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How to Hire a Good Contractor

It may not be a life or death decision, but choosing the right contractor for your remodeling job can mean the difference between a gorgeous renovation and an expensive, endless, stressful nightmare.

You hire a contractor because you want your renovation done on time, with the right materials, and for the right price. But trust the wrong person, and your renovation could get out of hand. So take control of your home and learn how to hire a great contractor.

So when remodeling your home:

1.  Conduct a thorough search for contractors

Find a few contractors to choose from and have options:

  • Talk to friends, family, and neighbors…anyone that’s done some renovation in the past.
  • Take a trip to the local lumberyard or quarry. People there see a lot of contractors and often know who has experience and buys quality materials.
  • Look in the Yellow Pages™ and make a few phone calls.
  • The internet is another great resource, but don’t trust everything you read. Sites like Angie’s List™ and the Better Business Bureau® are helpful resources.
  • Get a list of licensed contractors in your area from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

 

2.  Check credentials and work history

When you hire a new employee, you check their resume, contact past employers, and look at their work history right? Well when it comes to hiring a contractor, you’re the boss and your home is the job. So do your research.

You may want to consider looking only for contractors who:

  • Have at least 7 years of experience.
  • Are licensed/bonded in your state.
  • Have a good reputation in your area and with the Better Business Bureau®.
  • Have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Have no court records for liens, lawsuits or complaints if your state licensing bureau provides that information.

 

3.  Ask important questions

If this is your first time doing renovations, you may not know exactly what to ask or how to protect your interests. And unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there, more than happy to take your money, do shoddy work, and bill you for more. So to weed out the scammers, consider asking important questions like:

  • How long have you been doing business in the area? (Get a list of subcontractors and references)
  • Who are your suppliers? (Talk to the people that supply their materials)
  • Do you usually take on projects this size? (Consider a contractor that’s done this before.)
  • How many other projects do you have going at the same time? (Know they’re not spreading their resources thin)
  • Can you provide a list of other completed projects? (Talk to other people who’ve worked with the contractor or view other properties they’ve worked on)

 

4. Get multiple bids

Ok, by now you have a smaller list of contractors who are hopefully on the up and up. Speak to each one face-to-face. Give them each the same project specs, pictures of fixtures, lists of materials, blueprints, and anything that will give them a full picture of the job. Then ask them for a bid and a cost breakdown so you can compare price.

A quick note: Consider tossing out lowball offers. It’s good to save money during a renovation, but most of the time, lowball offers don’t mean value; they often mean cutting corners. Remember, this is your home! So focus on quality over price, as long as it’s in your budget.

 

5. Break down costs and payment schedule

After you’ve decided on a bid and a contractor, know exactly how you’re going to pay them and where your money is going. Ask for a full itemized list of costs for expenses, materials, fixtures, and labor. Then agree to a payment schedule built around specific and measurable project milestones.

As a good rule of thumb, for large projects consider putting 10% down at contract signing, three payments of 25% spread out over the project, and 15% when it’s finished.

 

6. Review and sign a contract

Before you start the job or put any money down, consider requesting a written contract. Generally speaking, you never want to get any work started or agree to anything that isn’t formalized in a contract, even if you trust the contractor. Don’t run the risk of being taken advantage of. Spell out timetables, required work, materials…everything, in a contract. Then have your lawyer or a trusted adviser review it before you sign.