8 Tips for Hiring a Good Contractor

If you’re in the planning or even just the dreaming phase of your next big home project, a few details probably come to mind: Your budget, your timeline and the contracting team who can make it happen. But finding the right person for the job is no small feat. Because it requires so much research and pre-planning, it can be overwhelming, intimidating or just plain frustrating for anyone to face the task of hiring a good contractor. This guide takes the guesswork out of this undertaking for you by providing step-by-step information for finding a contractor that will make your home renovation dreams come true!

Depending on how big or complex a project is, you might hire a:

  • general contractor, who manages all aspects of a project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, getting building permits, and scheduling inspections
  • specialty contractor, who installs particular products like cabinets and bathroom fixtures
  • architect, who designs homes, additions, and major renovations — especially ones involving structural changes
  • designer or design/build contractor, who provides both services.

1. Get Contractor recommendations

Ask friends and colleagues to see if anyone you know and trust has any personal recommendations for contractors that they’ve used. Similarly, you can search on google for construction companies around you and go through their profiles and previous jobs done.

2. Do Contractor Phone Interviews

Once you’ve assembled a list, We recommend that you make a quick call to each of your prospects and go through these questions to ask a contractor:

  • Do they take on projects of your size?
  • Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
  • Can they give you a list of previous clients?
  • How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
  • How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

The answers to these questions will reveal the company’s availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project, and how smoothly the work will go.

3. Meet Face to Face

Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. It’s crucial that you two communicate well because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. On the other hand, don’t let personality fool you. Check to make sure they don’t have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.

4. Investigate the facts

Now that you’ve narrowed your list, put your research to use. Call up former clients to find how their project went and ask to see the finished product. You shouldn’t rely on results alone. Even more important, visit a current job site and see for yourself how the contractor works. Is the job site neat and safe? Are workers courteous and careful?

5. Make plans and Ask for Bids

You have your short list of contractors whose track records seem clean and whose work ethic looks responsible. Now it’s time to stop looking back at past work and start looking forward to your project. A conscientious contractor will want not only a complete set of blueprints but also a sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to spend. 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 to 20 percent.

6. Set a Payment Schedule

Another important tip for hiring a contractor is to workout 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 percent 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 on the punch list has been completed.

7. Don’t let price be your guide

“Throw out the lowball bid,”. “This contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work”—hardly an encouraging sign in a healthy economy. Beyond technical competence, comfort should play an equal or greater role in your decision. The single 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 a requirement that the contractor obtains lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, It’s about ensuring a successful renovation.

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