Today we are going to focus on the steps you should take once your project is substantially complete to ensure a smooth closing and transition. A few critical items will make a big difference for you at this stage.
After all the work is substantially complete, and before the final payment is issued by you, there should be a “final walkthrough” with your builder, where you go over the entire project. At this stage the work should be 100% done, so any quality control issues at all should be addressed at this time. Hopefully you have been following our advice from earlier and taking weekly walkthroughs with your builder or his representative, so there should not be any big surprises at this time. But take the time to look everything over one last time. Make sure doors and drawers all operate smoothly, there are no major blemishes in your drywall or trim, and everything works as it should.
As a general rule you should always have a minimum of 5-10% of the total value of the project still due at this stage so your contractor has plenty of motivation to take care of any concerns you have. If there are only minor punch list items, but they cannot be taken care of immediately for some legitimate reason, your builder may ask you to release part of the contractual final payment and only retain a portion until the punch items can be resolved. If you are comfortable that the amount you will be holding back is sufficient for the work left to be done, this can be ok. However, never release the entire final payment until you are totally satisfied with all the work.
Either during the final walkthrough or at some stage while you are still in regular contact with your builder, you should request and receive any warranty literature provided by your material suppliers. Most of your suppliers will provide you with a decent warranty on the products used, but generally require you as the owner to be able to provide proof of purchase at the time you make a claim. In addition, you have to know what the claims process is! Your builder has this information on hand and will provide it to you upon request.
In addition, get written copy of your builder’s warranty and warranty claim procedures if it was not included in your contract. The reality is that even the very best builders still have the occasional callback, and the process for getting any work done during your warranty period should be spelled out to you in an easy to understand format.
Make sure you put all this information together in an easy to find place, just in case!
After you make your final payment, it is a good idea to get a “paid in full” receipt from your contractor. It is not a super common experience, but it has happened where a builder has come back after the final payment was accepted to ask for additional money for a change or extra he claims was forgotten to be billed for. To avoid this possible headache, request that your builder double check his books if necessary and give you a “paid in full” receipt when you make your final payment.
In addition, before you release the final payment, if you have any doubt whatsoever about whether or not all the bills have been paid on your project, it is totally within your rights to request a proof of payment between your contractor and any major subcontractors or suppliers he may have used. In many states, even if you can prove you paid your contractor in full, you may still be responsible for any mechanic’s liens that get filed by unpaid subs or suppliers. If you have any doubts at all, just ask.
And you’re done! You can now enjoy your home improvements with peace of mind.