When I told people I was buying a fixer upper in Bed Stuy, one of the more popular responses was a warning about horrible contractor experiences. Needless to say, I was a little nervous about the entire prospect of finding a reputable contractor.
Choosing a contractor with a 203K loan is a bit of a process. First the 203K consultant will come and write up a report on the amount of work that needs to be completed. Work such as electrical and plumbing upgrades, and a new roof (if needed) would be the work that would come first in the consultant’s estimate. Next is the work that you want to complete — cosmetic things like new kitchens, new bathrooms, and flooring. Cosmetic upgrades will really depend on the loan amount and the amount of structural, plumbing, electrical and roofing work that needs to be done. Next, the consultant will give you two reports. One report will have all the work outlined along with the estimated costs. The other report will have only the outline of the work without the costs. This is the version you will give to contractors to bid against.
I sent out bid requests to three contractors but really any number you feel comfortable with is fine. One contractor was recommended by my architect, one recommend by my real estate agent and one by the Brownstoner Forum. Two bids were very close and the third bid was so low that it led me to believe the contractor didn’t really read the work outline. In the end, I chose the contractor recommended by my architect because his bid was comprehensive and he was certified by the bank.
Now here comes the curve ball. Last year, there weren’t a lot of comps in Bed Stuy to support the rising prices — which resulted in a low appraisal. Because of the low appraisal, the loan amount was reduced and as a result of that, the scope of renovation work was also reduced. The contractor had to submit a new bid for the bank reflecting the changes. And to make matters worse, a few months later I had to change banks (the subject of a future post) and we had to do everything again for the third time.
My relationship with my contractor has been mixed. He’s done a lot of work that has been above and beyond — plus he’s been flexible with my tight budget. But..there has been some issues with the quality of the work but he usually does his best to fix them right away. He’s not part of a big firm, so he doesn’t have as much money to float a project like this, which puts pressure on everyone. But again, overall, I know things could be so much worse.