Finding a Contractor

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Need a new roof? How ’bout a bathroom remodel? What about getting some additional electrical outlets in that 1965 split-level?

You are looking for a contractor, aren’t you?

I just recently heard a Facebook tale of woe from a friend who had hired an electrician to do some work at her house. Upon completion, the work didn’t pass inspection, AND the electrician in question was reluctant to admit that there was a problem, AND he had a ‘smart’ attitude, too. Does this sound familiar? Very few of us have escaped this sort of encounter.

Angie’s List just had a useful article on hiring a contractor. I receive a print copy of the bi-monthly magazine and here are a few tips I found there, plus a couple of my own:

  1. Talk to friends and neighbors who have had similar work done. You can add or subtract potential contractors on your interview list just by finding out about other people’s experiences. Caveat #1: some people are negative in general, and will find fault with most any workers who come near. Is your consultant in this category? Caveat #2: Every contractor, even the best, has one job that just didn’t go well from the very beginning. You can’t make a judgment call based on only one customer’s opinion. Remember this when you read online reviews, too; frequently, only people who have a gripe bother to leave a review. Conversely, the business might have found a way to front-load the reviews with artificially positive comments.
  2. Ask if the business has ever done business under a different name. DBAs (doing business as) are easy to get, and if the business has a lot of DBAs in its past, it might mean the business has something to hide and is trying not to leave a trail.
  3. If the contractor you are interviewing is in a field that can be licensed, such as plumber or electrician, the contractor will gladly give you the license number. If you run into resistance at this point, best run the other way or do a lot more homework, either because the person is not licensed, or because the person has let the license lapse, or it has been revoked.
  4. Ask the contractor for contact information. You want a street address of some sort, because if the person is operating without a permanent address, it is too easy for them to disappear when there is a problem with the work down the line.
  5. Ask for a copy of the insurance policies that will cover workers’ compensation AND damage to your property. Make sure the policy looks adequate to cover whatever disaster happens- you don’t want to be the one liable for injury to the crew!
  6. Make sure the contractor specializes in the type of work you want done. For most jobs, you want someone who does that work all the time, not just every once in awhile when business is slow otherwise.
  7. Ask yourself how the contractor makes you feel when you are discussing all these points. If the person is reluctant, or glosses over answers, or denigrates you for asking the questions, 1) the person isn’t going to get easier to work with than when he/she is trying to impress a new customer and 2) the person probably has something to hide, or feels insecure about the number of complaints she/he has received in the past. Remember what your mom told you about ‘not making excuses’? Yeah, that. You don’t want to hear a bunch of excuses from a person your are considering hiring.

have had terrible experiences with remodelers and other contractors and I have had wonderful experiences over and over again with other home maintenance and remodeling contractors. I can tell you that the previous suggestions are worth following.

I have one picky, perfectionist friend I rely on for great recommendations over and over again. I figure that if Stephanie is happy, then I will be, too. Who is your trusted picky-person?

 

Glass ‘n’ Me

Did NOT think I could get excited about a pane of window glass. Wrong, wrong, wrong! We have started replacing double-paned window glass at our house and got the first set installed yesterday. I keep staring out the windows in complete appreciation and awe of what just happened!!! It is the difference between squinting through dirty eyeglasses at the sunny landscape and looking boldly through expensive sunglasses- suddenly the view is clear and crisp, yet not glare-y.

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Before

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After

So here’s the deal about double-pane glass: the less reliable the glue between the layers and the less careful the process, the faster that factory seal will fail, ruining the vacuum between the panes. How do you know a seal has failed? You start seeing moisture between the panes of glass; moisture that cannot be removed from inside the house or from the outside. Or, you start seeing a whitish film on the window that cannot be removed because it is between the panes. Or, you see dirt between the panes.

We compared some prices, then called in Fair and Square Glass Repair, a local business that travels widely in the Austin/San Antonio area. They came out and we talked about the situation, and Trey Doran, the owner of the business, educated me on the type of window frames we have and the type of glass we have. He gave me a tutorial on how our particular windows function and on how I can best care for them. Then, I made a spot decision which windows I wanted to change out first. This is not a cheap project, but we had moved into this house with some milky panes, and I knew that it was a repair/update that I wanted to accomplish and enjoy. We decided to do it a little bit at a time. We are also replacing torn and damaged screens with Fair and Square, upgrading the glass panes and the type of screen while doing it.

About a week after Trey took the measurements, he and his son returned with glass and new screens in hand. I am sorry to say that I had to leave during a lot of the procedure, but I took a few pictures at the beginning.

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He popped out these strips that hold the panes from the inside.

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Using a strong suction device to hold the old glass in order to remove it to the outside.

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I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a torch and a scraper sitting on the outside ledge. Missed this part, but it must have been exciting.

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Oooooo, cleaning up those beautiful new panes!

Aside from the tremendous pleasure that looking through clean glass brings, these panes are highly energy-efficient and they block 95% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. You know how your fabrics, paintings, and furniture fade near windows? Yeah, well, not with this glass. Not in my lifetime, anyway.

Although we have been pretty prompt on needed repairs to our homes and on decorating to our taste, we have a track record of putting off updating certain features that are still functional until suddenly we decide to put our house on the market. Then, we go into high gear and do all sorts of things to the house that we could have done years before and actually ENJOYED ourselves before we decided to move. We have made a plan for updating and upgrading this house so that we won’t be in a bind, or leave money on the table if we should decide to move, or if some circumstances force a move.

Here’s a question for you: if my house is on the market and my neighbor down the street has her house on the market, which windows are going to give a better impression when  buyers walk in- the milky windows down the street, or my clear, high-definition view of nature?

 

 

And Now For Something A Little Different. And a Cat Video at the End.

I am so excited about a seminar I attended last night and you’ll never guess the topic… keeping a record of my life and possessions so that my heirs can step in and run the show in the event of my unexpected demise! (This includes everything about running a home, so it is a direct tie-in to the overall purpose of this real estate blog.)

Have you ever been so stressed that you almost can’t remember your current address and phone number? I have! My mind shoots straight back to an address from 3rd grade, or something useless like that. So, how in the world could I cope with the avalanche of information I need at hand in the case of a family death? And how could I expect my family to cope in the event of my death? I have bits and pieces of information all over the place, some online and some on paper!  Some is stored only in my head. Yikes! What a nightmare to leave my family. They would miss me and be angry with me all at the same time, right?

On a related note, a couple of days ago, it occurred to me that, since my spouse is away for a week, and I am doing all the cat duties by myself, what would happen to these little living creatures if I keel over and become non-functional while he’s gone???? I thought, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve got to have a plan! I have to write down every detail of cat care, cat medications, as well as cat-related chores. I have to write down how to run the two septic systems, the water softener, the HVAC, the potted plants, the swimming pool, the…… etc. I need to keep a notebook around here where close friends and family know to find it and access it in a mere 30 seconds to start up the routines and keep the place humming, if no one else is here to do it.”

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Amy Praskac

Voilá! Enter my friend, Amy Praskac, of On the Record Advance Planning, who conducted last night’s seminar. Yes, her workbook, available on Amazon or from her website, has a page for pets and their care! And an entire section entitled ‘Household Facts’!!!

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Amy even recognizes what a daunting organizational task this is for most of us, and she provides a three-month calendar along with tips for scheduling this bear of a project to get it finished. Remember the goal? To create a smooth path, rather than a nightmarish chasm for your family and friends to traverse after you’re gone. (Must put that over my desk as a reminder.)

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Here’s what the seminar provides me:

  1. Peace of mind for me, if my spouse dies before I do.
  2. Peace of mind for my spouse, if I die before he does.
  3. Reaaaalllly important: peace of mind for our kids, who would have to step in and take over immediately in the event that my husband and I are in an accident or something shocking like that.
  4. A concrete way to start these conversations with our children about funeral/burial plans, will and power of attorney documents, disbursal of personal possessions, whom to call, financial accounts.

We know from personal experience that this kind of planning is important for adults of any age. My sister-in-law died very suddenly and unexpectedly without a will, half-way across the country from us and from her parents when she was only 30, and getting her simple possessions and simple legal affairs wrapped up was anything but simple! Do your parents a favor- make a will and leave a record of everything they will need to know to pick up where you leave off.

And if you are a homeowner, seriously, how is anyone going to keep the place functional with running water and electricity, if you have not left them operating instructions? Somebody has to pay the gas bill to keep the gas turned on. Take it from me, if your heirs have to sell a house that has been neglected, even for a few months, it is much harder than if the house is in tip-top shape while waiting to go on the market! They will actually lose money if the house is neglected.

Contact Amy on her website if you want more information about the seminar. And contact me at 512-970-9121, if you need to sell a house. Let’s chat!

There is something unimaginably appealing about The Critical Information Workbook: Creating a Road Map for Your Family!