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6 Time Saving Tips for Hiring a Home Contractor

Want to renovate? Repair a troublesome appliance? No worries! We can help you get on the right track. Before beginning a home repair or improvement project, whether large or small — it’s most important to find a trustworthy, reputable contractor who will take you from start to finish trouble-free.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Follow these tips from Nestiny for a more pleasant and satisfactory experience when looking to hire a home contractor:

1. Get Recommendations

We suggest turning to your business connections for recommendations first. If you are working with an architect for a home addition, they probably know some contractors that they trust. Your Realtor, building inspector, or maybe even your insurance agent may have someone they recommend as well. If you can’t find a few recommendations from these industry professionals, then ask friends or family if they have used anyone that they would refer to you.

The key is making sure you’re getting these recommendations from someone you trust. If you haven’t found enough options to compare or research yet, you can always check the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of contractors in your area. Just be cautious with the sources or websites you use to locate the right contractor so that you have confidence they will steer you in the right direction.

2. Interview

Once you have received some recommendations, interview them all to narrow it down and select a few that you like. Start with a phone interview. Make sure they handle the type of work that you need done and have experience doing so. See how many other projects they have going on at the same time. Find out how long they have been in business and how long they have worked with their subcontractors. See if they conduct background checks on employees of the principal agent or the subcontractors. Ask if they are willing to provide references and a list of past clients. This will all determine their trustworthiness and availability.

Once you have narrowed this list down based on the initial phone interview, meet them face-to-face. At this point, explain your project more thoroughly so you can get a free estimate in writing with a breakdown of each task and materials so you can compare to others. This also allows you to get a feel for who they are and their ethical position.

3. Research

After you've narrowed down your list of contractors and contracting companies, don’t jump to gut feelings just yet. Next, you should start your research.

  • Check their websites and social media for any reviews and comments. Contact former clients and ask about work ethic, what they liked and disliked about the service and work provided, and if they would be willing to provide photos of the final product. You might even ask the contractor if you can visit a current job site to see their work habits and ethics. If they say no to any of these requests, keep looking.
  • Look them up on the Better Business Bureau to see their ratings, accreditation, and customer complaint history. You can also check Dun & Bradstreet to find credit history and business information, the state board that issues licensing, as well as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
  • Discover their qualifications and credentials. They may hold special certifications or memberships such as Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR), National Association of Home Builders Membership (NAHB), or Building Industry Association Membership (BIA). Holding any of these indicates the contractor or the company belongs to an organization or holds a specific title that adheres them to a stronger code of ethics.
  • Find out how long have they been in business. If they haven’t been in business very long, ask more questions than normal. You can never be too cautions.

As you are researching the contractor and company, also research the laws and requirements related to your project. Find out if permits are required and what laws and regulations you will need to follow. Your contractor should know that they have to pull the permit and follow these regulations, but just in case — you should know what’s going on.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor

4. Follow your Gut

Now it's time to listen to your gut. Choose the contractor you feel most comfortable with. Get a feel for how they work and how they will communicate with you. The right contractor will be easy to talk to and will understand your needs and goals. They will be in your home and on your property for an extended period of time and you want to make sure you can work with them. If there are any deadlines you wish to meet for the project completion, be sure to address those concerns upfront to ensure they are comfortable meeting your time frames.

5. Make Sure They are Licensed and Insured

Hiring a contractor that is licensed and insured will save you a lot of headache in the end. This will assure you that they have the proper skills needed to complete your requests as well as the insurance to fall back on if anything should go wrong. Insurances include workers compensation, personal liability, general liability, property damage, as well as any special insurance needed for their particular kind of business. Also confirm that their subcontractors are licensed and insured. Ask for their license and insurance information prior to signing anything with them, and make sure they are current and up to date.

6. Put it in Writing

After getting recommendations, interviewing, researching and narrowing it down to your favorite contractor who made you feel comfortable and gave you an estimate that you can live with, it is now time to talk about the contract. Have the contractor of choice draw up a contract that details each step of your project. It should include a description of each of the following:

  • Project
  • Total cost
  • Itemization/dollar amount of each task
  • Payment schedule
  • Detailed timeframes
  • Materials needed and if it's included in overall price or an additional charge
  • License number
  • Insurance information
  • Any guarantees, promotions or promises and how long they are valid
  • Names of parties involved
  • How to handle additional or unforeseen costs, if necessary

When reviewing the contract, be sure to look for and clarify a few things. Make sure:

  • It's clear who is required to pull permits and handle inspections of the work
  • You are not responsible for mechanics liens once the job is paid in full
  • There is a stipulation that no final payment will be issued until the contract is satisfactorily completed
  • A cancellation and termination clause is included

Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Prior to signing, make sure you understand the contract. Read it thoroughly and if you have any questions, go over it with your lawyer. When you're ready, make sure all parties sign the contract prior to beginning work. After starting the project, any changes that come up should also be handled in writing and signed by all parties before the changes take place. Often contractors call these “change orders” and they may incur additional charges. When in doubt put it in the contract! It’s better to have too much information than not enough.

Finally, take your time. Be mindful when looking for a contractor because hiring the wrong contractor could result in damages to your home and additional costs to correct them, which can make for a very stressful situation. Completing the proper due diligence makes for a smoother project, so keep these tips and suggestions in mind. You may find the process of locating a reputable contractor a little less overwhelming.

Happy contractor hunting, from all of us at Nestiny!

Want more advice about all things home - including homebuying or selling advice? Nestiny is a great place for homebuyer education and to help you gauge how ready you are to buy a home. Journey Homeward allows you to enter all your wants and needs while the True Affordability Tool will break down your budget, showing what you can comfortably afford. You will also receive a Ready Report that will give you a vital head start in the home buying journey, saving you valuable time and money.

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