Finding a contractor these days is easy; finding a reliable and skilled contractor is another matter.
Most property owners are unfortunately all too familiar with contractor nightmare stories relayed by friends and family.
To avoid making similar mistakes, consider these tips when looking to hire an awesome contractor
1. Ask For Referrals From Trusted Friends & Sources
One of the best ways to find a contractor is to ask others who have had success in the past with similar projects.
Consider Interviewing Several Contractors Before Deciding
When you have a few referrals, set up a meeting with each.
Ask these contractors to provide samples of previous work, plus a few references. Call each reference to learn
- Did the contractor show up on time?
- Did the contractor complete the project as promised?
- Would they use the contractor again?
- Is there anything they wished they knew about the contractor before the job began?
Check Out Online Customer Reviews
Customer reviews on websites like Google or Yelp offer helpful and insightful information about real-life experiences.
Most reputable businesses encourage new clients to read reviews written by previous customers.
Note that you may catch a negative review or two on any business; however, if the positive reviews outweigh a few disappointed clients, the contractor will likely be trustworthy and talented.
2. Think and Stay Local
Local contractors often offer a reliable choice because most contractors would not be in business in the same area if their work was consistently substandard.
Plus, should the work become problematic, it becomes easier to contact them if they work locally.
When hiring a contractor, it is essential to have a sufficient understanding of the contractor’s professional reputation.
Learning how long they have been in contracting is just the start. Ask for the contractor’s local physical address and other important professional data that can be verified.
3. Verify the Contractor is Licensed, Insured, and Bonded
Before agreeing to any work, be sure to verify the following for each contractor –
- The Professional License(s) with the state licensing authority. This allows you to determine if the contractor holds the license required to do the work you need. For example, if they are doing electrical work, are they a licensed electrician? If they work as a GC (General Contractor), be certain they hold that license in your state.
- Their Certificate of Insurance (COI) – a COI will provide the insurance company’s name and policy number/limits. Take the time to contact the company or agent to ensure coverage. Note that if you hire a contractor without insurance, you, as the homeowner, may be liable for the expenses caused by a contractor’s error or accident.
Reputable business people and contractors are happy to provide this professional and relevant information.
4. Know the Right Questions to Ask
Every question you ask has the potential to unlock the information you need to make an educated decision. While deciding on the contractor you want to hire –
- Be sure you know who will be doing the work. Will it be the contractor or a subcontractor you have never met?
- Find out how & when payments to the contractor are due – before signing or verbally agreeing to anything.
- Ask how long building permits will take and if it will delay the project.
- Ask for an itemized bid – While most contractors are happy to give you an overall ‘quote’ for the project, the reality is that you need an itemized bid to understand the breakdown of job costs. Knowing individualized expenses gives you the knowledge that allows you to make changes during the process with an accurate prediction of the impact on the project’s cost.
- Confirm your responsibilities before the project begins.
5. Work Should Not Begin Until a Contract Has Been Reviewed & Executed by All Parties
The agreed-upon work should be memorialized in a clear and well-written agreement.
If you are unfamiliar with contracts (and the very real legal consequences if violated), you may want to protect yourself by having an experienced attorney review the contract before signing.
The written agreement must be signed by all parties involved. The agreement should include, at a minimum, the following information –
- A detailed description of the agreed-upon work.
- The overall price and attached itemized bid.
- An anticipated payment schedule. This can be negotiated to meet the needs of either party but should include an up-front amount, potential interim payments, and when the balance is due.
- The estimated start date and completion date for larger, more complex projects.
- Guarantees that apply to this contracting project. The guarantee should be specific and include the following –
- What is being guaranteed?
- Who is responsible for the guarantee?
- How long will the applicable guarantee be valid?
Additionally, you should never sign a contract with blank sections and require that all changes be acknowledged by each in writing.
If you want to cancel a contract, there may be an option to do so if the contract has a cancelation clause or –
- Your state has legislation regarding contract rescissions, and your situation applies.
- You are within the “cooling off” period (as defined by the Federal Trade Commission). Follow the cooling-off period rules carefully and consider sending a cancelation Registered Mail with proof of receipt.
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