Whether your house is a fixer-upper or you just want a special addition to your dream home, you may have to hire a contractor. There are plenty of professional and legitimate businesses out there. Nonetheless, there are also tons of scams and unlicensed people advertising their work. So, how do you know that you’re choosing the right contractor to work on your house? Here are 12 do’s and don’ts to hiring a contractor.
DO hire a contractor who:
1. Has the proper licensing.
There are tons of specific and general websites that will show results for licensed contractors in your area, and don’t just take the contractor’s word for it. Search for their business name or an individual contractor on their industry’s regulatory website, ending in .org instead of .com. That way, you know that the licensing agency isn’t a fly-by-night operation like an unlicensed contractor may be.
Additionally, make sure they know and notify the proper people and authorities before they start their work. The last thing you want is your city to discover that your renovations or home isn’t up to code and that you have to tear it down and start again.
2. Has the proper experience.
Certain projects may require a level of experience that can only be gathered in the field. For example, someone may be licensed for bathroom remodeling. However, they may not have experience with the problems that can happen when remodeling a bathroom in an older house. When deciding on a contractor, ask about their experience with your specific type of project. Check for a portfolio or a few pictures on similar projects.
3. Has enough insurance coverage.
Even if a contractor or a company has years of experience, things can still happen. So, make sure that the contractor(s) you hire have the right business insurance for the work they’re doing. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for any damages done to your home during the process, or any injuries to the contractor while onsite.
The industry standard coverage limit for contractors is $1 million in general liability for residential work. In addition, Georgia law requires contracting companies with three or more employees to have workers’ comp. Make sure they have the proper documentation to verify these limits. You may even want ask their insurance company to send over their certificate of insurance.
4. Has great online reviews overall.
It may be true that some people only like to leave reviews for bad experiences. However, a slew of negative reviews across several websites is nothing to ignore. Check multiple trusted websites like Google, Angie’s List, Kudzu, etc. for customer experiences, especially about the business’s customer service.
Remember to also check the more recent reviews for a company. Some websites default to a certain layout of reviews that may have represented the company in the past but not the way the business runs now.
5. Tells you about their materials and process.
There can be some common misconceptions about which materials, chemicals, processes, etc. should be used for a particular contracting job. So, ask what your contractor uses and how it’s used before they start their work. If you’re so inclined, you may even want to do a little research to make sure their methods or chemicals won’t damage the particular materials your home is made of.
6. Has a written and discussed contract.
Your contractor should always, always, always write down and discuss their planned scope of work. Schedule a time to sit down and go over the contract with your contractor. Ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Know what will be excluded from their plans. Ask about the warranty on their work, what’s covered in the warranty, and for how long.
DON’T hire a contractor who:
1. Contacts you first.
Good contractors don’t have to go door to door to drum up business. Business usually comes to them – whether it’s through advertising or word-of-mouth. If someone comes to your door to quote you for a renovation or offer a “free home inspection,” they may not be a legitimate business. More than likely, the free home inspection will turn up mysterious problems with your home that were neither noticeable nor necessary to work on.
2. Pressures you into doing home repairs immediately.
Additionally, be wary of contractors who follow up too much or too frequently. Contractors and contracting companies are usually pretty busy with their book of business. So, if a company has enough time to constantly hound you about the contract or quote that they’ve given you to think about, it’s time to think about another contractor.
Someone may follow up with you once after a few weeks, just as a reminder that their quote is only valid for a certain number of days. Generally, though, a contractor will give you the quote and their contact information for you to reach out to them if you have questions.
3. Asks you to pay 100 percent in advance.
The most common type of contractor fraud is people who tell customers to pay upfront and then never return to start or finish the actual work. If a reputable contractor asks for any money upfront at all, it will only be a portion of their estimate. Legitimate contractors will want you to review their work before you pay the entire amount.
Furthermore, a contractor can only quote you on what they see at first glance. There are various issues that can pop up while they work and changes that you may want to make later on in the project. These changes will more than likely change the amount of your quote in one way or another. So, asking for full payment at the start is more than a little fishy.
4. Changes the contract or charge order without your written consent.
Again, things come up during a renovation. Your contractor may have to bring things up to code, repair a damaged water or electrical line that was discovered, or just change the type of material they use because of your house’s structure.
Regardless of the type of change, your contractor needs to discuss and amend your contract or charge order in writing with both of your signatures. It’s not enough to have verbal consent. A true contractor will want to have documentation that you approved changes to the plan.
5. Can’t give you a specific start date.
A contractor may be busy, but that also means that they have to be efficient. They can’t just show up to their customers’ houses and start working. They need to work on projects at certain times that work for both them and their clients. So, even if they can’t immediately give you a start date while quoting onsite, they should be able to tell you something once they have access to their schedule.
6. Uses your insurance to pay for unnecessary repairs.
Another common type of contractor fraud is convincing you to use your home insurance policy to make unnecessary repairs. This can cover a wide range of things, from using too many expensive types of equipment to causing damage themselves to get an insurance check. So, it’s important to read your home insurance policy all the way through and talk to your agent before, during, and after the renovations.
Hopefully, these tips can help you account for the warning signs of people who want to compromise your money, safety, or information. Also, don’t be afraid to sleep on deciding the best contractor for you. It’s a big decision!
If you’re looking for cheaper rates on home insurance to handle you, your family, and your home as they grow, just give our agents a call, fill out our online form, or LiveChat with an agent today!