Recently, I held a seminar on Green Building & Universal Design Concepts. I spent a lot of time talking about “Greenwashing.” Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that involves making exaggerated, false or misleading claims about a product or service to suggest to the consumer that the product or service is “green”.
Lately, every time I open a magazine or newspaper I see another “green” remodeling company. Where are they coming from? I’ll tell you where… They are coming from the economic slow-down putting many out of work, especially in the construction trades. Now, we have laid-off carpenters who are suddenly remodeling contractors. We have custom homebuilders who don’t have enough (or any) new home construction, so are diving into the remodeling pool. And they’re all GREEN – just ask them.
Why is all of this troubling? Because, despite popular belief, remodeling is much more difficult than building a new house. It requires a whole different skill set. Just because someone can frame up a house doesn’t mean they’re qualified to tackle a remodeling project – just as someone who claims to be “green” and can spout some obscure statistics, isn’t necessarily “green.”
So how can you be sure you’re selecting the right professional? Do your homework. Contact several contractors. Ask them the right questions:
1. How long have you been remodeling homes?
2. Are you licensed and insured?
3. Can you provide references for me to contact?
4. What projects have you recently completed?
(I’ve been in business for almost ten years and through countless remodeling and building projects, I have only had a few clients ask for references and only one who ever called any of them – go figure.)
Ask yourself a few questions, too:
1. Can we work with this individual? Did we click?
2. Did the contractor(s) appear to share our vision?
3. Were they enthusiastic about our project or did they just answer our questions?
Next, be prepared by having enough information for the contractor to quote your project accurately. You may not know exactly what you want or what specific materials are available, but certain basics will help. Use the “Good, Better, Best” method; i.e., do you want to use good materials, better materials or the best materials? The cost difference can be huge.
Upon meeting with a few contractors and getting some ballpark prices you should have enough information to make an intelligent decision. Carefully compare apples-to-apples, including what each proposes to do, what materials they propose to use, and the estimated costs. Look for the best value for your money, not just the lowest price. When was the last time you went out to dinner and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu knowing it really wasn’t what you wanted? The lowest price doesn’t usually equal the best value. Remember, this is your home, the single largest financial investment you will ever make. Choose wisely.