With an estimated 268,000 homes damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Harvey Houston has become a beehive of repair and remodeling contractors. “The first wave of work was the remediation – removal of the water damaged portions of the house and drying out the remaining wall studs. The second wave is now upon us,” stated Raymond Campbell, a home investor whose company website proclaims “we buy houses.” “This second wave of home repair will probably last two years or more because of the short supply of materials, labor, and the delayed insurance checks. Homeowners who don’t want the headaches and hassles of repairing their homes will sell to investors.
Most homeowners have not faced a massive remodeling job that two or four feet of standing water has created. It is daunting to most because getting estimates, signing contracts, reviewing work quality, and more can be a full time job. But there are a few basic principles homeowners can follow to protect themselves.
First, don’t be in a rush. Homeowners should take their time to review all of the details. Rushing decisions often results in mistakes and regrets. Second, asking for references from the contractors is important. Asking for before and after photos can help the homeowner visualize the final work. More established contractors will have a website so it is wise to take the time to read the information on the website. And more established contractors will have online reviews on third party sites such as Google, Yelp, and the BBB. Reading the reviews will give homeowners a better idea of the overall customer service offered by the contractors. “But I also encourage homeowners to perform internet searches with the words ‘lawsuit’ and ‘complaint’ plus the contractor’s company name. People who feel they have been cheated or poorly served will write about their experiences, ” advised Mr. Campbell of Houston Home Buyers.
It is also important that home contractors have the proper insurance and licenses. The insurance should protect the homeowner from any liability in the event an employee is injured on the job. Licensing is important because only qualified contractors can work on certain systems such as Heating/Air Conditioning, Plumbing, and Electrical. The contractor should also be able to obtain any necessary permit for work he is going to perform.
“Cost is always an important consideration but customer service is more important,” suggests Mr. Campbell, “because you want a contractor who will deliver quality work and will stand behind his work and fix any problem. Many times the lowest cost contractor is far from the best contractor for the job.”
Money. The rule of thumb is to pay the contractor in two to four intervals AFTER certain portions of the home repair has been completed. But some contractors will claim they need money for materials to begin the job. The solution is for the homeowner to buy the requested materials in his or her name and have them stored inside their damaged home. This strategy of owning and storing the materials can protect the homeowner from disputes and theft.
“Questions. The homeowner should ask many questions of the contractors. Asking questions increases knowledge and knowledge is an effective negotiating tool. It is done by professional negotiators all the time but homeowners can do it too,” muses Mr. Campbell.