Over the last week or so, all the news here in Florida has been consumed by Hurricane Irma. One of the most powerful storms in Florida’s history and one that has caused over 5 million people (to date) to evacuate from the Sunshine state so far. Tons of Floridians, like myself, in the next few weeks will be recovering from the storm. As people evaluate their homes and property, here are a few tips that can help you save thousands of dollars and make the recovery process much easier.
First, never ‘rush’ into hiring someone who is not a reputable licensed contractor. One of the disadvantages of these storms, is that you have ‘storm chasers’ all over the US waiting for these disasters to occur, so they can go door to door (sometimes in a very unethical way) to prey on people for money, most often the elderly and the misinformed. Don’t fall for the hype. Sometimes it is better to wait a bit and get a licensed state contractor that can do the job, and will know local codes and permit procedures. In fact, the Florida department of business and professional regulation has a page where you can check if a contractor is legit by name or license number. To go to the site, click here.
Second, do not call a ‘General Contractor’ (GC). GC’s are good for building new houses and/or doing major renovations to properties, but they will cost you a lot more money to do jobs, like erecting a fence or replacing broken windows. Call job specific contractors, because that small mistake can potentially cost you thousands of dollars. For example, if you have roof damage due to the storm, a GC most likely will subcontract the job to a roofing contractor and make money. If you cut the GC out of the picture, you will save that mark up and get the same quality and workmanship. Same applies to most divisions like electric, plumbing, HVAC, etc. Now, there are some jobs that only a GC can do, but a reputable contractor will let you know that advanced when you call them. Cut the ‘middle’ man and save some money.
Third, after you have assessed the damaged, whatever that might be, bid it out to at least 3 contractors in that field. For example, if you have roof damage, call 3 roofing companies that are licensed in your area. Bid them out to each other and based on customer service, quality, and time, pick the right contractor for your needs. IF you think time is of the essence and you can’t bid it to 3 contractors, do at least 2 so you have a chance to save and get the job done right. Remember, a phone call to several contractors will give you choices and can save you thousands.
Fourth, never give contractors money ‘upfront’. Reputable State licensed contractors can, and should, cover all cost for materials and labor upfront, without having the need for clients to ‘give money down’ until the repair(s) are completed. One of the most common complains I hear from people is the fact they paid someone to do something to their homes, and the so-called ‘contractor’ never came back to do the repairs. Don’t give money upfront, unless it is necessary. This will save you money and time, because contractors want to finish your job so they can get paid and move on to the next customer. Ask the contractor about paying upfront, most don’t required that you do so.
Finally, ask questions. People that ask questions, will catch when things are not ‘right’. Ask questions about the materials, and the process that it will take to get your problem resolved. By asking questions, you can see if a contractor is prepared to do a job and have the right materials and personnel that is needed to get the job done. Questions bring things to the light, and there you can see them better. If you suspect that something does not fit to what you understood to be right, don’t be afraid to say ‘stop’ to the contractor as you inquired more about the issue. Reputable contractors will not be upset if you ask questions. Also, if they are prepared to do what they need to do, it will show in the way they act, and what they say to you. Be in the lookout and always be ready to questions why.
After a storm, the biggest problem that I see people go through is time. Everyone needs to do repairs after a storm right away. Understandably so, most crucial repairs need to be address quickly. Assess the damage and prioritize what you need right away and what can wait for a few days, weeks, or even months. Waiting can save you money. Sometimes it is better to wait a bit more to save thousands, get quality, and be satisfied. Don’t rush, take your time and save. But most important of all, Enjoy!