Hiring a bad contractor can not only be a financial burden but also affect your personal life for a long time. From the inexperienced handyman who exaggerates his skills, to the con artist who takes the deposit and runs, bad contractors are everywhere, and most homeowners won’t know they’ve hired the wrong person until it is too late.
Many trade professionals can tackle small projects, but eventually, you will run into a project that requires more than a handyman’s skill.
So how do you make sure you’re hiring a pro? You need to do your homework! Here we give you some tips to succeed.
Nothing is better than getting a recommendation from someone you trust. If the contractor did a good job for a friend, you’re probably on the right track. Find out some details about the work they did and compare it with what you need help with, just in case the scope is different. An experienced contractor should be able to give you the names of other clients who have had similar work done. If they cannot provide references, that’s a red flag.
Be careful about referrals from friends that have a personal relationship with the contractor. Everyone wants to help out a friend or family member who works for him or herself, but it’s your house and your money. You need the most highly qualified contractor you can afford, and you should vet all candidates, no matter how strongly your friend recommends them.
The BBB is an organization focused on advancing marketplace trust by making sure that businesses adhere to the industry standards through ratings. Those ratings offer a prediction of what customers can expect when dealing with a business. A contractor with a BBB listing will have a rating that is scored on a variety of factors, including customer complaints and how the contractor resolved them.
The BBB assigns ratings from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). In some cases, the BBB will not rate the business (indicated by an NR, or “No Rating”) for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of the business’s file. Ratings don’t guarantee a business’s reliability or performance, but it’s a good addition to all your other research.
Nowadays it’s hard to imagine a small business that doesn’t have a website. A contractor’s site should provide you with all the essentials you need to know, like company size, services they provide, professional qualifications, portfolios and customer feedback.
Pay particular attention to the presentation quality of the contractor’s website. Website development and online marketing can be expensive, but reputable companies know that is part of the cost of doing business. Their reputation depends on making a good first impression.
Independent reviews on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook can be helpful too, but an online presence is only a starting point. You still need to contact the company to find out if they might be a good fit for you.
Once you have met with a contractor, make sure you receive a written proposal for the work. The detail should leave no doubt about what is included and not included. Most projects should have a fixed price or a quote. If the contractor gives you an estimate, it means just that – an estimate. The final bill could be much higher and you could owe a lot more than you expected. The only time you should proceed with an estimate is when the scope of work is unknown. For instance, the cost of rot repair is impossible to calculate before work begins because the scale of the problem is hidden. Even in these cases, your contractor should keep you updated on costs as they work.
We all want the best bang for one’s buck. But cheap usually have long-term consequences.
Bids from contractors rarely vary by more than 10 or 20 percent, assuming that you are specifying the same materials. An ultra-low bid often is a warning sign that the contractor is either inexperienced, cutting corners or hoping to lure you in, only to make change orders that increase the price later on.
Every contractor should have General Liability and Worker’s Compensation insurance.
Liability insurance covers such situations as contractor-caused damage to your property. Workers’ compensation provides payment to injured workers for lost wages and medical services, regardless of who was at fault. Workers’ compensation coverage will also provide benefits to the contractor’s family in the event of a work-related death.
By being properly insured, a company is showing responsibility and accountability. So make sure you ask the contractor for certificates of insurance and check to make sure the policies are current.
If your gut is sending you warning signals about your contractor, you should listen to it. Communication and follow through are vital in this business. No matter how skilled they claim to be, a contractor that does not answer your questions clearly and confidently is not a company you want working on your house. It’s as simple as that. They should start the project when they said they would and keep you informed until the work is done. Trust is earned throughout the process, and you should feel free to express any concerns at any time without fear of disdain from the contractor.
Hiring a contractor can be a nerve-racking experience. After all, you are inviting a total stranger into the privacy of your home and trusting them to do the work right. There is always uncertainty involved, but if you take the time to research your options, ask the right questions, and listen to your gut, you will likely find a skilled contractor that will do a great job.