How to Hire Contractors, Inspectors, and Others – Part II

I’ve talked about how to hire a realtor and a lender, but they probably won’t be the only professionals you need during your real estate transaction. You may need an insurance agent, home inspector, pest and fungus inspector, several contractors, landscapers, appraisers, and others. It’s never a bad idea to ask your friends and neighbors who they recommend, but if you want someone who deals with these professionals every day, ask your realtor for an opinion.

As with most things, you often get what you pay for. So, just like you wouldn’t select a heart surgeon based on price alone, I don’t recommend you select any of these other professionals solely on cost, either. Now, that doesn’t mean you should choose the most expensive bidder; that’s no guarantee of quality. The best idea is to match your objectives with the service professional’s experience and expertise.

Appraiser

Not everyone needs an appraiser, but if you do, you’ll want to make sure the appraiser is licensed or certified, has a good reputation, and can do the appraisal in a timely fashion. Be aware that if you need an appraisal for a loan, the lender will make contact with an appraiser. I’ve had to tell more than one well-meaning buyer that their appraisal is fine and dandy, but not the one ordered by the lender—which is the one that counts. Now, if you’re just wondering what your home is likely to sell for, your realtor can give you a good estimate. This is not the same as an appraisal, but if a loan isn’t riding on the information, you may not need one.

 Well Driller/Inspector

While drilling a well and inspecting a well are two different things, the same expert can typically do either. If your well is in a remote or hard-to-get-to location, be sure the person you hire can get out there with the necessary equipment. As with the professionals above, does the well expert write clear, understandable reports and carry appropriate insurance? Be sure.

Landscaper

Landscapers really go into two categories: the design and maintenance. A good designer understands aesthetics and practicality, and can help use plants and other materials in a way that allows you to use your outdoor space the way you want to. This includes the layout and selection of plants: choosing plants that thrive in the local environment (and don’t become a deer buffet), putting them in places that will allow for nice views and screen out unappealing views, making sure their root systems don’t ruin your driveway, remembering that it gets wet in winter and you may need a paved path to get where you’re going, and many other important considerations. One of the crucial elements of good landscape design is a well-planned sprinkler system. If it is done poorly, it will drive you crazy until you dig up your lawn to add or move a sprinkler head.

Maintenance landscapers mow, weed eat, prune, replace dead plants, and make sure all the work installed by the landscape designer stays in good condition. As with other professionals, make sure the landscapers have appropriate insurance and come highly recommended. Go look at other properties they manage. How do they look?

Contractors

Contractor” covers a lot of ground. I’m talking about general contractors, plumbers, electricians, roofers, paving contractors, flooring contractors, and contractors who can weatherize your home or help with energy retrofits. And I’m probably leaving some out. All of them require pretty much the same screening: do they have appropriate insurance? Are they licensed? Do they have experience with jobs that match your specific requirements? Do they have the communication skills and responsiveness to provide good service? Do they return your phone calls in a timely manner? Do they have the infrastructure and financial capacity to complete your job, which may include performance bonding (an agreement that guarantees that the job will be finished for the agreed upon price)? You don’t want someone finishing half the job with 80 percent of the funds.

Handyman

Not all jobs require a contractor. You could use a handyman if: your job is really simple or small, or you’ll work side-by-side with the handyman and you have the expertise to oversee the job. Handymen don’t usually carry insurance or licenses, so talk to your insurance agent to figure out if a handyman is a good choice.

If you’re looking for something to do in Ukiah on November 9, the Rotary Club of Ukiah and the South Ukiah Rotary Club are hosting the 3rd Annual Guitars for Troops event at the Redwood Empire Fairgrounds – $10 entry fee with the barbeque at 6:00 pm and the show at 7:00 pm. Local bands play and proceeds are used, in part, to purchase guitars for active service members serving overseas. Tickets are available at the door, or you can buy them from your local Rotarian.

Next time I’ll write about property taxes, Proposition 13, and how they all fit together. If there’s something you would like me to write about or if you have questions about real estate or property management, feel free to contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit our website at www.realtyworldselzer.com. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 35 years.

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