I’VE WRITTEN BEFORE about the financial benefits of learning to cook and then preparing meals at home, rather than frequently eating out. I still heartily endorse that notion. Still, our recent decision to remodel our kitchen can’t be defended as a wise financial choice.
In fact, the consensus is that almost all remodeling jobs result in an increase in home value that’s less than the remodeling project’s cost, and that includes kitchen renovations. Instead, our latest home project was an emotional and enjoyment expenditure, one that I owed to my wife, an expert cook and very patient woman. Our home was built in 1986 and we moved in a few years after that. The kitchen hadn’t had any major updates since then.
The biggest factor in a remodeling project’s success is the general contractor, so our first step was to find a good one. Ideally, you have a trusted friend or family member who says, “This is the guy. He just handled our project and he’s great.” But we didn’t know anybody who had a general contractor they’d recommend.
Nextdoor, Yelp, Google and so on can all be helpful in identifying potential contractors. The guy we ultimately chose had an extensive website. He later told me I was the first person who’d actually read the whole thing.
Still, what drove our decision was the contractor’s references. I spoke at length with three clients. Each was obviously intelligent, articulate and made no bones about being demanding. They all sang our guy’s praises. We were sold.
We’ve now finished the project, and we’re as happy with our contractor as his references were. With the benefit of hindsight, I can now list his attributes that were most important to me:
The hard part for anyone shopping for a contractor: How do you judge in advance whether a candidate has the attributes that are important to you? Without doubt, the best way is talking at length with references. Take the time to ask them to grade your prospect on every attribute that’s important to you. I promise you that, later on, you’ll be happy you did.
Andrew Forsythe retired in 2017 after almost four decades practicing criminal law in Austin, Texas, first as a prosecutor and then as a defense attorney. His wife Rosalinda and he, along with their dog, live outside Austin, at the edge of the Texas Hill Country. Their four kids are now grown, independent and successful. They’re also blessed with five beautiful grandkids. Andrew loves dogs, and enjoys collecting pocketknives and flashlights. Check out his earlier articles.