7 Things to Look for When Hiring a Contractor

BY NANCY MATTIA ON JANUARY 19TH, 2017

Before hiring a contractor, make sure he offers a reasonable completion timeline and that your personalities don’t clash – and important factor since the person will be in your home for several weeks or even months.

Home renovations are stressful no matter what. That’s why hiring a skilled, reliable contractor can make all the difference. When interviewing potential candidates, make sure he meets every one of the criteria listed below.

1. Experience in working on projects like yours

The ideal contractor has considerable experience completing jobs similar to yours. If you want a new bathroom, don’t hire someone who specializes in foundations – find someone who’s a bathroom renovation pro. Ask to see before-and-after photos of recent projects, and pose a lot of questions to determine if his skills match your needs.

2. Lots of satisfied customers

A pro won’t hesitate to give you the names and phone numbers of satisfied customers; if he balks, you should walk. Call the references and ask about their experience, says Tim Shigley, president of Shigley Construction, in Wichita, Kansas, and chairman of the National Association of Home Builders Remodelers Council. “Ask, ‘Did he do what he said he’d do? Were your expectations on budget and time met? What was he like to work with?’” Your final question should be, “Would you hire him again?”

3. Good people skills

An experienced contractor will have mastered the art of being a good listener, problem solver and communicator. When something goes wrong, which it will, he can calmly explain how he’ll remedy the situation. Also, since you’ll be spending many weeks, and possibly months, with this person, it’s important that you two have a good rapport. If his personality drives you nuts at your initial meeting, it’ll drive you nuts when he shows up at your house every day, too.

4. A current license and insurance

Check with your local building department if your state requires contractors to be licensed or bonded. Having up-to-date insurance is also essential. “Ask the contractor if he carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation,” Shigley says. “If he doesn’t, that’s a red flag that he may not be a legitimate business owner. [Without those expenses] he’s also going to be the cheapest guy in town. Ask yourself, Is that who I want to work on my house?”

5. A willingness to provide a written estimate and later a contract

An estimate lets you know approximately how much his services will cost to complete your project. Once you’ve decided on who to hire, ask for a written contract that lists everything you and the pro talked about, including start and completion dates, all materials needed, which services the contractor will and won’t provide and the payment schedule. Make sure the contractor countersigns it and you get a signed copy.

6. A reasonable payment schedule

Some states regulate how much you should put down for a down payment, while other states have no regulations at all, Shigley says. “If the homeowner is engaged with a professional contractor, he’ll know state requirements and can say what the payment schedule will be,” he says. Ask what the payment schedule is before executing a contract, and never pay in full upfront.

7. A realistic work schedule

Discuss with the contractor how long he expects the job to take. A lot depends on things like the scope of the work, how many other jobs he has going on simultaneously and if deliveries of materials are on time. Be wary of anyone who promises to complete a major renovation in a week or two. That only happens on reality shows.

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