If you’ve planned an extensive renovation or are building a new home, the services of a contractor are indispensable. You are looking for an honest, reputable, trustworthy, and legitimate contractor who’s easy to work with. Successful completion of your project is contingent upon finding a contractor who is well-suited to it and you as a client.
Signs of a Trustworthy Contractor
- Responsive and punctual
- Clean record, within reason
- Listens to your ideas
- Provides written estimates
- Written contracts accompany all work agreements
Signs of an Untrustworthy Contractor
- License abnormalities
- Avoids permits, zoning, and building codes
- Lawsuits against the contractor
- Habitually late or doesn’t return calls
- Speaks poorly of clients or associates
Define Your Project Precisely
Make sure you’re clear on what you want before contacting any contractor. Different professionals have different areas of interest or experience that become apparent when you research portfolios, photo galleries, and before-and-after images.
The contractor might be featured on third-party sites or have a website containing this information.
Online Matching Services
You might find an online service a reliable source of information as a homeowner. These websites use algorithms that connect clients and contractors based on the project. They frequently have a wealth of information about the professional, including client reviews, license verification, and even a criminal background check. Still, don’t rely on the service for everything – if you find someone you client, run a background check on them yourself.
Ask Friends or Neighbors
Friends or neighbors are trusted sources and can make excellent recommendations. Ask a relative, friend, or neighbor who has used a contractor recently for suggestions. When you ask for contractor recommendations, you’re taking advantage of the fact that they’ve already done due diligence. While this doesn’t replace a background check, the fact that they feel comfortable recommending a general or specialized contractor should communicate this person’s value. This is one of the most thoughtful approaches to finding a licensed tradesperson.
Look Offline Too
Be on the lookout for signs advertising professionals operating in your area when biking, driving or walking through your neighborhood. The homeowner has usually vetted these contractors. More importantly, they are comfortable putting their name on their work. You know someone is proud of what they do and would like to hear from a prospective customer since they are willing to display a sign with their contact info.
Check the BBB or CANLII
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) lists contractors who have paid for this service. Otherwise, a business will only show up here if there has been a complaint. Check the BBB for your contractor of choice. If you’re in Canada, the Canadian Legal Information Institute (CANLII) website has a record of all court proceedings in the country.
If your contractor’s name or business appears, that means they’ve been involved in litigation. It doesn’t have to be job-related – anything from a motor vehicle accident to a divorce will surface. CANLII’s website can be a valuable source of information at any rate.
Expand your search to professionals you’ve worked with if your relatives, friends, and neighbors can’t recommend a contractor. Ask your attorney, real estate agent, financial planner, or banker. These professionals are likely to have had contact with contractors. They are incentivized to recommend trustworthy and reliable professionals because they are interested in keeping you happy as their client.
Signs of a Good Contractor
As a bare minimum, your contractor’s record with local and state boards will be reasonably clean. It shouldn’t be a problem if they have a negative record unless the matter is extensive. Contractors often find themselves in lawsuits due to the nature of their business. You will be able to see any uncovered claims on a contractor’s bond on state and local licensing sites.
When you meet the contractor, they should listen and pay attention to you talk about your project. They don’t have to agree with everything you say. Reliable contractors are open about regulatory matters associated with your order, such as permits, zoning, building codes, and inspections. These matters are an essential component of extensive remodeling or renovation work.
Cost estimates must be in writing. Providing non-binding estimates is acceptable for a contractor.
Signs of an Unprofessional Contractor
You can be sure they are in good standing if they are listed on a contractor matching service’s website. A listing means they’ve passed a minimum level of screening. After performing your background check, don’t ignore any disconcerting information that might show up.
Missing an appointment or being late for one is not the ultimate black mark against the contractor, but if they are late regularly or don’t return calls, expect them to continue behaving that way after you’ve hired them.
Be wary of contractors who say bad things about employees, merchants, former clients, or subcontractors, especially during your first meetings.
Do not proceed with a contractor who does not want to sign a written agreement. You need a contract that defines your relationships.
- Ask friends, relatives, and co-workers for references.
- Know what your project requires before you ask for estimates.
- Interview at least three contractors.
- Ask what work subcontractors will do, if any.
- Be realistic about availability.
- Check references.
- Check licenses.
- Check for complaints and litigation.
- Read online reviews.
- Get the necessary permits.
- Sign a detailed contract.
- Negotiate basic rules.
- Verify insurance coverage.
- Talk to the contractor often.
- Get receipts for products.