5 Tips on How to Find a Good Contractor
Every property owner should know that Spike TV has a show called: “To Catch a Contractor.” It’s more than just entertainment—it’s a lesson on the dangers of hiring the wrong person for the job.
While incompetents and scam artists are by no means the majority, the fact that this show exists underscores the importance of doing your homework when figuring out how to find a good contractor. The good news is that most contractors are professionals trying to make an honest living doing what they love.
But given that the home renovation market is estimated to be above $310 billion per year, you undoubtedly have hundreds of choices just in your area. This can make it hard to sift through the shoddy contractors and find the best ones.
What’s nice is that learning how to find a good contractor is quite a clear process. You’ll be an expert in no time. Here are five straightforward tips on how to find a good contractor:
1. Use your personal network
If you ask experts about how to find a good contractor, nearly everyone will mention asking friends, family, and colleagues for a personal referral. Because word-of-mouth remains the most surefire way to know if someone can complete a job to your satisfaction.
There are many quick ways to get solid recommendations. On social media, you can reach your whole personal network at once. You can even call people you know who’ve just had home renovation work done. If possible, go see the work that the contractor did. On top of that, people who’ve recently hired a contractor may even be able to give you some home remodeling tips (or just their thoughts on how to find a good contractor).
When you ask for a recommendation, you want to ask friends, family, and colleagues the following:
• What was your experience with the contractor?
• Did the contractor complete the job on time and on budget?
• Were there are any problems that you ran into with the contractor?
• Does the contractor have the skills and experience to complete your job?
2. Read reviews online
Of course, there is always the chance that a business has populated third-party review sites with fake positive reviews. But certain sites are good at limiting this, especially when it comes to home renovation contractors. If you’re figuring out how to find a good contractor in your area, it’s crucial to know which sites are legit.
According to an analysis by Consumer Reports, review sites like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, and Houzz are generally trustworthy when it comes to home renovation contractors. You can scan through these review sites to see which contractors have good standing with customers in your region.
The Federal Trade Commission has another recommendation when checking contractors online. Using a search engine like Google, type the name of individual contractor or company and add words like “scam” and “complaints” after it. This will show you if the contractor has ripped off others before.
3. Check licenses and insurance
Contractors that have the proper licensing actually have the skills to do the job. If a contractor doesn’t have licensing, do not consider that person for the job. It’s that simple.
After you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few home renovation contractors, you can check if those contractors have the licenses required for your home renovation project. Simply contact the contractor and ask to see their licensing. Get the license number and other applicable information and then check with the relevant state board or agency.
To see a list of licensing agencies for your state, reference the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies. Another good source is USA.gov. When you contact your state’s agency, you can also see if there have been any complaints filed against the contractor and any government disciplinary action against the contractor.
Additionally, don’t forget about checking insurance. It’s your peace of mind. Depending on the state, contractors usually should have two types of insurance: liability coverage and workers’ compensation insurance. Liability coverage covers you if the work fails. Workers’ compensation insurance covers injuries that occur to workers at your property.
4. Hold interviews
This doesn’t have to be anything formal. It’s just a good way to establish trust with your potential home renovation contractor.
During the talk, you should ask for references (check them before you agree to hire the contractor). If possible, ask to see examples of previous work the contractor has done. If you’re still not set on ideas, you can even ask the contractors for home remodeling tips, which is also a good way to see the contractor’s expertise.
The interview process should be more than evaluating the contractor and getting home remodeling tips. It’s also a good time to get bids on your home renovation project. Though you certainly want to stay within budget, don’t just choose the lowest bidder. In many cases, price correlates to quality. Get an explanation for the estimate—and choose the one that can give you the quality you want at a price you can afford.
5. Get everything in writing
This last tip on how to find a good contractor is an important one. You must get everything in writing by working out a contract that clearly states expectations, budget, and timeframe. How payments should be made should also be clear.
Note: Be wary if a contractor asks for a significant portion of the total payment upfront. This isn’t the way honest contractors do things. According to HouseLogic, an information resource managed by the National Association of Realtors®, your first payment should not exceed much more than 10% of the total job. At completion, you should pay enough to cover contractor costs but keep about one-third to make sure you like the project first. After inspection, if you’re fully satisfied, submit the final payment.
In addition, you should also agree on how disputes are to be settled. Usually, it’s best to settle home renovation project disputes through an arbitrator. While you certainly don’t want an issue to arise, you and the contractor can handle a problem successfully by having a plan in place in advance.
Learn How to Find a Good Contractor and Make Your Project a Success
Learning how to find a good contractor is truly one of the best home remodeling tips you can get. Because the right contractor is how you can turn your idea into a reality.
Staci Giordullo, a senior writer at Angie’s List, sums up why you must learn how to find a good contractor perfectly. As she says, “No one sets out to hire a bad contractor. And yet, homeowners in the midst of remodeling, building projects or renovations do it every day.”
By taking these tips on how to find a good contractor into account, you can greatly reduce and even eliminate your chances of hiring the wrong person for your home renovation project. Then, you’ll be ready to get your project started and get your home looking the way you want.