There’s no shortage of contractors in California. In Los Angeles alone, there are more than 3,600 licensed general building contractors that apartment managers and owners can choose from to complete upscale interior renovations.
There are so many to choose from that it can be overwhelming. That makes deciding difficult, as choosing the wrong apartment contractors can be a six-figure mistake.
To select the best apartment contractors for completing renovations and adding popular amenities, managers must take a critical look at the complexity of their remodels.
Then, they should thoroughly evaluate each prospect based on their prior work, licensing status, and company values.
Gauging the Complexity of a Renovation
It’s crucial that the apartment manager or owner understand the complexity of their renovations, as that will determine the type of company they need to hire. The first thing they should consider is whether they’re seeking an actual renovation or a remodel. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they have nuanced differences.
- A renovation involves fixing something until it’s comparable to what it was in its original state.
- A remodel, on the other hand, changes the very structure of something. Painting a bathroom or repairing tile flooring are examples of renovations. Meanwhile, replacing the old vanity with new cabinets and a flush-mount sink would be considered a remodel.
Very generally, a standard renovation will not be as complex as a remodel unless the contractor is dealing with utilities like plumbing, electrical, heating, and cooling.
It may be possible for even a basic handyman to complete the retiling or repainting of a single unit. However, it will be crucial to select an experienced, specialty contractor to complete more complex multi-unit renovations.
Apartment Contractors by Complexity
There are many types of contractors an apartment owner can choose from when considering a remodel or adding trendy amenities to attract renters.
Typically, contractors fall into one of five categories and range in complexity from general to comprehensive capabilities;
- General: The general contractor will manage all the moving parts of a project. This will include hiring subcontractors to handle more specialized tasks and obtaining needed permits and inspections.
Example: Manages basic construction jobs including supplies, equipment, and labor
- Specialty: This person will typically act as a subcontractor, completing specialty work under the guidance of a general contractor. They may also be hired for standalone projects.
Example: Installation of new cabinets or carpet replacement
- Architect: These individuals are typically only needed when the work involves making structural changes. Their services are most necessary when putting on additions or completing any major renovations that impact load-bearing walls.
Example: Creates plans for new apartments or additions
- Designer: Sometimes, the apartment owner doesn’t know exactly what kind of renovations or remodeling they want. They just want to refresh their units. In this case, a designer will be necessary to provide a picture of what your remodel could look like.
Example: Prepares for the modification of apartment designs and sometimes arranges a contractor to do the actual work
- Combination Designer and General Contractor. A designer who is also a general contractor can oversee many different types of complex projects. From the initial design and contract—including costs and expectations—to the comprehensive management of construction projects from start to finish, this level of contractor can offer just about any type of renovation or remodel an apartment owner may need, which makes hiring for the role much easier.
Example: Pre-construction and design of an upscale new leasing center, modern kitchens or bathrooms, and even high-end amenities such as business and fitness centers
Once the apartment owner narrows down the type of contractor or contractors they will need, they will move forward with the vetting process. They can submit an open request for proposals, or they can target individual companies and seek out quotes.
Understanding the RFP and Quote Request Process
The Request for Proposal (RFP) process is a bit more formal than seeking out individual quotes, but it will garner more quotes, which likely equals more competitive pricing. The apartment manager must know exactly what they’re looking for when sending the RFP to a list of vendors, as they must tell the vendor specifically what needs to be done. It’s typically not a process which allows for a lot of flexibility in suggestions.
The apartment manager or owner must also have some established relationships with area providers if they hope to get a strong response to their RFP.
The other option is to informally reach out to contractors and request quotes from them. This is a bit more time-consuming. The apartment contact will need to set up individual appointments with each company, do an onsite visit, and wait for a quote. However, this process allows the company to get more creative in their suggestions and overall strategy, offering potentially the best option for the manager or owner that is unclear on exactly what renovations they hope to accomplish.
Requesting quotes from apartment contractors who are also in the design business will help ensure that your expected costs and designs are delivered as needed.
Evaluating and Finding the Best Apartment Contractors
At the evaluation stage of reviewing proposals, it’s likely the apartment manager has already had phone and face-to-face meetings with the potential contractor. Their main focus will be the proposals themselves, as well as the reputation of the companies submitting them. While it’s tempting to focus on price at this stage, it should not be the main deciding factor.
A cheap job upfront can often cost more in the long run, as the company may cut corners to deliver their project on budget. When evaluating contractors, the apartment manager should ask three key questions.
1. Are they properly licensed, certified, and insured?
Licensing and certifications will depend on the type of project. In California, apartment owners can check the license status of their contractors by going to the website for the Contractors State License Board. Insurance is a bit simpler to investigate in California, as the company’s bond and workers’ compensation information will be listed on their license.
2. Do they have a varied portfolio and references?
The contractors should have photos and information about the work they’ve completed previously. That portfolio should include different types of remodeling and renovation projects, on a variety of properties.
Variety is less important, however, if the apartment manager is seeking out a specialty provider. In that case, they really only need to look at portfolios of specific work. When seeking an apartment renovation specialist, it’s critical to look for a contractor with vast apartment design and construction experience.
3. Do they follow their mission statement?
In choosing a contractor, gauging the company’s level of honesty is crucial. Apartment owners should carefully review the company’s mission statement and reported values to see how much their actions align.
Companies you can trust are often ones that display strong moral fortitude through charitable work, stewardship, and community involvement, as their reputation and values are integral to their business.
Finding the right apartment contractors in California requires a lot of due diligence. Apartment owners and managers must be prepared to weigh a multitude of quotes while completing background and licensing checks before work can begin. Still, these are necessary steps for any apartment manager or owner who wants to find the best and most reputable contracting partner to successfully complete high-quality complex renovations.