10 tips for choosing a contractor
Use these tips to select a professional you can trust with your future.
Are the contractor you’re looking at licensed in your state or are the transient? This can’t be stressed enough, check to see if the contractor you are considering is licensed in the state in which work will be performed. Contact the appropriate agencies like the BBB or the Secretary of State in the state in which you reside. They’ll have the contractor’s license information on file. Don’t get burned, do your research.
Don’t settle for the first contractor you talk with. Get several estimates and be wary of any contractor that requires full payment up front, uses high-pressure sales tactics or asks you to sign authorization paperwork. If a contractor is presenting you with documents you don’t understand, this could be a red flag and you should move on to the next one. When you do pay for services, consider paying with a credit card, you pay your credit card interest for these kind of situations. Credit companies will aggressively go to bat on your behalf if the services aren’t provided as stipulated or in a timely fashion.
Get a detailed contract including a summary of the work to be done, a description of materials, the total contract price or how the price will be calculated and specific timelines. Do not sign it until you are comfortable. Get the contract and review the material costs, many times contractors will significantly up-charge for materials. A little time spent reviewing and price checking can mean a few more bucks saved.
Ask the contractor how long they have been in business and where they have been operating. Request references and check with former customers to see if they were satisfied with the work. Check online review sites, sometimes these are skewed for slanderous reasons by other companies, but most generally sites like the BBB.com or Angie’s list are good places to go for quality and honest reviews.
A red flag, in any industry, is a company only providing you a P.O. Box number for a ‘physical’ address. I once had a landlord that gave an address that was actually a P.O. Box at a FedEx store, he later ask my wife and me to try and help him commit insurance fraud. The point is do your research on all parts of the business so that you don’t get burned by some scammer or dishonest person. It’s easy for companies to open a post office box or acquire a cell phone with a local number to give the appearance of being a local company, when it is not.
Ask about warranty work and the company’s service policies. Shoddy work will usually be evident within a few months, no warranty on the work will leave you holding the proverbial bag for hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
Find out if the contractor has sufficient workers compensation and general liability insurance. If not, you may be liable for any construction-related accidents on your premises. Don’t leave your home insurance company on the hook for something the employer should be covering. If they don’t have workers comp and something happens, your premiums will shoot up for quite a while after the fact adding more cost to a job that shouldn’t cost that much.
Is he or she a member of a trade association such as the HBA (Home Builders Association) of your state of residence? Generally members of the HBA see a need to stay abreast of current industry developments and care about giving back to their industry.
Lastly, make sure you can communicate with the contractor and feel comfortable with him or her. Misunderstandings during the course of the project can lead to cost overruns and delays.