No matter if you are starting a new home improvement project or you are in the midst of one, looking for a tradesman to do the heavy lifting can be as rewarding as it can be disappointing.
On one hand, the economy has trained any remaining professionals to be more attentive to client’s wishes than ever. On the other, many top contractors are so wary of dishonest clients that they may want references from you, instead the other way round.
Many of them are no longer doing competitive bids, but still, they are aware that not many homeowners are capable of putting up a $100,000 remodelling job. The game has new rules, and you have to learn them if you want to get the most out of your contractor.
Use professionals to hire professionals
The easiest way to find the right contractor is to ask the realtor who helped you find and purchase the property or who is helping you to sell it. Their field of works requires them to have lists of professionals they work with and who they can recommend any time. Your realtor will know which contractors are reputable and which ones are to avoid. As they have their reputation to consider, you can rest assured that whoever your realtor recommends, they will do the job right.
Ask people you know
If for any reason you don’t trust your realtor, another great option is to ask your family and friends, or work colleagues to recommends someone. They might have had some work done on their homes and there will be those who are willing to give a recommendation on the service they received. Expand the circle by asking people from your church, community group or association if they are willing to give thumbs up to professionals who did their remodelling.
Still, even if you absolutely trust people who gave you names, it’s always good to do some fact checking, just to make sure the contractor can do what they say, for the price they say, when they say. Check these details no matter if you are just repairing the roof or adding an entire floor.
Find contractors online
In the era when people have more Facebook friends than those they met in person, finding contractors online in your area is easier than you think. There is quite a lot home improvement nation-wide websites like Houzz, HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List and Better Homes & Gardens, where you can search the contractor you need. You can search them by the type of work that needs to be done, or by part of the country. Depending where you live, sometimes municipal agencies or government community sites have lists of local contractors.
Check their credentials
Once you have narrowed your search to a few companies, you need to do serious checking. Among the first things to check are their licences and bonds.
Depending from state to state, most of them need to have their surety bonds in order, as well as formal registration of their companies with the local government body. You can also check their status with the Small Business Association, as well as their Better Business Bureau profile. There you can see if someone has complained about them as well as their rating.
Honest contractors are ready to share all this legal information because they have nothing to hide. However, if they start finding their way out of the questions, you may think twice before hiring them.
Consider these tips before hiring
When you single out an individual contractors it would be smart to ask if they hand experience with projects like the one you have in mind. Talk your way in and say that you would like to know how they plan to approach the work, how long it would take and most importantly, how much will it cost. This is also the point when you have to decide if you will get along with them. If you don’t find a common ground here, you should consider finding someone else.
If possible, visit them at work, for example another client’s home and see how they treat client’s property, who they hire as employees and so on. If you are ready to spend thousands of dollars for remodelling, these things matter.
Forget about the lowest bidders
This is where the common sense kicks in – you want the best work, not the best price. Contractors and subcontractors who charge more hold licences and insurances, as well as take effort to inform the homeowner about the work progress – and these cost money. That low-bid guy who is working out of the truck might seem a budget-friendly option, but if he cannot produce valid licences, insurance certificates and other fine print, watch out. By ensuring you hire a professional contractor who is an expert in what you need doing, you avoid turning your house into a testing ground.
List the house rules, payment schedule, etc.
In order to avoid unpleasant situations and misunderstandings, draw up an agreement about who will be in the house and when as well as which areas crew members will be free to use. Don’t expect them to know your preferences and dislikes – you need to tell them right at the beginning. Arrange the timing of payments, while keeping in mind that many contractors have cash-flow issues. Good communication is the key.
Treat your contractors with respect
This tip comes straight from professionals. No matter how important you think you are, treat your pros like equals. They will appreciate if you discuss issues with them rather than give orders. An occasional cup of coffee can get you extra things done off the books. Not unlike office workers, remodelling pros have things they like and things they don’t like.
Getting down on hands and knees in small spaces is no one’s favourite detail. Make sure you make things easier for them by cleaning the places and spaces that need work. If there is something you can do before the contractor arrives, don’t be afraid to get a little dirty and make the heavy lifting easier. They have their ways of saying thank you.
Everything begins with finding a reputable contractor. Ask your friends or people whose reputation depends on recommending creditable professionals. The next step is checking their licences, certificates and other permits. Everything else falls on your communication and setting the rules in advance.
AUTHOR: James D. Burbank is the editor-in-chief at BizzMarkBlog. He has also recently been involved in a couple of remodelling projects on the side.