Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
It’s the start of a new year and spring is just around the corner. It’s also a time many people choose to launch home improvement projects.
One of the biggest challenges for homeowners planning a project is choosing a reliable, reputable contractor. To make the process easier, many turn to review and rating sites like homeadvisor.com, angieslist.com, yelp, etc. Unfortunately, recommendations from these sites offer no guarantees you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.
Do an internet search for complaints about any of the services and chances are, you’ll find plenty of unhappy users. And these review sites aren’t as objective as you might hope. Some sites charge the service professionals for business leads they provide. Some companies pay people to leave positive reviews. Sometimes competitors provide false negative reviews. All of which makes it hard to decipher whether reviews are truthful, legitimate and accurate.
The most important advice is to do as much research as possible before you make a decision about what company to hire for your project. Homes are major investments and home improvement projects are an important aspect of protecting and increasing the value of that investment. Choosing a contractor based only on the lowest bid can cost you money and headaches in the long run.
Here are some tips to help you find the right contractor for your home improvement job.
One of the best ways to start is to ask for referrals from friends and acquaintances, especially if they had someone complete a similar project. These people have first-hand experience and can tell you if they were happy with the quality of work, if the project was completed on time, if the workers were polite and professional, if the project came in on budget, etc.
The most important step in choosing any contractor to work on your home is to verify their registration and licensing with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. A few keystrokes in the agency website will let you know whether the contractor has a current license. If he isn’t licensed, insured and bonded, pass and find someone who is. Without those protections, it is possible a worker who gets injured on site could make a claim against you. You also have fewer recourses if the work is not done to an acceptable standard.
Ask for a contract
Never start a home remodeling project without a written contract. “Professionals have clear contracts that outline the job, process, the cost, and helps clarify how problems will be managed,” reports the National Association of Home Builders. The contract protects homeowners when something goes wrong. The association advises against hiring anyone who tells you a contract isn’t necessary.
Whenever possible, hire a local contractor with an established business. “Area contractors who have been in business for a long time are usually reliable and safe bets for projects. If they didn’t do good work in your community, they wouldn’t still be around,” explains an article in Popular Mechanics.
Review references and work samples
It is perfectly appropriate to ask for referrals of past customers, the home builders association says. You can also ask to see examples of previous projects. Make sure and speak with the references you are provided and ask about their experience. If you can get hold of them, ask the contractor for additional referrals. Check with the local office of the Better Business Bureau for any unresolved complaints.
Ask other professionals
There are many professional connections in the building industry. Ask the guy who did the kitchen remodel you loved who he would recommend for other projects. You can also check professional associations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Roofing Contractors Association, as well as state and local building associations.
Remember, a home improvement project is something you’ll want to live with for many years. Do as much homework as possible beforehand to make sure you find an experienced company that is up to the task.
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