By Linda Descano, CFA®, President and CEO, Women & Co. and Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships, North America Marketing, Citi
Whether launching a new product at work or building the kitchen of your dreams, having the right people on your team to help you plan and execute is vital to success. With 20+ years in the workforce, I'm pretty accomplished at assembling a high-performing team -- case in point: the fabulous financial women behind Women & Co. But when it comes to the homefront, selecting the "right" professionals can be somewhat daunting. Thinking that some of you may feel the same way, I turned to David Benjamin, Vice President of Home Services at The Home Depot, for some advice on what to consider when hiring contractors, plumbers, electricians and other tradespeople. Here's what he suggested:
1. Take time to think through your needs -- do you need a specialist, such as roofer or plumber, or will your project require multiple trades, in which case you may want to hire a general contractor?
2. Ask friends and family for referrals of tradespeople who have performed similar work for them. But don't stop there: tap search engines and other web resources to identify professionals in your area and take time to read through the reviews posted. It's a great way to compile a short list of people to interview.
3. When meeting with prospective tradespeople, find out if they conduct background checks on their employees (after all, these folks will be in your home), carry requisite licenses and insurance and whether any of the work will be outsourced to subcontractors. If subcontractors will be used, it's important to find out about their policies regarding background checks, licensing and insurance, too.
4. Once you discuss your goals, budget and timing, you should receive a detailed, written quote that spells out exactly what work will be performed, what it will cost and a timeline. Also important: Clear language about how changes to the original scope will be handled. The quote should match with what you discussed and be in language that you understand. If there is something you don't understand or is ambiguous, the time to discuss is before you sign on the proverbial dotted line.
5. When you're hiring a general contractor who will coordinate the various trades required, be sure the agreement clearly documents who is responsible for managing the project, scheduling the various tradespeople and the overall quality of the work. You also want to be sure that, if you are paying the general contractor directly, the financial and legal responsibility for payments to the subcontractors rests entirely and solely with the general contractor, with no recourse to you.
6. Speaking of payment, expect to pay one-third at the start, another third at the midway point and the final third upon completion of the work, but terms do differ from contractor to contractor. Again, something important to negotiate upfront.
About the Author:
Linda is President and CEO of Women & Co., a service of Citi that brings women relevant financial content and thoughtful commentary. She also serves as a Managing Director and Head of Digital Partnerships for North America Marketing at Citi. A recognized expert on the topic of personal finance, Linda is also the featured contributor on womenandco.com and Manilla.com, for which she serves as their women and money expert. Her writing, tips and commentary have appeared in countless publications including: Huffington Post, MORE Magazine, American Banker and MSN Money to name a few. She is the recipient of a 2011 Luminary Award from Womensphere® and was the New York recipient of the 2009 Corporate w2wlink Ascendancy Award.