10 Tips to Hiring the Right Contractor

Written by on 9/11/2015 10:00 AM . It has 11 Comments.

Whether you’re building a new home from the ground up or you’re planning a minor renovation, you’re going to need a contractor. We’ve all heard the horror stories of jobs half done, lack of proper permits, or worse, projects that fall down in the first strong wind. No one wants to find themselves in that position.

Finding a contractor that you can trust is a challenge. These tips will help you make the right decision and hire the right contractor for your job.

  1. Get recommendations. They can come from friends, family, co-workers, local building inspectors, and even the local association of homebuilders or remodelers. If you don’t already have a few people in mind, start asking around.
  2. Check local resources. The Better Business Bureau and the state consumer protection agency (North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services) can let you know if complaints have been filed against anyone you’re considering.
  3. Talk to them on the phone and in person. You’ll get a sense of who they are and how you can expect them to treat you. Communication is key; so make sure that you are comfortable with their communication style.
  4. Make a list of questions to ask. Ask for references – financial and previous clients. Ask if they handle jobs your size (big or small). Find out how many other projects will be going on simultaneously. Don’t be surprised if they can’t start on yours right away. Good contractors are busy ones.
  5. Check their references. Reading online reviews is helpful but shouldn’t be the only way you gauge business satisfaction. Make sure that you speak to at least a couple of their previous customers.
  6. Make sure that they can provide proof of licensing, bonding, and insurance before the project ever begins. Get this information before any work begins. They should have a license or certification in their trade or specialty as well as any necessary licensing from the city or county. Bonding guarantees the contractor will complete the job according to the terms you agree on. They should also have the proper insurance policies in place; including general liability, workers compensation, and builders risk policies. Ask about subcontractors and make sure they are licensed, bonded, and insured, as well.
  7. Ask for bids from at least three contractors. Don’t automatically choose the lowest bid – they may use the cheapest materials. The breakdown of costs is typically 40 percent for materials, 15 to 20 percent for their own profit margin, and the rest should include labor and overhead. Get detailed bids that break down these costs so you can see and decide for yourself if you’re being overcharged.
  8. Expect and discuss a payment schedule. Typically you’ll pay 10 percent up front, make three or four payments during the job, and a final payment will be due when the job is 100 percent complete. If a contractor asks for half or more as a deposit, this could be a sign of financial instability.
  9. Get everything in writing. Every detail – including start date, cost of materials, labor costs, job expectations, payment schedule, and any other details should be made in writing. Both you and the contractor should have a copy. Don’t work with anyone who isn’t willing to put the details in writing.

A home renovation or build is stressful enough. Finding the right contractor makes the process much easier and gives you peace of mind. Use these tips when you’re ready to hire your next. It’s also a good idea to keep your insurance agent up to date on your home’s progress – that way you’ll be sure to have the right North Carolina homeowner’s insurance policy in place when your project is complete.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Scott Lewis.

Comments

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  1. Simon Brooks's avatar Simon Brooks
    I love that you remind people to actually meet any commercial contractors they're thinking of hiring in person and to not just talk to them on the phone. Meeting them in person not only allows you to get an idea of their attitude and how they'll treat you, as the article states, but will also give you the chance to ask questions that might have had harder answers to explain over the phone. Whenever possible, you should try to meet with any contractor in person before the project has started so that you can lay out what you want done, how much it will cost, and so you can sign an agreement about all of that.
    Reply 1/29/2016 6:41 PM
  2. olivia nelson's avatar olivia nelson
    I like your tip on having a list of questions to ask a home renovation contractor before you interview them. I would imagine that having questions ready beforehand would be a good way to ensure that you are prepared. My husband and I are looking for someone to help remodel our home so we should probably prepare some questions we want to ask them before we interview them. http://www.zdonbuild.net/renovation-remodeling
    Reply 9/21/2016 7:03 PM
  3. olivia nelson's avatar olivia nelson
    I agree that checking a realtor's references would be an important step towards hiring them. I would imagine that finding someone who offers you plenty of good references could be trusted. My husband and I are looking to buy a new home so we'll have to find a realtor who has plenty of positive references. http://www.exittrinityrealty.com/areas/Gahanna
    Reply 11/3/2016 4:31 PM
  4. olivia nelson's avatar olivia nelson
    I agree that checking a realtor's references would be an important step towards hiring them. I would imagine that finding someone who offers you plenty of good references could be trusted. My husband and I are looking to buy a new home so we'll have to find a realtor who has plenty of positive references. http://www.exittrinityrealty.com/areas/Gahanna
    Reply 11/3/2016 4:32 PM
  5. Ridley's avatar Ridley
    I appreciate your tips for finding a good contractor. I am hoping to renovate my kitchen, so I need all the help I can get. I like how you talked about making a list of questions to ask them. I will go over our planned renovation and come up with as many questions as possible. http://www.crivitzlumber.com/building-contractors
    Reply 12/15/2016 5:17 PM
  6. Rachel Lannister's avatar Rachel Lannister
    What a great read, thanks for writing it. You wrote that you should get at least three bids from different remodeling contractors. With three different bids, it would allow for easy comparison, and would allow you to see different opinions and ideas for your remodeling project. I'll be sure to keep this in mind as I look for a good contractor.
    http://home-partners.com/services/repairs
    Reply 1/26/2017 3:01 PM
  7. John Ferrell's avatar John Ferrell
    I like that you said that we should make sure that we speak with some of their previous customers. When I was looking for a general contractor, I didn't know exactly what I would want. After looking at the reviews, I asked a couple of questions to learn what they were all about. You might want to hire a professional that is recommended by someone else. http://souvannaconstruction.com/services.html
    Reply 2/14/2017 3:46 PM
  8. Hardhat.jobs's avatar Hardhat.jobs
    Ask your contractor for references. This will help you to ensure that your contractor has successfully completed the kind of work you want him to do.
    Reply 2/28/2017 2:24 AM
  9. Hardhat.jobs's avatar Hardhat.jobs
    Ask your contractor for references. This will help you to ensure that your contractor has successfully completed the kind of work you want him to do.
    Reply 2/28/2017 2:24 AM
  10. Jade Brunet's avatar Jade Brunet
    Getting recommendations sounds like a great idea when it comes to finding a construction contractor. I like what was mentioned about checking with friends and family about their experience with contractors. It would also be great to find a contractor who puts safety as a top priority to give you peace of mind that the project will be completed efficiently and properly. http://mangum-civil-constructors.com/about-us-and-our-services.html
    Reply 3/22/2017 1:53 PM
  11. jresquival's avatar jresquival
    That's a good tip to talk to the contractor on the phone and in person. This way you can make sure you understand each other. Communication is important in finishing projects. http://noreastpm.com/
    Reply 3/27/2017 4:47 PM

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