7 Tips on Finding the Right Contractor

7 Tips on Finding the Right Contractor
  • Opening Intro -

    You're about ready to embark on a major home improvement project, one where you'll need to hire a general contractor to oversee the work.

    Find the right contractor and your job will be completed on time and under budget.

    Use the wrong contractor and your job may never get done and cost well over your budget.

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How to make your home improvement project a success.

The following seven tips can help make your home improvement project a success:

1. Experience counts — Choose only a contractor with a strong track record and years of business experience. Hire a newly formed business or go with someone who doesn’t have the experience and you’ll deal with someone who doesn’t have the connections to hire subcontractors or the influence to negotiate deals on supplies for your home.

2. Obtain multiple bids — You may get the recommendation for the best general contractor, but you’ll have no idea whether that person’s price is competitive unless you solicit multiple bids. Get at least three from experienced contractors and compare each bidders offer to see how they match up. Be careful about hidden charges such as disposal costs, permits and fees.

3. Get recent references — Before you decide on one contractor, you’ll want to obtain references from their customers. Ask for at least three recent references, people who have used this contractor within the past year, if not the past few weeks or months. Call each person and ask if they were satisfied with the contractor’s work and whether there was something the contractor did that could have been done differently — i.e., used different materials to save money. Or whether the workers cleaned up after themselves each day.

4. Get it in writing — Everything you want done should be in writing. Know what materials will be used, who will be doing what work, what recourse you have if the job isn’t done right or on time and anything else you know should be listed. A signed contract gives you the best protection and can help you avoid costly misunderstandings later.

5. Negotiate with passion — Be prepared to negotiate price to your satisfaction. You have much more leverage when the economy is slow and unemployment is high. You’ll pay more for your home improvement project during the middle of a housing boom then you would when the market is down. Leverage your local economic conditions to get a price that is right for you. Above all, stick with your budget.

6. Pay a bit at a time — Seasoned contractors expect little or no money up front. Much of what they need to buy is bought on credit and that bill comes due in 30 days. You may be able to get away with putting as little as 5 percent down and making incremental payments as you go. Never make your final payment until the job is done and that you’re satisfied that all loose ends have been tied.

7. Check in regularly — If you must leave you home to have the work done, you still need to stop by to check up on the work as it is being done. Even the best contractor may have a different idea on how your deck railing should go. By checking in, you can ensure that the work is accomplished according to your specifications.

Be mindful that even the best contractor doesn’t know or do everything — that is why subcontractors are used. Your contractor should show his local license before beginning work as well as his insurance coverage.

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Categories: Contractors

About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Auto Trends Magazine", an online publication. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and weblogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".