What’s the best way to set up a consultation or an appointment with a general contractor during the COVID-19 pandemic?
To set up a consultation or appointment with a general contractor during the COVID-19 pandemic, start by performing an online search for local professionals near you.
Message the contractor, and see if they are willing to set up a video consultation call instead of an in-person site visit. With video chat, the contractor may be able to assess the scale of the project, give you better information on what needs to be done and perhaps provide an estimate. Be sure to discuss virtual payments, as well as general strategies for staying safe.
A home inspection is a visual inspection performed by a trained professional to determine the condition of a home’s main elements. The inspection usually takes several hours, during which the professional takes multiple photos and notes, tracking information for a final report. After the inspection, the pro will create a printed report, complete with photos and detailed information, summarizing the condition of the house. A home inspection is often used by potential home buyers prior to purchase to determine if there are larger issues (such as dry rot or a faulty foundation) that are not immediately visible to the untrained eye but that would cost a lot of money to resolve. Home inspections are also used by real estate agents and home sellers to address any concerns before putting a home on the market. Longtime homeowners can also schedule a home inspection to get a snapshot of their current home condition and identify any issues that need to be addressed. A home inspection is not a legal document that can be used for divorce or estate settlements, nor can it be used to secure loans or mortgages.
Construction project managers help in all stages of your construction project, starting from the very first step. Typically paid a percentage of a total project cost, they are part of the design and planning process and help ensure seamless communication between the design parties and the construction team. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, their scope of work includes preparing cost estimates, budgets and work timetables; interpreting and explaining contracts and technical information to other professionals; reporting work progress and budget to clients; collaborating with architects, engineers and other construction pros; selecting subcontractors and scheduling and coordinating their tasks; responding to work delays, emergencies and other problems; and ensuring compliance with legal requirements, building and safety codes, and other regulations.
The work of construction project managers may seem very similar to that of general contractors, but there are some critical differences. One difference is that, unlike most general contractors, project managers are not engaged in the actual construction — they are onsite overseeing the work of subcontractors. Another key difference is that project managers are hired during the design phase, while general contractors are hired after plans have been made. The project manager is generally paid a percentage of the total project cost, while the general contractor is more typically paid according to the bid they gave to build your project.
To find out whether a general contractor is considered essential in your area during the current coronavirus pandemic, visit your city or state’s government website, which will have information on essential services.
Find information on national recommendations by visiting CISA’s Identifying Critical Infrastructure During COVID-19 webpage. However, not all jurisdictions follow CISA’s definitions of critical infrastructure.
If you decide to hire a general contractor, avoid any physical contact, don’t shake hands, keep 6 feet of distance between you and the pro and sanitize all involved surfaces. Also, use digital platforms to communicate and make payments.
A complete home inspection involves a visual investigation of all major elements that make up your home. A home inspection is a vital part of buying or selling a home to ensure you’re not accidentally buying a termite-infested home or one with major structural defects. Paying for an inspection before purchasing a home can save you a lot of money in the long run. The national average home inspection cost is $310, with prices ranging higher or lower based on your location and the square footage of your home. After performing a walk-through inspection, the pro should provide you a printed report — complete with photos and recommendations — detailing what’s in good condition, what would benefit from minor repairs, and what needs immediate attention. Home inspection pros know how to spot trouble areas, but they’re not licensed contractors, electricians or plumbers, so they may suggest you hire a licensed pro to address specific problems. Here are the main components that a home inspection covers:
- Home structure
- Foundation, grading and drainage, roof covering, roof structure, interior and exterior attic walls, ceilings and floors, interior and exterior doors, windows, stairways, fireplace and chimney, porches, balconies, decks, attached carports, and crawl space.
- HVAC system, heating equipment, cooling equipment, ductwork and vents, fixtures and switches, branch circuits, receptacles, service entrance and panels.
- Water heater and equipment, drains, waste systems, vents, and plumbing fixtures.
- Garage door openers, garbage disposal, dishwasher, exhaust range, range hood, bathroom exhaust fans, cooktop, oven and microwave.
It’s important to know if your project requires work by a licensed professional, as licensing laws can vary by state, locality, and job details. You can find general licensing information online at the government websites that handle occupational licensing for a given profession in your state or location. Some states designate a project cost over which you have to hire a licensed contractor. To find qualified licensed contractors, search your state’s licensing board. For example, in California, the Department of Consumer Affairs operates a searchable database through the Contractors State License Board. In some states, contracting licenses are provided at a regional level. You can find links to specific databases on BRB Publications’ Occupational Licensing page. Red flags that a contractor may not be licensed or may be providing an expired or false license number are unreasonably low bids or a request for complete payment upfront. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.
Home appraisals and home inspections both assess your home and provide a report summarizing the condition or value of your home based on key measurements. Unlike a home inspection for the sale of a property, a home appraisal is used for loan applications, property value assessment for sales or settlements (divorce, estate, etc.), and taxes and insurance. If you’re having your home appraised for lending purposes, you’ll likely need a state-certified appraiser, so be sure to your research their credentials. Nationally, the average cost for a home appraisal is $340.
If you’re buying or selling a home, having a professional home inspection can be an invaluable tool for price-setting and negotiation, as well as learning what repairs are necessary. The national average home inspection cost is $310, ranging higher or lower depending on the inspection company, your location and the size of your home. Other factors that can affect cost are additional inspection services and pathogen testing. Here are some examples of average home inspection costs in various parts of the country:
- Home inspection in New York City: $425 or more.
- Condo inspection in New York City: $200 or more.
- Home inspection in Central Texas: $250 for homes up to 2,000 square feet.
- $275 for homes from 3,001-4,000 square feet.
- $300 for homes from 4,001-5,000 square feet.
- $325 for homes 5,001 square feet and up, plus 10 cents per additional square foot.
- Home inspection in Los Angeles: $199-$299 or more.
On average, you can expect a standard home inspection to take two to three hours. Your house size can affect inspection length, as can requesting additional services such as sprinkler system inspections, outbuilding inspections, radon testing, crawl space inspections, or pool house inspections. During the home inspection, the professional will be taking photos and looking in and around all parts of your home. The inspector will then compile a report that may be more than 20 pages. You should receive this report back within a few days to a week. The report should detail everything from minor imperfections and maintenance recommendations to major defects that need to be resolved as soon as possible, like structural failures or a leak in the basement. Your report should include photos and clearly outlined information about all major elements inspected, as well as recommendations for next steps.
A contractor license number is proof that your contractor is operating their business legally, that they have the proper documentation required by your state or region, and that they are competent in their area of work (electrical, plumbing, construction, etc.). Licensed contractors should freely advertise their contractor license number. If not, you can request it before considering them for hire. You can also research your contractor using their license number. The database for your state will indicate the field they are licensed to work in; whether they are up to date on insurance, workers’ compensation and bonds; and whether they have any consumer complaints issued against them. If the licensed contractor you are hiring does not have employees, they are not required to carry workers’ compensation. Each state or region will have their own database for licenses, such as the State of Oregon Construction Contractors Board. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.