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By Stephen Sellner | Citizens Bank Staff
Contractors on TV make most home improvement projects look like a (relative) walk in the park. The end result is always stunning.
But there’s a reason why not every contractor has their own TV show; there are some good ones out there and some not so good ones. Finding a contractor who will properly execute your project on schedule and budget can be exhausting. But it’s not as exhausting as dealing with a below-average or suspect contractor who can’t seem to get the job done to your liking.
So how are you supposed to find a trustworthy, competent contractor? Cross your fingers, cover your eyes, and hope for the best? Not exactly.
Follow the precautionary measures below to make sure the contractor you hire is best suited to bring your dream project to life.
Contractors must meet your state’s minimum requirements to operate. So, learn those requirements and make sure the person you’re considering meets them. For example, some states require licensing to bill over a certain minimum amount.
Written reviews are a strong indication of a contractor’s body of work.
Word of mouth is also particularly strong, especially if the contractor was recommended by one of your friends or family members. You can also check out the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and social media for other reviews. Hopefully you can find pictures of their completed projects to get the affirmation you need.
Pay attention to how a contractor holds themselves and their equipment. Yes, appearance actually matters.
For instance, is their company vehicle a mess or well kept? What’s the contractor’s demeanor? Do they listen to your concerns or regularly cut you off during conversation?
It’s largely assumed that serious, reputable contractors carry insurance, even if it’s not a state requirement.
Ask for a copy of their insurance certificates and check the policy dates so you’re not deceived. An uninsured contractor should definitely raise a red flag.
The more detailed a contractor is, the better. You want someone who is aware of every step of the project and experienced in clearing any hurtles or pitfalls that may occur along the way. Also, someone who omits the details may not be aware of them. And, as a bonus, a detailed contractor will most likely give you a more realistic timeline.
Check to see if they included everything in writing, even cleanup and removal of trash. Ask what specific protections they will use on your house. And ask what is required of you during the process.
Low bids might be tempting to accept, especially as your imagination wanders. Think of all the money we’ll save!
Not so fast. A low bid might reflect a misunderstanding of the job and what it’ll take to complete. Bids are usually a good indicator of the level of work the contractor will perform. So if the bid is too low to be true, don’t take the bait.
Conversely, that doesn’t mean the highest bid will yield the best result. Most worthwhile and experienced contractors tend to be close on their bids. So if you receive a much higher bid than the rest, it could mean that contractor is just too busy to take on your job.
Note: Get at least three bids before choosing a contractor. That way you’ll get a better understanding of your options.
The more you know about the job and what it takes to complete, the better prepared you’ll be to talk to contractors. It’ll help you ask the necessary follow-up questions rather than just smiling and nodding at whatever they say.
At the end of the day, choosing the right contractor comes down to trust. How do you develop trust with someone you barely know? These steps aren’t a guaranteed way to do that, but they’ll give you a much better idea of the person and company before you sign on the dotted line.
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