As you build your team for your property investment in the U.S.A., each member will have different specialisations and corresponding tasks in ensuring that your property is managed properly. In a team where everyone has a role to play, it’s important to hire someone who can be the glue in the group and ensure that everything is running smoothly.
A general contractor in the U.S.A works as the manager of a project, whether the property is a new build or is in need of construction or renovation. They are responsible for the overall coordination of the build and will ensure that the project comes together under their supervision.
A general contractor is generally a qualified tradesperson so they will have the most hands-on knowledge and experience about the project and how the property is coming together. They play a critical role in seeing the build through because they oversee the quality of work by all the hired subcontractors while providing all the services and equipment that your property needs.
Taking the time to find a good contractor is important because you need someone that you can work well with and has the qualifications and experience to see the project through.
What is a general contractor?
Contractors are usually hired contractually per project within a specific time frame. They are skilled tradespeople who are knowledgeable about different aspects of construction including:
This allows a general contractor to understand all the construction work in the project and communicate effectively with different hired labourers in the crew. While they possess excellent construction skills, contractors are hired for their managerial skills. They will often recruit specialised labourers called subcontractors and oversee their work to ensure the success of the project.
A general contractor is responsible for the safety and wellbeing of everyone they hire. So if a subcontractor accidentally snaps a floorboard or shatters a window, for example, it still ultimately rests on the general contractor because they are his people.
Like registered builders in Australia and New Zealand, general contractors are also responsible for the following:
- Acquiring building permits (if needed)
- Site maintenance
- Subcontractor maintenance
- Property security
- Disposal and recycling of construction waste
- Cash flow for any subcontractors or other specialists they may have hired
- Accurate recordkeeping
Unlike trade specific contractors, general contractors will be able to oversee everyone and have an existing pool of subcontractors ready. If you have a project manager for the property, trade specific contractors (i.e. separate carpenters, plumbers, and electricians who don’t all work together or under the same contractor) might be the answer.
However, a group of trade specific contractors who don’t have an established relationship may not work well with each other or with the project manager, making it harder for you since you can’t be on the ground. A general contractor can save you this headache because they already have a set of qualified people they can work with.
You may come across non-licensed candidates in your search for a good contractor so keep in mind that general contractors are required to have a license. Non-licensed contractors may be working to get their licenses (others, however, don’t ever plan to), but it’s safer to hire someone who is licensed so you can have the peace of mind that the job will be done.
Hiring non-licensed contractors runs the risk of an unfinished build or a complete one done poorly. Whereas a licensed contractor, who needs to maintain their quality of work to avoid getting their license revoked, will be invested in completing the build to the best of their abilities.
Contractors have a huge responsibility on their hands—they’re your eyes and ears on the ground while the build is ongoing—so having one you trust in your investment team and one who gels with you well can make all the difference.
How to find a good contractor
Finding a good contractor takes a lot of discernment and a good process of elimination in order to find someone who will work best with you.
There are two popular methods:
- Searching – This doesn’t mean you should stick to the first Google search result you see. By using search engines, online testimonials, and even company pages, you can learn which contractors are well-recommended, have a good work portfolio, and have past customers who can vouch for their ability. Sites like Bigger Pockets or Angie’s List are good places to start.
- Advertising – By posting an ad online, you can have contractors come to you instead of you looking for them. This might help you better sift through candidates as they will have an idea about the project already from your ad.
It can be overwhelming to wade through different options, so here are some tips that can help you narrow down your search:
- Rely on companies more than individuals – It’s much easier to transfer payments to companies rather than individuals and it can give you peace of mind knowing that it’s a more professional transaction.
- Ensure there is insurance in place – There needs to be safety measures for your property and for your contractor and subcontractors in case of accidents during the build.
- Find people who are permit-savvy and accept payments in installments – Installments ensure that contractors will have the funds they need to purchase the necessary materials and equipment for the build while giving you time to save up for the next payment.
- Contractors who take comprehensive photos and videos are usually reliable – Good documentation is important so that you know how things are progressing over time. You can see how the property develops and can make changes if needed before the construction is completed.
- Referrals are important – The members on your investment team may already know some good contractors that you can all work well with. Your team are the experts in the field, so they may have contacts you can use.
Hiring a contractor
Putting together a good team is part of making your investment property a business, which helps you maximise profit and success. Running an investment property like a business helps you make the best of it as it keeps you on top of everything, which includes being discerning when it comes to who you’re bringing into the team.
Following these steps can make your hiring process more efficient and help you find a contractor who works best for your investment:
- Research – Find candidates (whether through ads, searching, or referrals) who fit your style. Remember that it’s important that they work well with you. There may be good contractors, but not all of them will be good for you. They may have different work hours, communication style or even work standards from you. Find someone you think will be easy to work with.
- Go through resumes – Be meticulous when you look through a candidate’s credentials. Check if they have referrals you can call and verify the information with. This will ensure that you’ve got the very best on your team.
- Conduct interviews – Face-to-face interviews are the best, but as a foreign investor, you won’t always have that option. If you can at least interview them through Zoom, Skype, or any kind of video conferencing system, that will suffice. Avoid tests or emails as communication is more than just words being said.
- Welcome them to the team – By welcoming your contractor, you open up communication and camaraderie in the team, which can help everyone work better together.
Good contractors will ensure that construction for your property is on track and that your property is in tip-top condition. They are an essential addition to your team and will help you make the best of your investment because of their construction skills and managerial skills, ensuring that you have someone you can trust on the ground.
If you want to know more about finding good contractors, we have an exclusive training kit on this topic! Click here to get yourself a free copy.