You will have a better experience if you hire a reliable and trustworthy contractor, no matter if your goal is to remodel your kitchen or renovate your New York City residence.
Fraser Patterson, Co-Founder, Bolster,, a NYC-based data-driven design-build company, says that it is a mistake to think that being licensed and insured means something. While reference checks can give a good idea of the contractor’s skills and track record of delivering projects on time and within budget, it is extremely difficult to evaluate the contractor’s actual business health. They can stop projects and take your deposit if a client fails to pay on time, or the business they hoped for doesn’t happen.
Bolster’s mission is to eliminate major home renovation risk by being transparent in all aspects. Bolster’s vertically-integrated team and commitment to resourcing puts them in the unique position of being able to financially guarantee that all renovations are delivered beautifully and on-budget.
Pro Tip: Bolster has renovated more than 50,000 square feet in NYC. It knows how to help New Yorkers navigate Landmarks and recreate pre-war details. They also have full visibility into project milestones. ” Bolster offers a fixed price upfront. Bolster’s CEO Anna Karp, who is also co-founder of the company, says that once we do due diligence and check the condition of your property, we will absorb any unforeseen costs.” Ready to begin your renovation?
Here are some tips from Bolster to help you find a contractor who is financially sound and who does high-quality work.
Word of mouth
Ask friends, family and coworkers for references if they have done similar work. Ask for references from friends, family, and co-workers who have had similar projects. Learn about their successes, failures, and lessons learned. Remember that even though your project may sound similar, if a friend recommends a contractor, it doesn’t mean that they will do the same for you.
Recommendations from other renovators can differ greatly. They may have different tastes and preferences than you, and might consider certain quality sufficient. It doesn’t matter if someone has had a bad experience working with a contractor. They might have had a low budget and resulted in a project that was not well-resourced.
Projects can have a wide range of work scopes.
span data -uw-rmsr Maybe your apartment on the 10th-floor of a high-end property with strict renovation rules and a $10m insurance requirement. But your friend’s was on the ground-floor of an average building, where access is much easier and the insurance requirements are only $2 million. Patterson says that your job will be almost certain to be more difficult and more expensive.
Perhaps your friend was working on a project at the same time as the contractor. The business was performing well and they were doing well. However, the general contractor in Patterson, NY, has recently been through a divorce or been fined a lot. Or maybe they lost a subcontractor. Patterson says that before you know it, you’re in bankruptcy halfway through a project.
You can do some internet sleuthing
Review sites like Houzz, StreetEasy and Brownstoner can provide insight into the experiences of other clients with particular contractors.
Look for people who have reviewed contractors. If you don’t live in an historic brownstone but your prospective contractors only work in modern condos they may not be the right match.
Be careful when reading reviews: Even with extensive online research, it can be difficult to determine if a contractor has been properly vetted and is of good quality. Reviews tend to reveal little about the true value of an individual’s work.
You don’t have to give up on a contractor just because you aren’t happy with their work. Ask the contractor about the past jobs they did.
Further research can be done with the Department of Buildings. They have a database that allows for you to enter the name of a contractor and view their permit history. You can search for information on their subcontractors including plumbers, electricians, and other trades.
It is important to note that contractors who are engaged in multiple jobs at once shouldn’t be a cause for concern.
Patterson states that there is a myth that only one project can be done at once. However, Patterson believes that if one job is being completed at once, then how will you keep the best subcontractors happy?
Check references from past clients first, but don’t stop there
To get a balanced picture, reach out to at least 2 references from past clients. Patterson says that although it is not an easy task, it can be worth it if you are spending substantial sums of cash.
Ask them general questions about satisfaction with the renovation, whether they would hire the contractor again, as well as if they are happy with the timeline. Are there any miscommunications or unexpected costs? Were clients able to visit the site and were they satisfied with the way it was managed?
Next, talk to architects and subcontractors to determine if they are easy to work alongside and if payment is on time. This is a crucial step that renovators often overlook. It will give you an idea of the contractor’s character, temperament, and reliability. Asking a material supplier to verify credit is a smart idea.
Patterson says, “The reason why you’re checking their payment history is because it determines the likelihood of financial problems–most notably, any liens being placed upon your home-during and after your project.” Patterson says that professionals are more able to discuss the work of others.
Don’t forget to consider the insurance aspect of your bid.
Contractor failure is often caused by poor accounting, management and estimation practices. If you don’t get a clear, detailed quote in a timely fashion, you need to question whether the contractor has a healthy business.
You should also ensure that the contractor has the appropriate insurance coverage for the type of work they will be performing on your project. Although anyone can claim general liability insurance, it doesn’t mean that they are valid, current, or sufficient.
Patterson says that contractors are often covered as carpenters. However, if they arrive on the site as general contractors and cause damage to the house, the insurance won’t cover it. The owner will be responsible for the cost.”
And don’t overlook workers’ compensation insurance. It’s more than ethical thinking. Patterson asks, “Do you want people working on projects that aren’t being legally protected?” Patterson says, “That is not legal protection.” You will be sued and fined if someone injures themselves.
Anette, a homeowner, was hurt when her contractor for the $60,000 Upper East Side renovation of her co-op home failed to have enough workers’ compensation. He sued her for $16,000 for damages after he broke his finger.
Pay attention to the bid of your contractor
span data uw-rm sr Patterson recalls two Brooklyn homeowners who moved to Bolster after receiving bids from several general contractors. Patterson states that they received estimates ranging from $250,000 up to $750,000. Patterson says that this is a huge range and it’s not even an actual range. They couldn’t tell who was correct and complete .”
Contractor bids can be inconsistent, leaving renovators unsure of what to expect from their projects. Patterson explained that the reason there is so much variance in bids can be attributed to ‘general circumstances’, which are site management, project management and labor. Also, ‘overhead’ refers to the contractor’s business expenses, such as office and travel expenses, which contractors often include into direct costs instead of listing it separately.
Jane, a Greenwich Village brownstone proprietor, ran into this issue. Jane hired a contractor to do a $800,000 home renovation. His general conditions costs were only 9.7 per cent of the project’s total budget. General contractors make around 30%, so if they show less than that, it’s because they are adding labor and materials costs to their overall project budget. According to the 2017 National Association of Home Builders report, remodelers made an average of $1.8 million in 2015 revenue. $1.3 million (or 71.1%) went to paying for sales items like labor, material, subs, and other costs. These costs were subtracted from the revenue to give a gross profit of approximately half a million dollars, or 28.9% of revenue. )
Jane lost tens of thousands of dollars due to the contractor’s cutbacks on general conditions.
Patterson states that Bolster uses data to calculate the costs of site management, project management and labor. This allows them to accurately predict general conditions. Overhead can then be clearly delineated. We let homeowners know how long their renovation will take and what the labor cost. This allows them to ask the right questions and help make the right hiring decisions.
This is a red flag if the contractor you are considering doesn’t answer these questions.
Patterson states, “Good contractors are an open-book.”
Consider a design-build company for larger projects
A design-build company like Bolster is a great way to find the right contractor for a $100,000 renovation.
Patterson says, “You can only have one house–we only need one team.” We hire the most skilled people in NYC renovations.
Bolster’s streamlined process and vertically-integrated model mean your architect, contractor, and builders are all one team operating atop a transparent renovation process designed just for you. Bolster uses proprietary technology and predictive models to identify, quantify, and absorb all potential risks associated with your project.
High-detail proposals are prepared using a systematic approach to pricing. This lays out exactly what you’re getting and empowers you to make informed decisions about your project.
Finally, a contract has been drawn up. Bolster is able to financially guarantee the project, which is not typical for renovation contracts.
Patterson states that Patterson offers diligence, transparency and accountability, which are the three most important aspects of a major NYC renovation.