Five Tips on Working with Contractors

Five Tips on Working with Contractors

Doing your homework before you hire can prevent you from being scammed, paying too much or spending months in chaos while your contractor goes over time and over budget. Even when the improvement is needed in a hurry, like a leaking roof, or damaged windows, you’ll be glad you followed these simple steps to get what you pay for.

1. Stay Local

To find a reputable, reliable contractor for your home, check with:

Homebuilders’ association
Local Architects
Insurance Companies
Online Lists for Local Professionals
While national companies can have compelling advertising campaigns and featured sales, you don’t have a choice about who they send into your home to do the work. By staying local, you get to choose the person who will be responsible to see that the job is done right. Most good contractors know that word of mouth from satisfied customers is their best source for future business and keep a list of references you can call.

Some homeowners allow a company who has done good work on their home to put up a sign in front of their home advertising their service. Don’t hesitate to ask your family, friends, and even neighbors who they’ve used in the past, and whether there were any issues. If there were issues, it’s important how they were handled and if they were resolved in a timely and equitable manner. Issues are not a deal breaker, it’s how they get handled that separates the pros from the cons.

2.Check Credentials, Contractor’s License and Insurance

When you’ve got a shortlist of contractors that have been recommended or advertised locally, then narrow the list down by calling and asking for their license numbers and certificates of insurance. Contractors in every state are required to have a business license and insurance coverage. Additionally, in some states they must have a specific contractors license. You can use their business or contractors license number to determine whether they are legally in business and if they have had any complaints lodged against them with the Better Business Bureau. A certificate of insurance from a recognizable company will provide peace of mind in the event that anything goes wrong.

3. Ask Your Insurance Company for Recommendations
If you are doing a repair that involves your insurance company they will often give you a list of contractors that they have worked with in the past. You can ask for their list even if they are not paying for the work. Many home insurance companies have on-going relationships with reputable local contractors who have required credentials, insurance and reputation. You can save time by asking them for referrals and occasionally you might even get a price break based on the referral.

4. Get It in Writing
Be sure to request a written, itemized quote for the cost of labor and materials. If you get at least 3 quotes for a large job, you’ll have time to evaluate which person you feel is most trustworthy. If there’s a big disparity in the quotes, ask them to explain why their cost is higher. They may include a longer warrantee or some other feature. Remember, the cheapest quote may not necessarily be the best deal. If there are undecided components to the job, you can ask for the quote to be updated as the work progresses. If you do make changes, note them on your original document, and make sure both you and the contractor sign it. File this in a safe place until your warranty expires, just in case you have legal claims against the provider of the materials or the contractor.

5. Don’t Pay Up Front – Get Receipts for materials separately.

It’s typical for a contractor to ask for up to 50% down on a job in order to cover expenditures on materials. Be wary of anyone who requires payment in full before they do any work. At the very least, you’ve lost your power to negotiate if the work isn’t done to the standard promised. At worst, this person could possibly be pulling a scam, especially if they are not local. It’s also a good idea to request copies of receipts and keep a file of expenses related to the job. If your insurance company is involved, they will require that certain expenses be documented in order to support your claim.

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