Finding the right contractor can present the same issues as looking for a significant other. I know what you are thinking— seems like a bold statement, right? Not really. Think about it this way– the right contactor can change your life, open your eyes to new ideas and possibilities and develop into a long-term relationship. The same can be said for finding the right person. Taking the time to get to know someone before trusting them with your home (or your heart) is always a good idea. Below are a few tips and tricks on how to successfully date your contractor.
1. Build a “ little black book” of contractors
The endless possibilities of a simple Google search can be a magical and important tool when looking for a contractor. But it can also produce overwhelming results. Typing the term “local contractor” into the search box won’t cut it. Be specific. Use terms like “licensed general contractor in Sunnyville, FL” or “licensed roofing contractor in Happy Town, PA” the more specific you are about what you need the better your chances are of finding someone. Don’t be afraid to use other “little black books” too. Websites like angieslist.com, yelp.com and dexknows.com are designed to help you find the things you need and they also give you and other customers the opportunity to reviews a company’s goods and services. Check to see if your state has a registry of licensed contractors. Start with 5 to 7 names, give yourself some options and start checking these contractors out.
2. Check out their credentials
Let’s all take a moment and clear something up—we Google our dates. Don’t lie. We check out their Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, blog and you might even search Youtube. We scour the internet for articles, pictures and whatever tiny glimmer of this unknown person’s life we can find. Employ those super sleuth techniques when looking for a contractor. See if they use any social media platforms. Check out their website. Take a closer look at those Facebook pages. All the information you need is literally at the tips of your fingers. But be sure to take it a step further. Call the state business licensing board make sure they are current on their accreditation. Ask for any filed complaints and see if you can obtain a copy of their most current license including any special certification they might have. Go to the Better Business Bureau and conduct a similar search (www.bbb.org). Is your potential contractor recognized by the BBB or do they have complaints on file. If everything looks good make the initial phone call or send the initial email and set the first date.
3. Seek out references
Any person worth their salt knows the importance of a good reference. Ask the contractor if they have any clients who would be willing to provide you with some feedback. Ask to see some before and after photos or a current project they are working on. If you get the chance to talk with their other clients make sure you’ve prepared your questions and be precise—budgets, timelines, project mishaps and more. Asking questions is important. When you meet your main squeeze’s friends don’t you ask for the details? Seeking references for a contractor is no different.
4. Remember to ask about insurance
The last thing you need is to be responsible if something goes wrong on the job site. Contractors are required to have general liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Ask to see a copy of their insurance certificate directly from their provider. If they refuse it might be time to consider calling someone else in your “black book”. Everyone has a list of deal breakers. No insurance = no deal. Just like bad breath might = no second date.
5. The dirty details: schedules, permits and unexpected changes
Face it, things will go wrong. Not everything can be predicted when doing home improvement (or relationships) but things can be prevented. Make sure you communicate clearly and layout your expectations. Provide your contractor with a timeline and inform them of the date you want to start the reno and the date you want the remodeling to be completed. The longer you are under construction the longer it will take to find a tenant or sell the property. Make certain your contractor has taken out the correct permits. If they refuse, consider finding a new contractor. Your contractor might run into a problem with the original plan or find a pre-existing condition which prevents him from proceeding with construction as originally planned. Be sure to stay informed on the progress of any job and ask your contractor to communicate problems or concerns as they arise. You don’t want to be in the dark about a $1,200 dollar structural change.
6. Deposits, contracts and the “I do”
You wouldn’t put money down on a chapel if you weren’t absolutely sure about your partner. So don’t put money down on your contractor if you aren’t 100%. When you’ve found the perfect contractor for the job– know they will expect some percentage of payment before they start work. This means you need be comfortable with their bid and be willing to sign a well written contract. Sign a contract affirming guaranteed payments on certain dates and note the start and end dates of the renovation project, the total cost of the project, and the tasks you need done. Include a clause stating the contractor is responsible for issues or mistakes during the course of the project. The devil is always in the details.
Here’s hoping you find the perfect match!