Choosing the right contractor to work on your home

Steps to choosing the right contractor


Author  Kevin Schaben

Most homeowners enjoy the prospect of updating their home.  The idea of having something fresh and “new” can be exciting along with the potential of adding value to your home.  However, the prospect of hiring a contractor can be daunting.  It’s obvious that you want to hire someone who will do a great job, charge a reasonable price, and (most importantly) complete the project on your terms.

While choosing the right contractor might seem complicated and time consuming, it doesn’t have to be that way.  If you follow these tips, the process can go a lot smoother:

1.  Identify exactly what your vision is and set a deadline.  Write this down in a notebook to keep with all project information.

2.  Check your local Better Business Bureau website for a list of contractors skilled for your particular project.  This agency will provide information about negative claims against the contractor you are considering.  Remember: if there is 1 negative claim, there are probably 10 more customers who have thought about issuing a claim!
3.  Choose 4 contractors from this BBB website and call them to inquire about their services.  Chances are, your call won’t be answered by all of them so leave messages and ask for a call back.  If any of them take longer than 36 hours to return your call, don’t consider using them.
4.  When talking to the contractors from your list, ask the following questions:
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have 3 previous clients (references) I can call?
  • Can I have a copy of your business insurance?
  • Can you meet my deadline?
  • What are your terms for payment?

If all of these questions are answered to your liking, ask the contractor(s) to meet for a proposal.

5.  During the meeting for the proposal, verbalize all of your expectations.  These can include:

  • What date and time you’d like to start the project.
  • How you’d like your belongings protected. (Plastic on doorways, tarps on carpet, etc.)
  • A firm or very tight range for total project costs.  Extras may come up if you add on work, but you don’t want to be stuck paying a ton extra for those things that “come up.”

6.  It’s important that you feel safe around the contractor(s) who come to your home and are potentially around your children or loved ones.  If you have a “feeling” that the person giving you the proposal isn’t someone you’d feel comfortable having in your home, don’t hire them!  Trust your gut.  Ask if they’d be willing to let you do a background check.  Just watch for their reaction, it doesn’t mean you actually have to do it.  If they say “yes” without hesitation, that’s a good thing.

7.  Remember that written contracts are very important!  Don’t go by someone’s “word” only.  It doesn’t hold up in court if you ever had to take legal action.  Deposits don’t need to be made until the day prior or the day of the project start.  Don’t give the contractor a huge deposit or they hold all of the cards.  A contractor who is owed money will actually show up consistently and put forth 100% effort because they want to get paid!

Pay attention to the following warning signs:

If the contractor…

is late for the proposal meeting and doesn’t call to let you know.

appears disheveled and doesn’t take notes or measurements about the project.

doesn’t have a professional business card.

isn’t courteous by using eye contact and thanking you for calling their company.

doesn’t give you a solid price for the project. (Saying it will cost between $1000 and $2000 instead of a solid $1500)

By following these suggestions, you could save yourself a lot of time and angst while trying to find the right contractor for your home project!

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