10 Tips for Selecting the Right Contractor
Hiring someone to work on your home can be a scary thing to do. While the majority of contractors and service companies are upstanding, honest businesses, there are a lot of crooks out there. As a former contractor, I often have friends, neighbors, and other acquaintances ask me to recommend someone for whatever home repair or improvement they may need. Most people are just afraid of being scammed or paying good money for poor quality work. Below, is a list of 10 suggestions I would offer to help with the process of making the right choice when hiring someone to work on your home.
1. Try To Get Referrals
The most tried and true method for finding qualified businesses is to ask people you know. Neighbors, friends, family, or co-workers are great sources for leads. Chances are, someone that you know has at some time needed the same services you do. However, depending on how well you know the person, it might be a good idea to quiz them a little, just to make sure you have similar ideas of what good or reliable means. To some people; good may just mean cheap. To others; things like punctual and courteous may be more important.
2. Conduct An Interview
When contractors or service people come to look at work on your home, they are, essentially, asking you for a job. Always treat it as a business deal. Prepare a list of questions and write them down so you don't forget anything. Depending on the type of business you're dealing with, you may be able to ask some or all of these over the phone. Find out how long they've been in business, where they're located, and how small or large the company is. Ask them, specifically, what the majority of their work is. Find out if they belong to any trade or local organizations. The more information you are able to collect, the more informed your decision will be.
3. Ask For References
This is something that should be done with any business you use. Anyone who has been in business for any amount of time should be able to provide you with a list of customers that they've done similar jobs for. If they can't, find someone else. It's really that simple. Once you have been provided with the list, call and check them. I have been asked for references hundreds of times and I know of only one time that a customer actually called any of them. Prepare a list of questions before calling, just as you did for the contractor. I would recommend calling at least 3 and not, necessarily, the first 3 on the list. Most people will put the best at the top, so skip around. I have put together a package of questionnaires, contracts, releases and other documents that also comes with a manual to guide you through this process. For more information, check out my
Do It Yourself Contractor Kit
4. Get Everything In Writing
Before giving someone the go ahead to begin working, you should have some sort of written agreement. If at all possible, it should include a price. When dealing with certain services such as air conditioning or plumbing repairmen, they may have to do some investigative work before they can give you a final price. You should, however, try to get them to give you a worst case scenario or agree on a preliminary service fee, with instructions to do no further work without written approval. Whatever agreement you make, get it in writing or it's just your word against theirs. Some of the greatest con men will seem like your best friend. You have to remember, this is business.
5. Try To Get Competitive Pricing or Opinions
Speaking as a former contractor, knowing that you are the only contestant in the game, is a dream circumstance. Even if you believe you have a reliable company that you trust, competition is what drives pricing. If you're needing some type of repair, a different mind may provide a different, more economical solution.
6. Check Licensing
Depending on where you live and what type of services you're looking for, many businesses are required to be licensed. Plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians are universally required to be licensed and in some areas, it's a requirement for all service companies. Check with your state or local governments to see what the requirements are in your area.
7. Find Out About Insurance
Contractor insurance varies greatly depending on the trade. Usually, if a business is required to be licensed, there is also an insurance requirement. Many small companies don't carry insurance due to the cost and this may be acceptable depending on the trade. The primary insurance we're talking about is liability, which covers you and your property against damage caused by the contractor. So you may not want to pay the higher price to use a painter or drywall contractor who is insured because they don't pose much risk of causing extensive damage. It's really a judgment call that you have to weigh. However, mistakes made by some trades, such as plumbers, electricians, and roofers can lead to huge amounts of expensive damage and these contractors should always be insured.
8. Check With Local Orginizations About Complaints
The Better Business Bureau, local chamber of commerce, and trade organizations can be great sources of information for weeding out bad companies. One or two complaints on a large business may be explained and might not automatically disqualify someone, but, if you see a pattern, scratch them off and move on. There is a great service available online called Angie's List.. For a small monthly fee, they provide you access to a list of services ranging from contractors to doctors, and mechanics with reviews by other homeowners. Contractors are not allowed to advertise or pay to be placed on the list. So it provides a reliable method for finding reliable companies.
9. Background Checks
This one may sound a little excessive and it might be. But if you're doing a large project and will have people in you're home, around your family and possessions, it might not be a bad idea and with the internet, it's now an easy and affordable way to provide a little more security.
10. Get Receipts or Releases
This is an important protection that a lot of people never think about. When the work is completed and you pay for services, you need written proof. In most states, contractors and service companies have broad rights when it comes to collecting money for their services. They may be able to place a lien against your property simply by filing an affidavit stating that they have not been paid. If this happens and you don't have written proof of the payment, having the lien removed may be difficult and expensive. In addition the receipt may be necessary in obtaining warranty work. For more information on documenting transactions
Hopefully, these tips will provide you with some help in making these important choices. Visit us online for more help, advice, and how to information for "do it yourselfers".
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