Hiring a contractor takes patience, knowledge, and the right attitude. It is, in it of itself, an art -- and like any form of art, it takes practice to master. Luckily, we’ve got it all written down for you!
First, you can get in touch with contractors right here and get free quotes for the service you want. Then, use the tips below to make a committed decision!
1. The contractor knows what he/she is talking about
There are hundreds of categories when it comes to contractors, but this part is very intuitive.
Using homeyou to find contractors is made easy for you in many ways, but if you want to contact a contractor directly, we can still help: use our categories to find where your service fits, which in turn will help you better communicate with contractors.
2. You’ve spoken to several contractors and this one stands out
Talking to several contractors might seem like hard work, but more often than not it will be the difference between good and bad service. Here’s what you’ll notice about good contractors:
- Firstly, there are many red flags to help you identify bad contractors, and if you settle for the first contractor you meet, you might miss them. Once you settle for a bad contractor, not getting what you paid for is both commonplace and also far from the worst thing that can happen — you can also be held responsible for property damage and workplace accidents, have to pay more to fix poorly made repairs, and even face legal disputes.
- Second, talking to several contractors gets you better deals. Contractors are aware of this competition, and they will offer better conditions and prices because of it.
- And finally, contacting several contractors gives you a better feel for their service. You can quickly rule out the ones with red flags so you’re left with the good ones. It gives you a lot more confidence that you’ve made the right decision when you can choose!
Be sure to check our cost guide for more information on local costs for the service you need.
3. The contractor is qualified and has insurance
Ask for the contractor’s license number as soon as you can, a good contractor won’t hesitate to give it to you. It’s a good way to quickly know if you’re talking to a qualified professional.
But the contractor should also have insurance. Without insurance, you can be held responsible for workplace accidents or even property damage on neighbor constructions.
4. The contractor insists on having a detailed contract
Contracts are formalities for a reason.
Always demand a written contract before any work is done — if the contractor hesitates on this part, it could mean they weren’t planning on being honest with you.
Be sure to discuss the clean-up duty once the work is finished and have that on the contract — if you don’t, the contractor might use that excuse to dodge the responsibility or charge you extra for it.
- When will the work start?
- What’s the predicted date of completion?
- What permits are required?
- What will be done (in detail)?
- What materials will be used?
- How will you pay (check, credit card, loan financing, etc. paying in cash is not recommended)?
- How much will you pay upfront? (Recommended: 10% of the total; if more, never above 20%)
- When will the following payments occur? (Recommended: chunks of 20 to 25 percent after determined milestones, and the final 10 or 15 percent only after the work is done)
5. The contractor has good reviews and referrals
It’s easy to check online if the contractor has good reviews, but you can also ask personally for referrals — a good contractor won’t hesitate to give you reassurance.
When talking to previous clients, ask about their experience: was the service satisfactory? Was the contract respected? Was the job done upon the agreed timeframe? Where there any problems? The answer to these questions could make it or break it.
6. The contractor DOES NOT insist you pay everything up front
Paying 100% of the project’s value upfront is ludicrous. In fact, paying 50% upfront is still way too much, and you should suspect contractors who insist on those terms. Having down payment — especially for bigger projects — is normal, but never pay more than 20% upfront.
Here’s an example of a good payment agenda you can negotiate with a trustworthy contractor:
- Negotiate to pay 10 to 20% upfront, at the most;
- Determine dates or milestones of the project for three 25% payments;
- Only pay the final 15% (more or less) after the job is done and you have no other complaints.
This approach encourages the contractor to deliver on what they promised, and it gives you great leverage to demand the service you’ve ordered in case something goes wrong or isn’t as promised in every step of the way.
While we’re at it, always suspect contractors who insist you pay only in cash — it’s not a sign of good faith, as this could be used to avoid taxes and it doesn’t leave a “money footprint.”
7. The contractor offers a competitive price
Contractors offering a ridiculously low price are usually not a good sign.
This often indicates poor quality control, illegitimate means of obtaining materials, or desperation. If a contractor doesn’t value his/her own service, why should you?
Good professionals offer a competitive price — another good reason to contact more than one contractor is to compare their bids. It will give you a better feel for what is a good price, what isn’t, and what’s too cheap.
8. The contractor has good communication skills and doesn’t pressure you
Due to the competitive nature of the market, bad contractors will often try to pressure you into making a quick decision because they don’t want to lose you. This means the contractor is either desperate for work or doesn’t have good work ethics.
A good contractor will be informative, polite, and convince you to hire them by proving they can be trusted, not by putting pressure on your decision.
Realising your contractor gives you time and provides information to access your decision is a good sign for future projects — this contractor will also likely keep you updated.
9. Their history with subcontractors is healthy
For big services like additions and remodels, contractors often hire subcontractors for certain tasks.
This is common practice and it’s not something you should worry about directly, but when scouting for the right contractor, make sure they have had a healthy relationship with their subcontractors and that they can be trusted — or at the very least, that your main contractor takes responsibility in case subcontractors mess up.
10. They respect your agenda and your home
As with any project, you’ll also have certain responsibilities with your contractor. A good contractor will respect your decisions and limitations, but you also have responsibilities:
Talk about work hours. For example, if you don’t want people working until late or at specific times in your home, the contractor will respect that — but you should know that will probably cost you more, since they will need more days to finish the job. Discuss this when writing the contract, to make sure the final value doesn’t change.
Plan ahead. Use the planning stage with your contractor to prevent any change of plans from happening after work has already begun. Asking for constant changes is very stressful for a contractor and, once again, will obviously cost you more.
Inform contractors you rejected. It costs them time and money to contact you and they could keep calling for a while if you simply ignore their calls. Be polite and professional — just tell them.
Pay on time. Especially if you’re enjoying the service, the least a contractor expects of you is to pay on time. A respectable contractor will finish the job or reach milestones when agreed upon, so you should pay accordingly.
Leave them a positive review. If the service was great, be sure to leave them a positive review wherever you can. It will help them get more jobs and builds a positive relationship.
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