Hiring a Contractor
You’ve decided to tackle a project around the house and are ready to move forward. Now you need to find the right contractor for the job. Here are some tips on choosing the right contractor.
1. Get Recommendations
You can look to sites such as Angi’s List, but be prepared for many phone calls. These websites will have you answer questions and then send off your information to contractors that match your needs. This can be a very efficient way to speak with multiple contractors, however it may not be the best option. Speak with friends and family, neighbors, look for referrals on websites such and Nextdoor.com or ask your local Realtor®.
2. Do Phone Interviews
Once you have a list of recommendations, make a quick call to each one and ask specific questions to each contractor. The answers will help you determine the company’s availability, reliability and how much attention they will give to your project. Some examples are:
- Do they take on projects of your size?
- Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers/banks?
- Can they give you a list of previous clients?
- How many other projects would they have going on at the same time?
- How long have they worked with their subcontractors?
3. Meet Face to Face
Pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer questions satisfactorily and in a way to put you at ease. Be sure you can communicate well with your contractor because you will be working together for hours at a time. Check in with the state’s consumer protection agency to be sure they don’t have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors. Yelp and Google reviews are also helpful but be aware that anyone can write a review on those sites.
4. Investigate the Facts
Call up former clients to find out how their project went and ask to see the finished product. Visit current job sites and see for yourself how the contractor works. Is the job site neat and safe? Are workers courteous and careful with the homeowner’s property?
5. Make Plans, Get Bids
Now that you’ve narrowed down the list it’s time to start planning your project. A good contractor will want not only a complete set of blueprints, but a sense of what the homeowners want out of a project. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. Generally materials account for 40 percent of the total cost; the rest covers overhead and the typical profit margin, which is 15-20 percent.
6. Set a Payment Schedule
It is very important to work out a payment schedule ahead of time. Payment schedules can speak to a contractor’s financial status and work ethic. If they want half the bid up front, they may have financial problems or be worried that you won’t pay the rest after you’ve seen the work. For large projects, a schedule usually starts with 10% at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project and a check for the final 15 percent when you feel every item has been completed.
7. Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide
Some say to “throw out the lowball bid” – this contractor may be cutting corners or worse, desperate for work. Beyond technical competence, comfort should play an equal or greater role in your decision. The most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it’s better to spend more and get someone you’re comfortable with when hiring a contractor.
8. Put it in Writing
Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used and deadlines for any decisions on materials/options being used in the project. Insisting on a clear contract lessens the possibility of misunderstandings throughout the project.
*source – thisoldhouse.com