Before you allow anyone into your home to work on your property, consider the following 6 questions:
Tip: Listen for how prospective contractors answer your questions. Difficulty communicating now means difficulty communicating on the job later.
1. What guarantees can you give me?
Warranties are a smart way to make sure you’ll leave the table happy.
2. How will you communicate with me?
With every mode of electronic communication at your fingertips, you may have some ideas about how you would like to receive information about your project. Your contractor likely has specific ways he or she likes to communicate, too — daily emails, cloud-based schedules or maybe just phone calls. Make sure you understand how you will be contacted and receive information. If the contractor’s format doesn’t give you what you think you’ll need, agree on a method and format so that you’re not in remodeling limbo on a daily basis.
3. Would you please itemize your bid?
Many contractors prefer to give you a single, bottom-line price for your project, but this puts you in the dark about what they’re charging for each aspect of the job. If you get an itemized bid, it’ll show the costs for all of the various elements of the job, including:
- Demolition and hauling trash
- Framing and finish carpentry
- Electrical work
- Tiling or other floor covering installations
- Lighting fixtures
- Drywall and painting
An itemized bid becomes valuable documentation about the scope of your project. Contractors shouldn’t give you a hard time about itemizing their bids. If they resist, it’s a red flag for sure.
4. When do I need to be available to meet?
Even if you set up a regular weekly meeting, there may still be necessary additional meetings. Touch base with the contractor to make sure you are available to speak or meet.
5. How long have you been doing business in this town?
A contractor who’s been plying his trade locally for five or 10 years has an established network of subcontractors and suppliers in the area and a local reputation to uphold. That makes them a safer bet than a contractor who’s either new to the business or planning to commute to your job from 50 miles away.
- A business card with a nearby address — not a P.O. box.
- References from one or two of his earliest clients. This’ll help you verify he hasn’t just recently hung his shingle.
6. Where can I read your customer reviews?
Nothing will give you a clearer picture of the contractor’s strengths and weaknesses like a former customer. Find them online.
Spotting Shifty Contractors 101
The Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have some handy tips for spotting a disreputable contractor [source: BBB Blog]. He/she:
- solicits business by going door to door
- prefers that you pay in cash
- uses high-pressure sales tactics to convince you to make a quick decision
- requests that you pay for the entire job upfront