DEMA’s Must-Do Checklist Before You Hire a Contractor

The summer season is upon us and, for many homeowners that means time to renovate. For the estate manager or principal, this brings on an entirely different set of challenges than it would for the average homeowner. I hate to be cynical, but the reality is that a vendor will tell you whatever they think you want to hear in order to land a contract. Think about it. Your estate is a major prize to most contractors, who will see servicing your property as an opportunity to promote their own business. I’ve heard my fair share of success stories about contractors who went above and beyond, providing outstanding service. But I’ve also heard horror stories, like the one from the owner of a million-dollar home in my neighborhood whose painting contractor did a fantastic paint job, but ended up causing damage in other areas of her home, including somehow destroying a toilet in a guest bathroom that they were not even painting!

Use the following questions to help you determine if you can trust your home to the company you are interviewing.

Point 1: Are they licensed?

Be sure to ask if the contractor is state-licensed to work in the industry. In some instances, certain companies will not have to be state-licensed. In those cases, look for them to be part of national associations that will provide them with up-to-date techniques and information on products in their industry.

Point 2: Are they insured?

Before beginning any project, make sure that the company has proof-of-liability insurance. This should be a minimum of $1 million. If they do not have insurance, and an injury happens on your property, your homeowner’s insurance must cover the damage of not only the property, but the injuries of the employees as well.

Point 3: Have they done background checks on their employees?

The workers your contractor brings on the job will have access to your home environment. For the safety of your family members and your belongings; do not be afraid to ask your contractor to conduct background checks on their employees.

Point 4: Do they have a drug policy?

Make sure the contractor has a drug policy in place. This is important from several different aspects, but most importantly, this is your home. You want to protect it from the wrong element.

Point 5: Will they be sub-contracting?

Ask if all the work being performed is going to be completed by the company you are hiring. While it is normal for a building contractor to sub-contract some plumbing or electrical work, you want to be aware of this. Besides companies being able to point fingers of blame back and forth in case of damage or delayed work, sub-contracting can open up all kinds of other issues. Make sure you repeat steps 1-4 with any sub-contractors.

Point 6: Get everything in writing.

In the excitement that comes from imagining the improvements that are soon to take place in your home, it’s easy to get distracted and forgetful. Make sure you put all of your expectations in writing before you start calling vendors. Make sure your contractor gives you a price estimate based on what you want. Ask them to anticipate potential problems that may cause discrepancies, such as unexpected water damage in a bathroom or the need to install or remove electrical outlets, etc.

One final tip: it’s not good to live vicariously through the contractors that the neighbors hired. The Joneses may not want to admit that their contractor left anything to be desired. Even if they did do a great job, that doesn’t mean that they can fulfill the expectations you and your family have. Make sure you shop around. Don’t go with the first contractor you speak with . . . unless of course, they meet our 6-point criteria.

Happy renovating!

About Michael Wright

Michael Wright is the Global Vice President and Co-Founder of the Domestic Estate Management Association (DEMA), a worldwide educational association for the Private Service Community with offices in Grosse Pointe, Michigan & Orlando, Florida. He has worked from the beginning to help carry out the mission and vision of DEMA and to better serve those who serve others. The association has been recognized by the media in Forbes, The New York Times, Fortune, Bloomberg, NPR, Hour Magazine, DBusiness, Page Six, Observer, Palm Beach Daily News, The Triton, Florida Weekly and many other luxury publications. Prior to founding DEMA in 2007, Wright worked alongside Co-Founder, Matthew Haack, at a high-end cleaning firm that exclusively serviced estate homes. Previously to that, Wright worked in corporate America and construction, serving a high-net-worth clientele. These experiences have helped enhance his communication skills, particularly when dealing with members, staff and volunteers. Wright truly enjoys connecting those in what can be a fragmented and secretive industry. His passion for serving those in Private Service has been integral to the expansion of DEMA membership across the U.S. and into 18 countries in just a few short years. Outside of DEMA, Wright has also participated in and served on the board of directors for multiple associations relating to different aspects of management.

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