In effect, the home contractor is your point person throughout the job.
Finding a qualified contractor involves more than just searching through the Yellow Pages or seeking guidance through Internet sites. This person needs to be “vetted” and have the references to show that that he is indeed able to handle the job. The following five steps can help you find the right person for the job, ensuring that your home improvement project is a successful one.
1. Word of Mouth
A friend, family member or neighbor who has successfully completed a home improvement project is your best choice for a home contractor recommendation. Even if this general contractor specializes in kitchen renovations and you’re looking for a new den, this person may have the resources to handle your job. And, you’re able to ask someone you know about the finer details of the work including how long the job took, what problems arose and were addressed, and costs.
2. Contractor Backgrounds
Angie’s List is a popular website whereby consumers share their experiences with general contractors and other professionals. There are no anonymous reviews allowed which means that what people say is ascribed completely to them. The drawback for this site is that you must pay to join. Other sites are free and include Service Magic, which has a big list of general contractors too, but you may not find someone in your area to handle your job particularly if it is a small one. You can always ask for recommendations through your local building supply store. The Home Depot, for example, works closely with contractors and can send someone to your house to provide an estimate.
3. Check References
One reference is okay, two is good, but at least three is best. When you’re planning to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your home, you want to ensure that the people doing the work are suited for the job. Ask each bidder — and you should have at least three — for three recent references. Get phone numbers and call these customers to verify the work and to gauge their satisfaction level. Customers can give you an honest assessment and clue you in to possible problems as well as the appropriate commendations warranted.
4. Ask for Insurance Information
Anyone who sets foot on your property must be insured. If a worker is injured on the job, who will pay for his recovery? If someone damages your home, how will you be compensated? Your general contractor should offer to you a copy of his insurance policy, detailing what is covered. Ask your home insurer if there is anything that he should be offering to guarantee that you are protected. Your insurer can review your own policy, perhaps upgrading it with a rider just in case.
5. Confirm With Your State
Every business should be registered with the state and paying taxes. Many states requires general contractor to be licensed and listed on its registry. Contact your state’s office of the attorney general or division of corporations to confirm that the business is operating legally and meets all state requirements.
Take your time finding a contractor, but be thorough in your research. Never pay for the entire project up front — pay in increments — withholding some cash at the end until the project has been satisfactorily finished.