What to Look for When Hiring a Contractor

Hiring a contractor is a huge decision. It not only involves determining how you want to customize your home but finding a builder that’s up to the challenge. All remodeling projects require a substantial amount of work–no matter how small, from stripping, sanding and repainting kitchen cabinets to replacing a bathroom vanity to adding another room onto a house, there’s a lot of planning and materials involved.

Though these realities can initially send some homeowners down the do-it-yourself route, the majority end-up getting a professional to get the job done and done right then the smaller percentage who complete a project on their own.

And when you need to find a contractor, there are some big considerations to take into account. You want what you want, but don’t want to max-out your credit cards so, you have some homework to do before you get someone to work on your home.

Making Changes Means Change

Homeowners who decide it’s finally time for a change can easily find the process to be a bit more than they planned. When changes are made, like updating a kitchen or installing new bath fixtures or redesigning an outdoor space, the normal way of life takes a turn. Deliveries are made, service providers come and go and an otherwise pristine space becomes laden with dust.

But the sacrifice is well worth it. A bathroom remodel commands an impressive 85 percent return on investment, a minor kitchen remodel gives back 85.2 percent on investment, adding on a story generates 83.2 percent ROI, a major kitchen remodel gets back 80.4 percent, and just replacing old windows fetches between 84 and 85 percent ROI, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Whether you’re planning an addition for a growing family or simply getting new storm windows, finding a competent and reliable contractor is the first step to a successful and satisfying home improvement project. —Federal Trade Commission

As you can see, practically any update you make to your home is a sound investment. But your home is your palace so you want to have a seasoned pro on your side.

And you certainly don’t want to make the mistake of hiring the wrong company . You’ll not only lose time and money, you’ll might have to go through a legal fight. What’s worse, you’ll still have to pay another contractor to finish the job that’s already taken too long.

How to Hire a Home Contractor

The first step is to determine what it is you want and what you’re willing to pay. Or, more aptly, what you can afford. Get some ideas from home improvement catalogs, interior design publications and real estate listings. Any source that provides direction and inspiration while striking a chord is one worth considering.

Once you have a clear vision, then it’s time to get down to the business:

    • Do your arithmetic and check it twice. Determine your absolute budget, then subtract ten to fifteen percent for a contingency fund. If you really want to save money, consider using an architect. Professional designers know local building codes, the cost of materials and know which contractors deliver the best bang for the buck.
    • Get it in writing; threefold for good measure. If you decide to hire a contractor directly, then get at least three different estimates, but don’t take the lowest bid to be the best one warns Consumer Reports. If you get a good vibe from a remodeling provider and they aren’t the lowest price, do yourself a favor and go with your gut.

More Home Contractor Due Diligence Steps

  • Do a little due diligence. Check with the Better Business Bureau and search local clerk of the court records online. In addition, get referrals from family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. One of the best resources of all is right here in our database.
  • Get a clear agreement. Only after you have contract in-hand and have read it thoroughly should a deposit be made. The industry standard is about 30 percent. Always pay by check and stick to the agreement.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask questions as the project goes along–being in the know is never a bad thing. What is bad is changing your mind–even minor changes can mean big bucks.