How & Where to Find a Good Contractor
Thursday, December 16, 2010
by Jason Koeppe
Don’t get scammed! It may seem a daunting task, but finding a good contractor is possible with a little pre-emptive legwork and some research checkpoints.
If you want the job done right, the most important thing you’ll need in finding the right contractor for the job is: time well spent. Take the time to hire the right person for the job, and it will pay off in the end.
Before hiring any contractor or tradesman, follow 3 must-do steps:
- Conduct A Background Check – Don’t wince! Background investigations are actually an affordable and easy to perform safety check for peace of mind. After all, this person will be working around your home for many hours, if not months. Any reputable and upstanding contractor should be willing to participate in one. It will uncover any past criminal activity.
- Verify current Contractor Licensure and Insurance
- Put it in Writing – contract the details on project specifications, time, and budget
Where to Find a Contractor (courtesy of American Profile) :
Flyers and Yellow Pages – I’m not saying you can’t find a good contractor this way, but I’m not recommending it. If this is your method of choice, it is highly recommended that you perform a background check, check the business with the Better Business Bureau and a half-dozen references, ask for a Certificate of Insurance, check to see that they possess a contractor’s license, and create a written contract. Otherwise, it is simply not worth the risk.
Word of mouth—Most contractors’ best advertisement is “word of mouth” from satisfied customers. So begin the process by asking friends and relatives if they know a good tradesman they’d recommend.
Start looking—Drive around your neighborhood. If you see a dazzling new deck on a house, knock on the door and ask the homeowners if they’re pleased with the results.
Use the Internet—Go online to www.nari.org, a website for the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)—a trade group of professional remodelers. The website features “Find a Professional Remodeler,” which allows you to type in your zip code and get a list of trade group members who are contractors in your area.
The Internet offers another approach to finding a local contractor. Type “contractor referral” in a search engine such as Google and you’ll find numerous websites designed as a matchmaker between homeowners and plumbers, remodelers, builders or other home service professionals. The service usually is free to customers.
There are also websites like Angie’s List and Craigslist who list ‘contractors and tradesmen.’ Angie’s List offers contractor listings (which are paid for by the contractors) which also include customer reviews and recommendations, whereas Craigslist is similar to the ‘Yellow Pages’ of online listings, which includes contact information only.
Hit the stores—Let local home center stores act as your general contractor and find a tradesman for a job. Walk the aisles and you’ll notice “Installed Price” signs on many of the building materials, appliances and fixtures they sell. For example, a tag on laminate flooring may read: “Installed $4.50 per square foot.” This service is particularly helpful because it puts a dollar value to the labor cost. However, it usually doesn’t include the cost of preparation work needed (such as removing an existing floor before a new installation). This turnkey service is popular for consumers short on time.
Go where the pros shop—Don’t overlook materials suppliers where professionals shop. For example, stop at a plumbing supply store if you need a plumber and ask if they know a good one. They may not recommend someone specifically, but they probably will tell you which plumbers are steady customers. A tradesman with plenty of customers is most likely a good one.
Do your homework and contract your contractor—When you make contact with a contractor, ask a lot of questions. Request a list of clients in your area and call them. Look at samples of their work. If yours is a large remodeling project, ask to see comparable work the contractor has done. Ask to see their state and locally issued contractor’s license and how long they’ve been in business. If everything checks out fine, then make sure to get a contract with specifications of work to be done.
BEWARE! Contractor Scam Warning Signs:
- The contractor/ tradesman wants to repair something other than what you called about, i.e., you want a sticking window fixed and they want to replace your gutters also.
- They are evasive about describing exactly what they’re going to do or how much they’re going to charge you. Remember, you need a contract with everything in writing as to exactly what’s going to be done and exactly what the cost will be.
- They are evasive about insurance coverage or offers a copy of his insurance – rather than giving you the name of his insurance carrier so that you can call and request a Certificate of Insurance be mailed directly to you.
- They are vague about referrals or offers only a few references (six is recommended).
- Their attitude implies that their time is "too valuable to waste" answering your questions completely. Be wary of technical jargon or hurried explanations that are hard to understand.
- The contractor/tradesman doesn’t belong to any professional or business organizations.
- They talk in a loud, aggressive, condescending manner or exhibit threatening body language.
- The contractor/tradesman is more interested in talking about, or getting, your money than they are in taking care of your problem.