Is your homeowners association thinking of embarking on a maintenance or construction project that will require the services of a contractor? If the project needs association approval, the first thing before you get to the place of interviewing contractors is to make sure you follow the steps of your design review process. Once the design review process has been completed and the association is ready to begin the steps to move the project forward, make sure your project is nailed down using the following five simple guidelines:
1. Reconcile your contractors' objectives with the association's
You want your project to be completed on time and on budget. Contractors want to maximize their compensation. Design a compensation plan that, at each stage of the project, maximizes your contractors' profits when they achieve your objectives; one example of this would be partial payments based on clearly outlined milestones.
2. Nothing drives down prices like competition
Any price you obtain without competition will be higher than a price you obtain with competition. Select several contractors by doing research, asking other nearby homeowners Associations for their word of mouth recommendations or go through a reputable organization in your area that works with several contractors and knows who you can trust.
3. Write down everything you expect
Effective competition requires a complete, accurate, and final definition of the goods and services involved in the project. This is where an RFP (Request for Proposal) comes into play. Prepare an RFP that will be sent to each contractor you want to bid the project. By doing so you will be able to compare all bids equally. You have no doubt heard the term "comparing apples to apples" and this is exactly what the RFP process allows you to do. The more specific your requirements are, the better the comparison will be when you receive the bid responses.
4. Use standard forms for your contracts
The American Institute of Architects offers a variety of sample documents. These provide a great starting place for you so you don't have to reinvent the wheel, but it's important to realize that there is no such thing as a "standard" project, so you will need to customize your contracts accordingly.
5. There is no substitute for professionalism
An architect, contractor, or other participant in your project who has a track record of character and professionalism will likely demonstrate those qualities on your project. A participant with the opposite track record will probably remain true to form.
Always ask each contractor for at least three references and make sure you call those references before choosing a contractor. It's important to have five or six standardized questions prepared to ask each reference so again you are comparing apples to apples. This will be time well spent.
There are a lot of contractors to choose from, especially in more populated areas. Choose carefully using the guidelines outlined above, and you will have a better experience and end up with a great project.
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Why an HOA Board Should Use Caution When Hiring a Contractor