Property owner and contractor shake hands

Working on a renovation at a multifamily property? Dependable contractors and subcontractors are key to getting quality work done on time and on budget. 

These seven tips can help you find the right people for the job — and turn them into reliable, go-to partners for projects at your apartment buildings. 

1. Seek apartment contractor recommendations

Ask people in your network if they have contractors or subcontractors whose work they’ve been happy with. Know another multifamily real estate investor who’s recently completed a project similar to the one you’re planning? They may be a particularly good resource.   

2. Verify contractors’ contact info, licensing and insurance

Contractors you’re considering hiring should pass some standard checks:   

  • Contact info: California’s Contractors State License Board (CLSB) recommends checking the business address and telephone number of any contractor you’re considering hiring. Throughout your renovation project, you’ll want a reliable, fast way to get in touch with them. 
  • License: Some cities and states require contractors to obtain a license. If you live in one of those areas, check the contractor’s license status before hiring, says the New York State Attorney General’s Office
  • Insurance: You can also ask contractors for proof of insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance covers employee injuries on the job, and commercial general liability insurance covers damage to your property, according to the CLSB, which recommends checking with your insurance carrier to ensure the coverage is adequate. 

3. Check contractors’ references

Ask for references, and call to check them out, says the New York State Attorney General’s Office. Your local building department, material suppliers or subcontractors might also be able to offer a reference, the CLSB states.   

After checking references, if feasible, visit buildings the contractor has worked on, says Waddell Wright, Senior Vice President of the Institute of Real Estate Management. 

“If somebody walks past this building, are they going to want to hire [the contractor]?” he says. 

The New York State Attorney General’s Office also recommends searching for the contractor on the Better Business Bureau website and looking for complaints. 

4. Make sure they’re a good fit for your multifamily property

Consider asking contractors about their experience with buildings like your property, especially if there are any unique construction features, materials or building code requirements.   

“If you’ve got a building built in the 1800s and five stories and [the contractor has] never really worked with a building like that before, you’ve got to really vet them to your product type and make sure they thoroughly understand not only the material and how to put it together, but the codes aspect of it too,” Wright says. 

5. Get multiple bids

Even on an emergency repair, Bryson Weed, co-founder and managing partner at Utah-based Island View Capital Partners, aims to get two bids, including one from a contractor that’s been recommended by a trusted source. For less urgent projects, he seeks closer to five bids. 

Be cautious if a bid seems too good to be true, or if the contractor or subcontractor pushes to get non-emergency work done ASAP, Weed says. He once had a subcontractor offer to start on a project same day. When Weed got a second quote, that subcontractor couldn’t start as quickly, but charged a dramatically lower rate. 

“If someone’s trying to pressure you or saying they can get it done right now, I would hesitate,” he says. 

6. Start small

When working with a new contractor or subcontractor, consider testing the waters with a small job before committing to a major project, Weed says. If both parties are happy with the results of the first job, that can build trust for additional work. 

7. Build the foundation for good relationships

Typically, the most skilled contractors and subcontractors are in high demand. One way to make your project stand out: Pay promptly. Weed recommends being clear on pricing upfront and talking through any cost changes as they arise to avoid surprises and delays when the invoice arrives. 

“With subcontractors we like working with, we want them to be financially happy,” he says. “We benefit when they keep a project on track and on budget, and they deserve what they get paid.” 

Also, if you expect to have additional projects, let the contractor or subcontractor know it’s not a one-time job, but could turn into a consistent source of work, Weed says. 

“There’s no cheat code to it,” Weed says. “It’s all about building relationships.”     

Being thoughtful when hiring contractors can help projects go smoother and keep properties well-maintained — something that encourages renters to stick around. 

“We’re all in the art of providing shelter for humans,” Wright says. “Our end product is going to be occupied by someone, and we need to all keep that in mind.” 


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