Finding The Right Contractor

Did you know that in most states, complaints against contractors by homeowners’ makes one of the largest category of consumer complaints filed with the state attorney general’s office? For most homeowners, having a contractor makes life much easier. But more and more people are growingly unhappy with the services of their contractors.

Knowing how to find that right contractor prevents a lot of future issues. In order to do that, you need to look for contractors first, and then you can decide which one is right.

Finding The Right Contractor

Looking for Contractors

  1. Word-of-mouth : Whenever you decide to take up a maintenance or renovation work for your house, talk about it and let your friends, family, co-workers know you are looking for a contractor. Interestingly, they will come up with a lot of option to take and not-to-take for you. Their experiences could help you make a good choice, though it may lead to some problems due to difference in nature of work, budget mismatch, etc. So think before you leap.
  2. Yellow pages, White pages : The directories will help you find the names and numbers of a lot of contractors. You can talk to them, meet them, gauge them, ask for references and decide.
  3. Online research : Professional organizations such National Association of Remodelling Industry, Zillow, etc. provide certifications, guidelines and directories that would help you choose or at least look for the contractor.

Getting It Right

Once you have narrowed down on a few contractors, make sure you get bids from them. Don’t compare each bid with the same yardstick, get into the gory details and analyze. Never ever choose a contractor by just opting for the one with the lowest bid. Look into the insurances your contractor has, as it would be essential for him to have liability, property and workers’ compensation. It might also do a bit of good to check out if there are any complaints against him at the consumer protection office. You could not only ask for customer references, but also a list of sub-contractors he works with and enquire about the sub-contractors’ experience with this particular contractor.

At the end of the day, when it comes to choosing a contractor, choose somebody who is skilled, experience and reliable, somebody you can get along well with and will do the job in the best possible optimum price.

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  • Frank Morabito says:

    Apr 22, 2014 at 10:08 pm

    Very good points. Some additional comments:

    1. When searching for a contractor, call your local home builders association. In addition to new home builders, they will have a subset of remodeling contractors that they can recommend. The other benefit of the local home builders association is they screen contractors before allowing them to join. They typically require contractors to be licensed and insured and provide continuing education on local and state issues. They do not just let the contractor pay a fee and allow they automatically become a “member” like some of the internet search companies that recommend contractors.

    2. Ensure the contractor is licensed. Look them up on your state’s licensure website. Just because a contractor has a license number on his letterhead does not necessarily mean he is currently licensed. The state licensure board will also have a record of any prior violations.

    3. Ensure the contractor is insured. When you are ready to sign a contract ask the contractor to provide a certificate of insurance with you and your property (address) named as “additionally insured”. Once you have this in hand you can call the insurance company to verify coverage if you feel the need.

    4. Ask your contractor what permits will be required for the job. If he says “none” call your local building authority to verify the requirements. If he pulls permits, inspections will be required by your municipality’s building code inspectors to ensure the work is done to applicable codes. In most localities, even jobs like a new roof require a permit and will be inspected.

    5. Ask for a warranty: What is the manufacturer’s responsibility, what is the contractor’s responsibility, and what is your responsibility (for example changing filters in your HVAC system monthly)?

    5. Sign a contract and read the fine print. Ensure the contract includes a detailed scope of work, with a breakdown of costs for larger jobs. Ensure the contract has a draw schedule that includes what must be accomplished at each payment milestone. On permitted jobs, the various rough-in inspections (plumbing, electrical, HVAC, building) and final inspections are good milestones. Ask the contractor what percentage contingency he has built into the bid for the unexpected. An experienced contractor can anticipate a lot of the problems he may encounter and build that into his bid. Ask what the process is for change orders once work has begun and if you can get a second opinion if a large change order is needed.

    6. Be wary of paying a deposit (typically to “buy materials”) before work begins. A contractor who has met the requirements of becoming licensed and insured will surely have business lines of credit set up with suppliers who will allow them 30 days to pay. If not, they can also use their personal credit card. The contractor demanding a deposit prior to the start of work might argue he cannot recoup his loss if you do not pay, but he has the option of filing in small claims court and attaching a mechanic’s lien if you default on a contract. There are far more people who have been bilked out of deposit money than contractors who have not been paid for legitimately owed work.

    While this may seem excessive, remember that your home was probably the largest purchase of your life, and a remodel, roof, or HVAC system may be the second largest purchase (even more than your car). You utilized a licensed real estate agent, licensed home inspector, lawyer and/or title company, and title insurance to protect the purchase of your home, now do your due diligence to continue to protect that investment when you hire a contractor.


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