How to hire a contractor, not a conman

Author: Morgan Slater

Hiring a contractor can be intimidating, even a bit frightening, especially if you know someone who has been taken advantage of by a conman.

So how do you find a reputable contractor?

Word of mouth from satisfied clients is a successful venue to try. Ask around-friends, relatives, co-workers, and anyone you know who has built a home or had improvements made on an existing residence. Beware of a contractor that offers you or a friend a discount for spreading the word about their services. A good contractor doesn’t need to reimburse for praise. If you or your friends are satisfied, you’ll happily tell others about your good fortune in finding this contractor without being paid to do so.

If you’re new in an area, you can look up contractors in the phone book, or visit a local hardware or home improvement store and ask a clerk there which contractors seem to be trustworthy and good craftsmen. Beware of a contractor soliciting door to door to gain work. Good contractors are usually so busy that they don’t need to look for work-it comes to them.

Once you find a list of contractors, interview them.

Find out how long they’ve been in business, and how much experience they have working on projects like yours. Ask about prices, keeping in mind that cheapest isn’t always best. You’ll also want to know if they are licensed, if they will obtain the proper permits, if they offer a guarantee or warranty on their work, and can you have a list of references? Can you view houses they’ve built in the past? You’ll want to ask your contractor if he uses subcontractors (plumbers, electricians, painters, masons) and how he does business with them. Ask to see the licenses and permits of these subcontractors.

Lastly, make sure your contractor has current personal liability insurance, property damage insurance and workman’s compensation that covers himself and the subcontractors. This may sound stringent, but think about it-if your plumber installs a pipe that breaks and ruins the new hardwood floors, you’re going to be thankful he has insurance.

Call those references!

Word of mouth can break or make a contractor, but it can also save you a bundle of headaches. Ask former clients about the quality of work, quality of materials, the relationship between building and subcontractors? Was the house completed on time? Did they listen to complaints and take care of issues promptly? Were phone calls returned? Were there delays that the contractor could have avoided? Asking these questions will help you to know if you’ll have problems down the road or if you’ll be pleased with the home the contractor has created for you.

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~ by fugitive watch on October 26, 2007.

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