The Job of Choosing a Good Contractor
Have you found yourself wanting to improve a few things around your house to make it safer and more comfortable? Maybe you’re okay with reading a tape measure, but not that good with a hammer and nail. The fact is that you need someone who really knows how to do that remodeling project. So, now you need to find a good contractor. Yikes!
Just recently I had a discussion with a person who hired a contractor. They laid out what they would like for him to do, and agreed verbally on a price. However, in the end, the price was exactly doubled. The homeowners were quite unhappy with the expensive lesson they learned.
I’ve also heard homeowners bragging about having their contractor “over-a-barrel” with the work currently in progress. They seemed genuinely pleased with themselves, but they probably would not think it was fair if they were the contractor who was being taken advantage of in this situation.
Hand Shake Agreements
There was a time when two persons could shake hands on an agreement and that settled it. That meant both parties understood what was expected and agreed to it. The handshake was an “I give you my word” bond. Friends, if you get nothing else from this article, please understand this: the days of a “handshake agreement” are forever gone. The only way to protect both parties is with a comprehensive contract.
A good contract is a contract that is good for both parties. Good for the homeowner and good for the contractor. This will make both parties happy and help you get a good job at a fair price.
So the question becomes, how do you find a good contractor?
This may well be the most important part of your project. So let’s take a few minutes to examine where to look and what to look for.
What to Look for in a Contractor.
- You want an experienced contractor who understands the scope of the project. The contractor should be prepared to discuss the time requirements and procedures involved. He should be open to consider options or alternatives. He or she should be willing and able to answer your questions with answers you can understand.
- The contractor should provide a contract that includes what’s to be done, what materials will be used, how long it will take, what the pay schedule is, the warranty and more. You can view a sample of what should be included in a contract at FindLaw.com
- Don’t hesitate to ask for references. Find out if they have worked in the area and have previous customers you can call. Also, check out the company with the Better Business Bureau.
- Your contractor needs to provide proof that they are licensed, bonded and insured. This is just standard business practice for a legitimate contractor. The legal requirements for this licensing will vary from place to place, so check with your city’s code enforcement or building inspection manager for clarification of what’s required in your area.
If the contractor is hesitant or unwilling to provide this proof, you should look for another contractor.
- Ask what subcontractors they use and if they are licensed and have passed background checks. The subcontractors will probably be the persons who will be spending time in your home doing the work.
Also, ask for a signed “release of lien” statement when the job is completed to insure you are not held liable for unpaid materials. Learn more about the “release-of-lien”.
- It’s important to have open and easy communication with your contractor. They should be genuinely concerned about you and what you want. You should feel comfortable calling them with questions without getting the feeling that you’re imposing on them. You may be working with this person for weeks or months. If your contractor is difficult for you to communicate with, this time could be a stressful period for you.
Where to Look for a Contractor
- Ask your neighbors. Look for projects going on in your area. It’s a good way to find unbiased opinions and perhaps view the actual work done by the contractor and subcontractors. Choose more than one contractor to contact about your project, and ask for their bids on the work.
- Check with city’s building inspection or code enforcement officer. They should have an idea of what companies are working in your area and whether or not their completing jobs in a timely manner within code, and if they have satisfied customers.
A good contractor with a trail of happy customers is a very good sign.
- Use an online service to help locate a good contractor. Look at Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor for suggestions. These services provide reviews and background checks to help you determine which contractor is right for you. Click on the links above to learn about their services.
- Check with some of the home improvement stores, like Home Depot, which provide home repairs and remodeling services through an assortment of companies and contractors vetted by the store. You can check them out online or walk-in and speak personally with a store employee to walk you through the process.
Getting your project done correctly, on time and within your budget can be a real challenge. But getting it done poorly and far over-budget is a mistake. Don’t let price be your only consideration when you choose a contractor. Take all the time you need and choose good contractor who is professional, reliable and easy to work with.
Then enjoy your newly remodeled project.