Contractors have a difficult job. They have technical and laborious projects to complete, staffs to manage and a reputation that is constantly under review.
Managing one’s reputation, staying on top of current licensing and constantly delivering quality work is a lot to oversee, but contractors must find a way to consistently meet these high demands in order to stay in business and prosper.
Vetting a company from every angle is important when selecting a home improvement contractor. Here are a few essential criteria homeowners can use to find the right contractor for the job.
1. Rely on a Trusted Source
One of the best ways to find a contractor that’s right for you is to reach out to family and friends who have recently worked with a home improvement contractor.
Everyone has different expectations when entering into a home improvement project, and some personalities work better with others. Relying on friends and family for references helps narrow the search to contractors you’ll likely get along with.
Get some recommendations from a trusted source, and continue your search from there.
2. Investigate Using the Web
There are a lot of great resources online that can help you evaluate potential contractors.
The first place you should check is the Better Business Bureau. You can log on, look up the name of the contractor or company you’re considering and read any reports that may have been filed against them. Keep in mind that no one is going to have a perfect track record, but what you find online can be very telling.
“You’re looking at how responsive they are to complaints filed against them,” says Dustin Taylor, Vice President and Credit Risk Manager at EnerBank USA. “Just because a company has some complaints isn’t a red flag. You’re looking for trends that could be problematic.”
Once you’ve sifted through the BBB’s website, use a simple Google search to learn more. Check out popular review sites like Yelp, Ripoff Report or Angie’s List for some more insight about the contractor’s recent work and how he or she handles conflict.
Finally, look for instances where the contractor may have been involved in legal actions. “That’s an easy way for me to say ‘I’m going to look for someone else,’” says Taylor.
3. Review Their Materials
Most contractors will have a website and social media profiles that you can review to see their work and get to know their personalities better.
Use the website to measure his or her experience. Some websites will directly state how much experience a contractor has or how long he or she has been in business, while others might only allude to the amount of experience acquired.
A contractor’s website or social media profile is also a great place to gain information about home improvement projects he or she has completed. Look for galleries, testimonials or shared pictures that give you a detailed look at the contractor’s work.
4. Look Up Licensure
Not all projects require specific licenses, and the laws vary by state. However, it’s worthwhile to find out if a potential contractor has the licenses required to complete your project. This is particularly important when you’re doing projects involving solar panels, electrical or plumbing.
This is usually information you can find online. While you’re searching, make sure there are no complaints filed against the license, too.
If you want to be more thorough and are talking seriously with a contractor, you can also ask for trade references and talk to local lumber yards about their credit relationship to make sure the contractor is in good standing.
5. Review Legal Documents
It’s important to carefully review whatever legal documents a contractor presents to you before signing anything.
Often, a contractor will give you an invoice or purchase agreement that outlines the expectations of the job. Make sure you read and understand the fine print so you know what you are agreeing to as this could save you from a huge headache down the road if communication signals get crossed.
The legal language should protect parties on both sides, so don’t be afraid to bring up any concerning or confusing verbiage.
Hiring a contractor can be a challenging process, but Taylor breaks it down into two main questions that everyone should ask: “How well have they maintained or responded to concerns to protect their reputation?” and “Do they have legal authorization to do their job?”
As long as you do your research and can confidently answer these two questions, you’re well on your way to having a seamless home improvement experience.