For most people, their home is their biggest investment and their most prized possession. When you choose to hire out a remodel or repair, you are spending your hard earned money on a process you are probably not very familiar with, and putting a lot of trust into someone you barely know. Understandably, hiring a contractor to work on your home can be a scary and intimidating process, especially with all the horror stories out there. With that being said, I want to give you some tips and advice that will help ease your mind, and give you confidence in choosing the right contractor for you.
1. Meet with the person providing the estimate on your project. Even if the project is exterior and you don’t need to be home for the contractor to work up a quote, you need that face-to-face interaction to get a feel for the contractor and the company he/she works for.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about the process: a step by step explanation, how many people will be on the job, how long the job will take, and what the contractor will do to protect your floors and/or landscaping (when applicable). Ask to see photos of other similar projects the company has done. Ask about different materials options, which brands the contractor prefers, and if they have any tips to help save you money. Ask about change order policies and warranties. If you don’t understand something, ask the contractor to explain it again. A good contractor should be able to clearly explain all aspects of the project, should seem confident and knowledgeable when delivering his/her answers, and should be easy to talk to.
The exception to this rule: some larger corporations send out a sales rep to quote their jobs. Quite often, sales reps simply take measurements, use a price list to work up a quote, and stick to a script. They generally can’t offer immediate answers to questions outside of the “norm”, so they will pass those questions on to a supervisor or manager. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this practice, you just must decide whether or not you mind dealing with a middleman.
Please note: No matter who the company sends out to represent them, no one should be pressuring you to sign a contract right away!!
3. Ask for proof of insurance, state licensing, and references.
4. Take the time to do your homework! Call their insurance company to make sure their insurance is current. Check their license number. Call their references. Their insurance, licensing, and references should be from the same state you live in. Tennessee residents, check the list of Tennessee’s problem contractors: http://www.tn.gov/consumer/documents/ProblemContractors. Check the BBB for unresolved complaints. See if any other complaints or lawsuits show up in your search results. Keep in mind that most companies will receive an complaint, but they should handle them in a professional and timely manner, to the satisfaction of the client, if possible.
5. Read over the contract, including all the fine print. Be sure that the contract thoroughly explains what materials are to be used, clearly defines what will be taking place, and where. The total cost and breakdown of the payments should also be clearly outlined. If there is a warranty, or a permit needs to be pulled, that information should also be included. Be sure that the contract contains the company’s contact information, and the company name on the contract matches the insurance and licensing documents. If any information is missing, be sure to request it to be included in the contract, in writing, prior to signing.
Be aware: Any contract requiring more than 1/3 of the total contract price at the time of signing, or to reserve your spot on the schedule, is breaking Tennessee State laws. Also, final payments should not be due until the project is complete.
6. Get more than one estimate. Most people recommend obtaining at least 3 estimates. Compare the estimates by comparing the proposed materials, services, warranties, and price. If one price is way higher or way lower, find out why; don’t just automatically pick the one with the lowest price.
7. Most importantly, but often forgotten; GO WITH YOUR GUT FEELING! If your instincts are telling that you the contractor or company isn’t being honest, they probably aren’t. Don’t risk it.