Updated: Aug 22, 2021
The information provided here is great, but very limited. For a detailed analysis of the due diligence you should be doing on your end when hiring a Contractor, read eBook 9 Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor by Scott Wadsworth, available on Amazon for only $5.
Home Improvement Projects are Big Ticket Items with Large Price Tags, so you want to make sure you don't end up wasting your time or money. Contractors have a bad reputation for doing things like cutting corners, over charging, and even being downright disrespectful to you and your property.
In this article, we're going to cover a few basic things you can do, and NOT DO, to help you ensure that you get a Professional Quality Contractor for your next project.
First and foremost, never choose a contractor based on the lowest price.
Not all Contractors are equal, lower prices mean lower quality. Most Contractors are competing for the lowest price. The only way they can accomplish that is by underpaying staff members and cutting every corner they can. But you want everything done right from the very beginning, right? And to a High Degree of Quality with Excellent Customer Service, right?
Well then, to make sure you get the right Contractor, here are 8 things to look for:
(1) Red Carpet White Glove Service
Great Contractors go above and beyond the call of duty. They advertise things like “Red Carpet,” or “White Glove,” or “Extra Mile,” or “Above and Beyond.” Most Contractors hardly go the first mile and lead to headache after headache. So, make sure you are looking for those that intentionally provide extra value to their customers.
(2) Reviews and References
First and foremost, check reviews online and ask for References.
A great Contractor will be transparent with you and give you this information upfront. But many don't do this at all. To look up their reviews, simply type the business name of the Contractor you are researching into the Google search bar. If they are Google verified, this will pull up their Google Card which will give you a link to their website, some basic information, and links to any websites where they have reviews posted. If they are not Google verified, then that is a red flag that they don't do their due diligence considering Google is the most important way a business can be found today.
So, click on their reviews and give them a good read. Just keep in mind that a negative review doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad Contractor unless they have more bad reviews than good. If you come across a bad review for a Contractor, make sure you read their response to it. If they don't respond to bad reviews, that's also a red flag that they don't do their due diligence. Otherwise, their response to a bad review can tell you a lot more about what kind of people they are than their good reviews can tell you. For example, are they thanking the customer for their feedback, so they can improve their services? Are they admitting to having made a mistake and offering to fix it? Or are they cursing the customer out for being a jerk and leaving a bad review?
Make sure you actually do call References. References are people you can call that have already worked with the Contractor and can you tell all about what it’s like to work with them, and how their experience was. If a contractor only gives you a list of 2 or 3 References, that’s a Red Flag. Why so few? If a contractor gives you a full page of References, that is good. That means they know that all their customers will say the same thing about them. You don’t have to call them all, but you want to know a contractor is willing to give that information away.
Next, make sure you take a look at their website. If they don't have one, that doesn't necessarily mean they are a bad Contractor, but it definitely shows that they aren't getting with the times.
The internet is the marketing sector of the present day. Without a website, most people will think a business doesn't exist.
A website is good for several reasons:
(1) it can give you a basic overview of the services they provide so you can make sure they are a good fit for you;
(2) it should have a portfolio of their previous work so you can get an idea of what they are capable of;
(3) a great contractor will be transparent and explain all their processes, usually in a blog, and
(4) it will have links to the Better Business Bureau if they are accredited.
If they don't have a website, hopefully they at least have a profile or two on different platforms, like Home Advisor, Angie's List, Houzz, or Yelp so you can glean this kind of information from there. If they don't have a profile at all, you are better skipping over this one and moving on to the next.
You can't make an educated decision if you can't do proper research, and today, the internet is the way.
You'll want to make sure you choose Contractor's who are Accredited by the BBB or are Member's of Associations like the PDCA and HBRA, because these associations hold their Contractors to high standards.
If a Contractor veers from these high standards, they are likely to be dropped by the association. This means that a Contractor who is Accredited by the BBB, or a Member to an Association like the PDCA, is more likely to give you higher quality workmanship.
Once you have compiled a list of 3 to 5 Contractors to call based on this research it's time to start getting your estimates.
When you meet with each of the different Contractors, make sure you ask them open ended questions. What I mean by this, is don't ask "yes" or "no" questions like, "Do you do this?" or "Would you do that for me?" or "Do you do background checks on all your employees?"
Contractors are salespeople by nature, so many of them will simply say "Yes" to get the sale even if it is something they don't typically do.
Instead, ask questions like, "How would you go about doing something like this?" or "What is your process for this kind of work?" or "Can you explain, in detail, what your hiring process is?"
Asking questions like these forces the Contractor to give you more detailed answers without giving a hint of the answer you're looking for. Not only will you learn a lot more by asking these types of questions, but you will also be able to ascertain whether or not a Contractor gives you the particular answer you want in an honest approach.
With open ended questions, you are safe to assume that if they don't say it, they don't do it. Although a good Contractor will be very upfront about these things, and GREAT Contractor will be transparent and give you a lot of this information before you even ask.
Finally, judge the estimates you receive not by price, but by layout. Is the estimate understandable? Is it too simple? Is it too detailed? It is in the order in which the work will actually be done? Is it itemized so that you know what each different part will cost, or is it all lumped together into one price? Is it customized to your intentions?
Finally, how is their pricing broken down? Is the deposit requested more than 10% of the total contract? Is the starting price enough to include all the materials and the first portion of labor payroll? Are they asking you to pay too much money before the job is finished? Does the payment break down make sense for the length and scope of work involved?
Look for things like this: 10% Deposit; 50% Start Check; 20% Progress Check; 20% Finish Check. These numbers might be different based on the scope of your project, but you should never put down more than 10% on a contract, and you should never pay the final 10% until the job is 100% finished. This is the most widely accepted payment schedule in the industry.
If the payments don't make sense, it's a not a total write off, but it definitely requires looking further into. If they have a logical reason for it, and can make sense out of it, then fine, otherwise, red flag warning.
(7) License and Insurance
One last thing, never work with a Contractor that isn't Licensed or Insured. Always ask your Contractor to see their license and proof of Insurance. Check to make sure they are still valid - don't just look at the paper for face value - check the dates.
If you chose all Contractors with good reviews, and good responses to bad reviews, who are accredited by the BBB and/or members of an association like the PDCA or HBRA, and you called their references, then the final thing for you to do is to compile all that information with the estimate that makes the most amount of sense.
If you do all of that, you will likely get the Right Contractor for your next project.
Happy Hunting ^_^