Warmer weather is right around the corner, and its arrival kicks off what is traditionally a prime time for home improvements. Whether you’re converting your house into a dream home or simply making a few updates, the contractor you hire can determine if your project turns out to be a breeze or a major headache.
This is your home, after all. Connecting with a vetted contractor you can trust should be a top priority. There are many factors to consider when choosing who to hire. Better Business Bureau rounded up some proven tips to help you make an informed decision.
Research and Gather Information.
Always remember to shop around. Try to round up at least three options, and then look each up individually online to get a good sense of their business reputation.
Finding that intel is easiest at BBB.org. It’s where you can view a business’s BBB rating, their accreditation status, recent alerts, and any customer reviews or complaints. Plus, the “Get a Quote” tool directly links you with pricing information specific to your project.
Additional ways to gain some background on a contractor you’re considering include:
- Search for the name of the company along with “complaint,” “reviews,” or “scam” to generate varied results on your search engine.
- Request quotes/estimates and compare pricing. Remember, the lowest bid isn’t always the best bid. They may be cutting corners or may not fully understand the necessary work requirements.
- Ask the company about employees and the subcontractors they hire. Is everyone on their team trained and certified? Do they ensure their subcontractors are properly licensed?
Ask for References.
Talk to a recent customer about their experience. For example, how did the business handle any setbacks? Getting answers to the right questions is key. Here’s what to ask:
- What services were performed? Did the quality of the work meet expectations?
- Did the contractor stick to the estimate and completion date? If not, why?
- How were the lines of communication? Did you receive status updates in a timely manner?
Get It in Writing.
A contract ensures everything, including any verbal agreements, is documented. The contract should include contact information, start and completion dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be performed, projected material costs, payment arrangements, warranty details, and information on any subcontractors.
Make sure you know what you’re signing, though. If there is any part of the contract you don’t understand, ask questions. Also, never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.
Verify Licensing, Insurance and Permits.
Confirming the contractor has the appropriate licensing and insurance protects you from any liability. For example, if the contractor does not have the proper work permits before starting, you can get fined by the city. Here’s what to know:
- Make sure the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your region. Each state’s requirements are different. We recommend researching what is needed in your area.
- Once you have your contractor’s insurance information, call the carrier to confirm appropriate coverage for workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.
- Request that all final inspections be completed by the local building official prior to final payment. Logistics and the price for work permits should be outlined in your contract.
Arrange a Payment Schedule.
Never pay in full up front. The last thing you want is to pay the full amount and not be able get your money back if the contractor/subcontractor stops reporting to the job site. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it.
Also, try not pay in cash. Either use a credit card or a check. If you’re issuing a check, make sure it’s to a company, not an individual. Paying with a credit card provides some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
Inquire About a Lien Waiver.
At completion, ask for a lien waiver from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. If not, a subcontractor or supplier could put a lien on your home.
Ask About Warranty and Potential Future Service Issues.
Think ahead and ask how they’ll handle any issues that may arise after the work is completed. What if it starts falling apart or not functioning properly? Make sure any warranty information or verbal promises are in your contract and find out how long those warranties are honored. Also, remember to ask for all warranty books for materials.
Most importantly, hold on to your contract, you never know when you’ll need to reference it.
For more consumer tips visit trust-bbb.org.