"We have a family friend who is a contractor and he says he can do our remodel project for us. Is there any advice you would give us before we hire him?"
Answer from Ross Sanders:
Hiring friends can often be a questionable decision as it is very easy to trespass the client/business owner relationship leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. However, not knowing the specifics of your particular relationship, I would prefer not to address that side of the issue but what I will tell you some important things to consider when hiring any contractor to do your project.
Always aim to get multiple bids for your project so you are getting the best possible price. If you are uncomfortable requesting multiple bids or want help, your architect will work with you on getting and reviewing bids, if you are willing to hire him/her for that service. Your architect may even have a list of qualified contractors already, or will know where to start. On-line directories are also growing in popularity (Angie's List, Home Advisor and more) as well.
The bids you receive should include a line-by-line list and also include a construction schedule, with a start date, key milestones (including utility disruptions) and completion date. It’s also not a bad idea to consider adding a monetary incentive to finish early (or at least to meet the completion date).
Only used licensed, bonded contractors. If your project includes bank financing, the bank may require you to choose a contractor from their "approved" list so make sure to do your homework before signing a contract.
Make sure to ask your potential contractors about opportunities to save money on the project as they often have ideas that will meet the architect’s intent but will cost less money than the original design. Just make sure that you share these changes with you architect to keep everyone on the same page. Communication is the key.
Finally, if you have a contractor in the family and feel obliged to use him or her, you might want to give them a limited scope within the project and let them go nuts on it.