Finding And Hiring The Right Contractor For
Your Home Improvement Project
Like any profession or field, there are good contractors and not-so-good contractors. Knowing where and how to look for the right contractor for your next home improvement project can make a huge difference on whether or not you are happy with the results. There are plenty of quality contractors out there, you just need to find them and determine if they are the right person or company for your job. Then you need to put the right system in place so that your project is high quality and completed on time.
If you talk to any fix-and-flipper out there, most of them will say that one of their biggest problems is finding the right contractors. If they are having trouble, how are you supposed to find one? Don’t worry, this quick guide will put you ahead of them when it comes to finding and hiring great contractors.
One thing to say before we get into the details is that there is a joke about contractors. They say to pick two because you can’t have all three: great price, great quality, and timeliness. We are here to say that you can have all three. However, most people focus mostly on the price which, in my opinion, is a mistake. Obviously you don’t want to be ripped off but isn’t it worth it to pay a little more so quality work is done in a timely manner? Just some food for thought.
In today’s day and age, you don’t have to go far (or even walk away from your computer) to find contractors. Make sure that whatever method you use to find them, talk to the right contractor for your job. You don’t need a roofer to handle your electrical work (even if they swear they can handle it). If they have the experience and qualifications that’s fine but some people will tell you anything to get work or get paid. Below is a list of places to search with a few details about each:
Google - Ah yes, the all-knowing Google. A great place to find a list of people and companies that handle the services you are looking for. An easy search to do is just put in the city or county and state you live in and what type of contractor you are looking for. For example, “Cleveland Ohio Electrician” or “Cuyahoga County Roofing Contractor”. Google will direct you to a map with where they are located, reviews, their website and/or contact info, and more. I would always look at reviews but don’t always let a bad review disqualify them. If a company is doing enough business, they are bound to have a bad review here or there. There are people who will always find something to complain about. If someone has 200 reviews and there are 2 bad reviews, that’s not a reason to not call them. If there’s 200 reviews with 100 bad reviews, that’s a different story.
Building Department - If you have a local building department in your town or in the town next to yours, they probably have contractors that they deal with and can send you a list. Keep in mind: just because they are on the city list does not mean they are the right contractor for you. You can ask the people at the department to see if they’ll give you a recommendation.
Home Improvement Stores - Contractors are in and out of these stores all of the time. You can directly find contractors at the stores or you can ask people who work at the stores because they deal with contractors all of the time. An example would be to ask the people at the Pro Desk at Home Depot. They know who are doing a lot of jobs and buying a lot of materials.
Networking - asking for referrals from people you know is a great way to find people in all professions. They can give you details about their experiences.
Social Media - This falls in line with networking. However, social media has perks on top of just asking your network. There is more reach with social media and it takes much less time than calling people you know individually. Also, groups on Facebook can be a good place to look. Nextdoor is a good app to get recommendations from people right in your neighborhood. You could even post a picture and people may be able to give you estimates based off of it.
Yard Signs - In driving around for about 10 minutes, you’ll probably see yard signs of different companies. You may even see cars or trucks with signs or writing on them advertising their business.
Choosing the RIGHT Contractor
Now you have a list of possible contractors to reach out to. Select a few that you think might be a good fit and see if they will come out to give an estimate and see what their timeline is like. Depending on the size and expertise needed for the job, you can get as many estimates as you want. Side note: many plumbers will charge you a fee for just for coming out so it may be a good idea to ask them on the phone beforehand.
On the phone or in person, you should ask them if they are licensed and insured. If not, it’s probably in your best interest to say thank you and move on. They should also be willing to pull permits for any work that a city requires it for. You can also ask about experience, if they warranty their work, and for any references. There is no right answer to some of these, just the answer that is right for you. It is definitely in your best interest to talk to references and get pictures of their work to know that it’s high quality.
You may get one estimate and be fine with it if it’s a small job or you may get 5 if it’s a bigger job. 2-4 is usually a good number before moving forward. Price is not the only factor. You need to select someone who you felt was professional and had knowledge of what needs to be done. When finally selecting someone, you should get the price and terms in writing that both of you sign and have a copy of. The details should include price, when project will be completed by, the scope of work, and other terms that are important to you such as keeping the work area reasonably clean and cleaning up after finished. It may also address what happens if something unforeseeable comes up like termite damage to the studs when removing drywall. They are called contractors, make sure there is a written contract!
One very important thing to remember is to never pay anyone in full upfront. A small down payment on the labor/materials may be required but if someone is pressing you to pay them in full before they start, I would find someone else. However, if it’s a big project that lasts several weeks, it’s not unreasonable for contractors to want periodic payments based on the amount of work completed.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to fire someone if they are not following what you agreed upon. For example, if they are way over their timeline and not showing up, have them sign off on cancelling the contract and then pay them for the work they’ve done. Then find another that is a better fit. Hopefully by following the previous steps, you won’t get to that point though.
Great contractors are out there and now you should have a better understanding on how to find and hire them. We just scratched the surface on the subject so feel free to reach out to us if you are looking for more tips or have questions. Most people will use the first person they find or the person with the cheapest price. That may work out sometimes but from our experience it’s not the way to reduce headaches and get the best results every time. Moving forward, I hope that all of your home improvement projects go smoothly!