building renovation

qualified general contractor

How to Tell if Your Contractor is a Qualified General Contractor

How to Tell if Your Contractor is a Qualified General Contractor 2560 1707 Majid Riahi

As a general contractor, we know the importance of finding a qualified team to work on your investment project. Not only is it about the quality of work, but the ease of mind that they will complete your project professionally and timely. In addition, the effort you put at the beginning of your search and selection will allow you to establish expectations of the work performed and translate to a smooth-going (or as close it can be) process once they begin.

Here are ten (10) ways to tell if your contractor is a qualified general contractor:

1. Ask for their complete list of documentation

    • Date of license issue and expiration
      • If your contractor is unlicensed, the risk for problems goes up
    • Bonding information
    • Details on their insurance
      • Worker’s compensation for their employees
      • Liability Insurance

2. Review their resume

    • Legal name, Business address, city, zip code, phone number
    • Entity type
    • How long they’ve been in business
    • Financial stability of their business and relationship to your bank
    • Credit standing with suppliers

3. Verify their business and contractor’s license through your state

4. Request professional references and ask:

    • Do they begin and end on schedule?
    • Was the number of people employed acceptable for the size and scope of the project?
    • Does the work successfully pass inspections?
    • How responsive is the contractor to problems?
    • Is the contractor readily available via phone, email, or text?

5. Review their portfolio of work

    • The quality of their photography tells a story of their value

6. Ask to visit one of their current projects to see if they:

    • Maintain a stable and reliable crew of workers
    • Execute their craft in a skillful and professional way
    • Provide adequate site supervision
    • Cooperate reasonably with other trade
    • Use materials efficiently and effectively
    • Keep the job site clean and safe

7. Check their workers’ compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage

    • In California, if a contractor has employees, they are required to carry worker’s compensation insurance. If a worker is injured on your property and does not have worker’s compensation, you could be financially responsible.
    • Commercial general liability insurance is not required in the state of California; however, it covers damage to your property. If the contractor does not have general liability insurance, they should be transparent with you in the case of damages or losses.

8. Contact the Better Business Bureau

    • Have complaints been filed against them?

9. Ask for their standard contracts to review. Never sign a blank, legal contract. To list a few:

    • Total Contract Price and Terms of Payment
    • Change Order practices
    • Owner and Contractor Agreement
    • Conflict Resolution and Termination
    • Contractor’s Mark-Up on Labor and Materials

10. Verify their contractor bond

    • The state of California requires contractors to have a license bond of $15,000. It covers any project the contractor agrees to perform. Please note: it may not be enough to cover if your project is worth more than the value of the bond.
    • Learn more about bonds here.

We welcome you to confirm our qualifications. We will provide all of the necessary documents to ensure you’re working with an incredible team that puts care and attention into your investment project.

Starting your project soon and sourcing qualified contractors? Contact us today!


The Differences Between Ground Up Construction & Renovation

The Differences Between Ground Up Construction & Renovation 2240 1260 Majid Riahi

Long-term success in commercial ground up construction depends on a range of important choices, especially for the most profit-driven of commercial construction companies (as all good ones are). Some of these choices may appear small and relatively insignificant; others will be big and—in all honesty—so significant as to be intimidating. Few choices, however, are as large,  as important or as worry-inducing as the choice between ground up construction and renovation. It’s a major decision, one that could make or break a property investment. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the ups and downs of both options.

Ground Up Construction and Renovation – What’s the Difference?

It’s pretty simple. Whereas one—renovation—involves reworking, redesigning and remodeling an existing property, the other—ground up construction—instead involves creating an all-new property from scratch. That means potentially knocking down an existing property, laying all-new foundations, handling the brickwork, erecting scaffolding as well as a million-and-one other jobs, big and small. It’s the whole shebang, and even with the much-needed help of building contractors it’s a lot of work. So why would anyone be interested in it?

Ground Up Construction Advantages

While you’ll always be restricted to some extent by safety laws, local building standards and other buildings regulations, ground up construction offers dramatically more freedom than renovation. Budget permitting, ground up construction lets you construct a property exactly how you envision it. If you’re looking to build a property for a specific purpose, particularly a niche one, this can save you from a myriad of future expenses as well as make your property stand out to those niche buyers (who are likely willing to pay above market average).

For an example of how ground up construction can save you money as a Landlord, look to the potential cost of tenant improvement allowances. This is a pre-arranged sum you will need to provide to your tenant (typically for a business location) in order to cover the cost of renovation and of making the property suitable for their needs or the needs of their business. By building a property from the ground up with a certain set of needs in mind, you can mitigate those tenant improvement costs and get business owners flocking to your property!

Finally, ground up construction gives you the ability to outfit your property with the latest cost-saving, energy-efficient innovations. Often, these are too much of a hassle to implement in renovations, yet they stand to increase the price and attractiveness of even a basic property.

Renovation Advantages 

Of course, renovating an existing property comes with its share of advantages too. For one, it’s significantly less intensive in terms of labor, cost and time. With an existing property, most—if not all—of the essential components will already be in place: from the foundation to the electrics, it’s all there and ready to go.

Additionally, the reduced cost and risk of renovations mean that it’s far easier to get funding from property development financiers. The more ambitious a commercial construction project is, the greater the risk of failure. With a renovation project, especially one with thorough planning behind it, there’s little risk (relatively speaking) in the eyes of lenders, and so they’ll be far more willing to lend you the cash you need.

Ground Up Construction Disadvantages

Bureaucracy can be a pain, but it’s a fact of life, and in construction it exists primarily for our safety. Unfortunately for you, if you opt for a ground up construction project, it also means that you’ll need to acquire discrete permits for each facet of the construction process. Building, paving, landscaping, electrical, plumbing and more. You’ll need to acquire a permit for all of these before you can go ahead with construction. This can lead weeks, possibly months of tedious waiting and may seriously extend the timeline of your commercial construction project. And if you’re looking to demolish an existing property before you go ahead with a new-build? Well, you’ll need to acquire a demolition permit too.

Luckily, like all good commercial construction companies, we’re happy to handle the acquisition of all necessary permits. All you need to do is sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge that Substrata has things covered. 

Renovation Disadvantages 

It may be quicker and cheaper, but renovating an existing property isn’t always a sunny walk in the park; if you aren’t careful, thunderclouds can start forming overhead shockingly quickly. Existing properties, particularly if they’re old, can be hiding an array of unexpected surprises (and not the nice kind). Lead, asbestos, termites, mold and more could be waiting behind any given wall or in any ceiling cavity. If you encounter any of these when taking to your property with hammers and picks, prepare to face significant costs and lengthy project delays.

With renovations, you’re also constrained by the limits of the property’s existing structure. You may be able to knock down walls, rewire and re-plumb (at cost), but you can never match the creative freedom and flexibility that comes with ground up construction.


This isn’t what you’ll want to hear, but when it comes to the choice between renovation and ground up construction, there is no single right answer; there is only what’s right for you. You’ll need to weigh up your circumstances, financial situation, available time and your ability to accommodate for unforeseen circumstances (very important).

Ground up constructions require much more time, effort and dedication (your building contractors will be your best friends by the end of it), but they’re also an order of magnitude more flexible and potentially more lucrative to boot. Renovations, on the other hand, are more restrictive, but they’re also generally quicker and cheaper (barring any serious unexpected setbacks).

If you’re unsure which is right for you, get in touch! We’ll be happy to speak with you about your specific needs.