll know which contractors routinely meet code requirements.
  10. Once you’ve assembled a list of professionals (I always recommend 4+), make a quick call to each of your prospects and ask them the following questions:
    • Do they take on projects of your size?
    • Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
    • Can they give you a list of previous clients?
    • How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
  11. Based on the conversations, choose 3 to meet face to face and walk the job.
  12. BEFORE you meet with the professionals, gather all of the information possible about the house as it currently exists so that the professional can make great suggestions. This will include:
    • House plans
    • HOA documents
    • Any zoning restrictions that you know about.
  13. If you can’t find this at your house, call the city-planning department and ask if they have any old drawings on file. You may be able to walk down and pick up a set. They often ask for verification, such as a closing statement from the purchase of the house, so ask exactly what they need before you go down there. If there are any landscaping plans, get copies of those as well. The architectural drawings will help everyone involved! The builder will know where possible load bearing walls are located, architects will know the floor plan, as will the interior designer.
  14. During your initial meetings, you must have all the decision makers together! Designate someone to be the note taker to remember the details. It’s a great habit to start in the beginning. You may want to sneak a photo (or 20) in to help your memory.
  15. When talking with the professionals, be sure to have an idea about the scope of work.
    • With an interior designer, have them show you their portfolio and explain the way they work. Joke around to see if you have a personality fit as well as an aesthetics fit, because you will be spending a lot of time together!
    • Some interior designers don’t have any experience in bathrooms, for example, so be sure to ask their specialty. Conversely, the designer may specialize in an area- like kitchens. Again, ask!
    • Ask how the designer charges. They won’t know exactly how they charge until the scope of the project is finalized. Ask about their billing practices. Do they charge 100% upfront? How long does it take to get a design, etc.?
  16. Based on the face-to-face meetings you should be ready to ask for a bid or proposal. If they need any documentation or copies of plans, make arrangements to provide those.
  17. Once you receive the bids, be sure to compare them. Remember, they are not apples to apples comparisons! You must ask about a REALISTIC timeline. If you are doing a remodel and have to rent a house during construction, pay a mortgage and all the electrical bills, add that to your costs!! Remember to check with the references to see if the professional was realistic with their estimates.

This list should really get you going!!  I know I was joking about being a stalker, but I really mean be observant! People love to talk about the good (and bad!) experiences with their home remodels or projects, so bring your neighbor a bottle of wine and thank them for their time.

Remember: EVERY job has problems! Nothing goes 100% smoothly!  It is the reaction by the trades and homeowners that helps smooth those bumps. There are people, like me:), that love to be problem solvers. We were born to see everything like a big puzzle. So be sure to hire someone who gets excited when the favorite tile can’t be shipped. They are the trades that know you will find a better tile selection!

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