Attorney Trey Wilson - RL Wilson Law

16 August 2008

Choosing a Residential Builder or Remodeling Contractor

Take time to choose the person who will work on your home, and in your home. After all, your home is most likely your biggest investment and most valuable asset. As with choosing an attorney, the cheapest is not always the best. Ask lots of questions, and make sure that you at least have the following safegards.

1. Choose a contractor with an established physical address that is listed in the phone book or on the internet. It is common for contractors and builders to use mobile phones, but you should be sure you are able to find and visit face-to-face anyone who has done work on your home.

2. A remodeler in Texas may not engage in projects that change the living area of the home or that cost more than $10,000 without first registering with the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC). Contact the commission to check on any contractor you are considering. If he is not registered, WALK AWAY quickly!

3. Get written bids from multiple contractor candidates for any work you are going to have done on your house. Once you gather the bids, look for detail about exactly what will be done. Depending on the nature of the work, you may wish to specify the quality of materials that will be used.

4. Beware of the "low-ball" bidder whose price is much lower than all of his competition. Question the quality of the materials that will be used and the work that will be done -- and get the answers committed to writing! A very low bidder may not plan to include all the specific tasks you might expect, may use cheap/illegal/inexperienced labor, or second-rate materials. Legitimate bids tend to fall into a fairly close range.

5. Demand references. Ask to speak to satisfied customers, and ask them if you can visit their homes to inspect the work done by a contractor you are seriously considering. If you are hiring the kind of worker who must be licensed by the state (such as a plumber), contact the licensing agency to check the person's credentials and inquire about complaints.

6. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) is a state regulatory agency that regulates several types of businesses, industries, trades and occupations. The agency is responsible for issuing licenses, conducting inspections, investigating complaints, assessing penalties, setting rules and standards and holding hearings. Use their website and database as a resource!

7. Verify any claims the contractor makes about energy savings or increased security, home value, or other added advantages to the improvements you are buying.


Any contract you sign for work on your homestead must contain the following warning next to the space for your signature:

"Important Notice: You and your contractor are responsible for meeting the terms and conditions of this contract. If you sign this contract and you fail to meet the terms and conditions of this contract, you may lose your legal ownership rights in your home. Know your rights and duties under the law."

When you sign a contract for home improvements on your homestead, the contractor can place a lien on the homestead. If you sign a contract containing the language quoted above and you fail to make the payments, the company can take away your home. Therefore, it is extremely important that you understand exactly what your obligations will be under the contract, and that you are confident you can meet those obligations. If you have any questions or doubts, consult an experienced real estate and construction attorney such as Trey Wilson before you sign the contract.

Trey Wilson --Named By Scene in SA Magazine As One of San Antonio's Best Real Estate Litigation Attorneys -- September 2008 -- As voted on by peers