By Rich Ligotino | Jan 24, 2017
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With so many contractors out there, how do you choose the right one for your project? Where do you start? What information do you look for? What questions do you ask? Here is a simple but effective guideline that will help you make an intelligent and educated decision. Contractor
Stay Local. It is always best to find a contractor within a reasonable distance of where you live. My general rule of thumb is about a twenty mile radius, but the closer the better. You may need the contractor to come back to you down the road for a service call or a warranty issue. If your contractor is located fifty miles away he will be very reluctant to make the trip for a minor repair. The contractor will tell you that they will send someone over the next time they have someone in the area. You may end up waiting weeks for someone to come. Remember, contractors are in business to make money. Contractor.
Stay Very Local. One of the easiest ways to find a good local contractor is simply by driving around your neighborhood. Chances are that you will see job signs on people’s lawns. If you see a contractor’s sign on several lawns this is a good indicator.
Ask Questions. This is where you need to be very smart. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, don’t be intimidated. Remember, this is no different than a job interview. The obvious question… Is your company licensed and fully insured? How long has your company been in business? How many remodeling projects has your company done in our neighborhood? How long will we have to wait if ever we need service in the future? Here’s a good one… Why should we choose your company instead of your competition?
If these questions are answered with any hesitation and doubt, then it’s probably time to move on to the next guy!
Research the Product. I always tell my customers to look for the best available products for the best value. Do not overpay or underpay for anything! The old adage, “buy cheap buy twice” tends to rear its ugly head quite often. And nobody likes to overpay for anything. Do your own research. There are many resources out there to compare products. Look for reputable, unbiased sources though. If you know just as much about the product than your contractor does, you will keep him honest!
Longevity & Experience. The home improvement industry is known to have a very low success rate. In fact, 90% of contractors will fail within their first five (5) years in business! I am a firm believer that we all need to start somewhere, and that everyone deserves a chance. However, you are always taking a big risk when you choose a novice contractor.
Would you buy a vacation package to Hawaii for $100 bucks? (I know I would!). Now what if you were told that your airplane had a 90% chance of crashing, would you still buy the package? (I know I wouldn’t!). My general rule of thumb, look for a minimum of five (5) years in business, ten (10) years or more is even better. You will pay a little more for an experienced contractor, but it’s well worth it!
Certificate of Insurance. Do not underestimate the importance of proper insurance coverage. Ask for a Certificate of Insurance naming yourself as the “Certificate Holder”. Make sure the contractor carries General Liability Coverage, and in some cases, Worker’s Compensation Coverage, especially if the project involves some degree of peril (such as roofing or siding). Call the insurance carrier or broker (listed on the certificate) to verify coverage.
References & Portfolio Pics. You would be doing yourself a huge disservice if you do not ask for a few references. Letters are nice, but phone numbers are even better. Talking to a previous customer about their experience with your potential contractor can ease your fears.
Ask the contractor to show you some portfolio pics. These days, most reputable contractors carry iPads or other tablet devices with portfolio pics. Most even have websites that display their project photos. Another old adage… “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
BBB & Social Media. One thing I learned as a contractor myself… when people are unhappy because they feel that they have been screwed, people talk! The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gets inundated each day with hundreds of complaints, many of them from contractors! Check your local BBB website (bbb.org) to see if your potential contractor has any unresolved complaints against them. Make sure they have a BBB rating of no less than “A”. “A+” is the best possible rating.
Social Media has become a powerful tool. Sites like Angie’s List, Yelp, and Yahoo! Local Listings are there to serve as forums for consumers to write reviews and rate companies. Please be very careful though, one or two bad reviews should not discourage you, if there are mostly good reviews.
High Pressure, No Thanks! If your potential contractor sends a high-pressure salesperson to your home, hang in there, stay strong, and don’t succumb to the pressure! The salesperson may force you to make a decision on the spot, otherwise you will lose out on a “special deal that ends today”. A good deal today should be a good deal tomorrow. So don’t cave in to these unscrupulous tactics.
Get a Written Estimate! This is a big one! If a contractor writes a figure on the back of a business card, thank him/her for their time, show them the door, and tear up the card! Call someone else! A serious company will give you a detailed estimate outlining everything that you will be getting leaving behind no ambiguity or vagueness. Everything that is included, and anything that is not. Period.
Three Estimates. There is no need to get more than three (3) estimates. Getting more than three bid is not only unnecessary, but it’s also time-consuming and could cause lots of confusion. Keep in mind, going with the lowest bid may not be your best choice. Consider all the other factors discussed above, and choose the contractor that you feel most comfortable with. Remember, rates can always be negotiated with the contractor. This puts you more in control of staying within your budget.
Financing. Many reputable mid-size contractors offer financing through third-party banks. This may be a good option for you if you want to ease your financial burden and spread out the payments over time. There are even options that included 0% financing for a certain period of time. This will free up your cash and make your project more affordable.
So do your research, be patient and seek the right information. The outcome of your due diligence could make the difference in choosing the right contractor for your next project.
There are certain remodeling projects thar are just too big and complex for you to handle on your own. Your project may require some manpower, special equipment and a certain skill set. You better leave this one to the pros!
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