Six Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

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There are two types of contractors….those that want to get the job and those that want to do the job.

Just because someone passes a contractor’s exam does not mean that person is a quality contractor. A contractor license says nothing about the person’s honesty, integrity, emotional stability, judgment, interpersonal skills, and other critical intangibles. It therefore falls on you to protect yourself when hiring a contractor.

Based on my experience, here are the questions you should know the answers to before a contractor does a job for you:

Is he or she actually a contractor? You’d be surprised how often someone will pose as a contractor when in fact they’re not. If the state requires that contractors be licensed, check the person out via the state’s licensing website.

Is his or her disciplinary record clean? Past behavior is usually a good indicator of future performance, so you want to make yourself aware of your contractor’s past and avoid hiring a ‘bad apple.’ Disciplinary information is usually available on state licensing websites.

Is he or she competent and experienced with your type of project? Don’t be afraid to ask contractors whether they have handled similar types of projects, and if so, how many they’ve handled and the results. This will help you avoid hiring someone not truly suited for your project. And, ask the contractor for references of clients for whom he/she has handled a similar project.  Happy clients are often willing to discuss the experience they had with the contractor.

Does he or she stay busy? A project done right, on time and on budget takes a skilled contractor. So, avoid the contractor with too much time to attend to you because the work may drag on while draining your wallet.  A busy contractor is less dependent on the income from your project and will likely have the skills and experience your project needs for a reasonable fee.

Is this person attentive to you and your concerns? A common complaint from homeowners is that contractors don’t communicate with them, return their calls or keep them advised on the status of their projects. If the client feedback you receive when checking the contractor’s references is along this theme, look elsewhere.

Is the bid realistic? You want to attract contractors that make realistic bids. That way, there won’t be reasons to jack up the price later after work is under way, plus, you won’t become hostage because it’s too expensive to fire the contractor and start over.

Photo credit: iStock Photography

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