Pay Attention to the Details A Guide to Hiring Contractors

When it comes to work in, on, or around a residential building, there’s really no such thing as a small job. Whether a minor fix or a major capital improvement, there are a slew of factors that determine the success of a project, particularly when it comes to the facade and exterior maintenance.

Generally, it's the property manager who takes the lead in hiring contractors for everything from paint touch-ups to full-on roof replacements. There are scores of different contractors, all with different specialties and reputations. Some are great at managing all the aspects of work and safety, and some are not. “Hiring the contractor for the exterior of the building is the most important step of the process. After that, you can monitor the process,” says Mary Wangler, CAM, a property manager at Wesley Realty Group in Evanston.

Just like most other walks of life, a lot of who your contractor will be for simpler projects involves established relationships and reputations. “We start with a relatively large master list of vendors,” says Michael Carnahan, co-owner of RedBrick Management in Lombard. “At a minimum, we need to have a certificate of insurance and a W-9 on file. Then it’s [based on] our experience with them, and if we don't have prior experience, it’s checking their references. Sometimes, if we take over a new property and the association really likes their landscaper or a particular contractor, we’ll continue working with them, and if it’s a good experience we might use them for work at other properties.”

For larger projects, finding a contractor includes a few extra steps. “If we were going to bid out a bigger job, we would consult our vendor list,” says Carnahan. “We discuss the vendor list, as far as who’s doing well and who isn't. We consult directories where we can get vendors that are specific to HOA's and condos. Sometimes a board member knows a vendor that they want to bring to the table.”

Part of the bidding process involves securing the requisite permitting and licenses. “If you're going to be doing facade, you’re going to be pulling a permit with the city of Chicago,” says Richard Holtzman, president of Prairie Shores Property Management, LLC in Chicago. “Those companies that submit bids should be licensed, as well as experienced. You’ll have the requirement of protective cover of streets below, which in turn requires retaining the services of a canopy company. Those are things you have to plan for as far as cost and preparation when you start.”

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