The Home Buyer's Korner

Information presented should be used for educational purposes only.

July 7th, 2015

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The Home Buyer’s Korner

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Home Improvement Contracts

preparing your home for saleBefore starting any home improvement or remodel, make sure to get everything down in writing.

Whether it’s creating security around your home with lighting or adding comfortable place to read and help make your space look bigger and brighter, most of us have tried our hand at adding or changing out lighting. It’s easy to add a lamp, but when we need a dimmer, adding an outlet or addressing unknown electrical issues, most of us start getting into areas that may require a electrician.

The wiring behind walls can often hide issues that you weren’t at all aware of, making it necessary to rip out walls or ceilings and adding to the overall scope and cost of what you thought was going to be a relatively inexpensive.

Before starting any project, it’s best to hire a licensed contractor who is skilled and can prepare an official contract for your project. A skilled expert can advise you how to successfully complete your project, but first make sure you have a plan of what you want done and a contract will act as your guideline to ensure your project meets your standards.

A contract is a document that legally binds two parties together by a written agreement. The point of a contract is to hold all parties responsible for work to be done. It provides protection for you as the homeowner, as well as the contractor themselves.

A contract must be offered, accepted, and signed by you and your contractor. Having a contract signed by your contractor will help you in case any legal actions must be made for unsatisfactory work and their refusal to make things right. It also serves as a paper trail, noting timelines, materials, exact scope of project and payment schedule.

If you decide to hire a contractor to complete your project, they should provide a quote or contract after your initial discussion about the project. This quote serves as a recap of what you asked to be done, the associated pricing, expected completion dates and payment schedule.

It’s important that this document is read thoroughly; any changes to be made should be written and sent back for revision. If you decide to write a contract up yourself, local supply stores offer them and it’s easy to locate templates on many websites.

The following are some basic contract terms that should be included:

  1. Contractor and business name, address, and all contact information
  2. Professional license information, bonding and insurance, including workman’s compensation on their employees and sub-contractors who will in on your property. If this isn’t in the contract, ask to see a copy of each.
  3. Project details from start to end, including who will be doing what and when
  4. List of all materials that will be used for the entire project included the type, size and individual pricing.
  5. Budgeting plan for equipment rental
  6. Ordering, shipping, handling anticipated costs and time length
  7. Payment instructions and budget outline, fully itemized
  8. Permits that have been obtained, if any are needed
  9. Timeline of project including beginning, completion, and checkpoint dates
  10. Cleanup work and waste disposal plan
  11. Warranty information

Other aspects that should be outlined in your contract involve more detailed terms and conditions. When working with a contractor it’s important to address any damages or policies that the contractor’s company have.

Some businesses require damage claims on goods to be reported within one week from the date of delivery. Policies may pertain to small things like light bulbs, batteries, granite countertops to electrical wiring.

Making changes or canceling your contract can be done if you follow the right steps. You have the option to submit a “Change Order” form, which is a signed document by the contractor to agree on the changes you make in your contract.

As projects progress, a change work order can be issued in writing – sometimes the contractor does this and sometimes the home owner does it. A change work order can be anything from changing the lighting fixture to be used, changing the type of wiring to be done, or indicating that more work needs to be done.

Make sure you have clarity around any work order change. For example, if the contractor decides that drywall needs to be ripped out, you’ll want to find out who’s doing the repair work and how its cost. And, if after all that aluminum wiring is discovered, have in writing the exact scope of replacement that costs. What I’m trying to express is never just accept a verbal statement, even if you’ve fallen in love with your contractor. Seemingly small projects can go sideways, so always get the work details on paper.

Cancelling your contract can be more challenging than making any alterations. Make sure to read the fine print at the beginning of any project and read it again if you decide to cancel your contract for all liability rules, terms, and conditions that apply. If you are unsure how to handle canceling your project contract, consult an attorney before moving forward.

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