Hiring a contractor could well make or break your home construction or remodeling project. Browse Google for a few minutes to find horror stories about contractors and how people feel they have been treated unfairly or even been defrauded. While there are laws in place the protect homeowners (check your local Registrar of Contractors for more information), the best possible protection for you is to hire the right company in the first place.
Checklist for Hiring a Contractor
- Check the ROC and the BBB. The best places to look are your local ROC (registrar of contractors) and the BBB. If the contractor has a license in place and is bonded, you have some protection. The bond assures that you are covered if the contractor commits fraud or performs shoddy workmanship.
- Ask friends and family who they have hired and loved. However, if your friend recommends her brother’s company, recognize that she might be doing him a favor, which means she is not unbiased. Unbiased reviews are essential.
- See if the company has a website. If they do, make sure it looks professional. There may also be testimonials, which are great, but not foolproof. Companies are not forced to prove the testimonials on their site are genuine, so they could be fiction. But, if the company has a website and it’s a good one, it’s a good sign.
- Check Google reviews. Google mines for reviews around the web and puts them on the company’s search result. Google uses an algorithm to weed out the possibly fake reviews, so these testimonials are pretty reliable.
- Look for warning signs. If the contractor is dodgy about giving out their ROC license number, or past customers who they have worked for, don’t hire them. If the contractor is selling their services door-to door, that’s not a good sign. A good contractor doesn’t need to go door to door. If the first estimate is vague and hard to read, don’t hire them.
- Ask all your questions. There is no need to be impolite, but don’t allow a contractor to make you feel that your questions are stupid or too much. It’s understood that you are not a professional builder and he or she is, so your questions should be answered readily.
- Get several estimates. But don’t choose your contractor based on the price alone. In fact, you will probably have the worst experience and spend more money if one estimate comes back suspiciously low. Common practice is to choose the middle estimate, assuming you like and trust the contractor.
- Know the contractor’s triangle. Imagine three sides. The first side is price, then quality, then speed. You can choose two of these sides for any given project. You can get a project done quickly and well, but it won’t be cheap. You can get the project done cheaply and well, but it won’t be fast. And so on.
Lastly and most importantly, go with your gut. Your intuition is your most powerful tool in choosing a contractor. If the guy just gives you a bad feeling, no matter how much he promises or how charismatic he is, just move to the next company. It’s not worth the pain and suffering of hiring a bad contractor.