When looking to hire a contractor for projects around your home, you need to exercise due diligence and ensure you have found a honest, hard working individual. There are countless stories where contractors have taken advantage of unsuspecting homeowners, completing construction with low-quality materials or not even finishing a job at all. In their wake they leave homes torn apart and confused customers who have lost thousands of dollars.
Follow these seven steps to ensure you don’t find yourself stuck with a bad contractor.
Look for a Busy Contractor
As you begin the process of trying to connect with a contractor, take note of their availability. Are they free to complete an estimate any day of the week, at anytime? This is an immediate red flag. A respectable contractor that produces impressive work at fair prices will always be busy. The same principle applies when you are going out to eat. When you walk into a restaurant on a Saturday evening and you are the only customers in the building, it is probably best that you find another establishment.
Ask for Referrals, Credentials and Company History
One of the best questions to first ask a prospective contractor is how long their business has been operating. Shady contractors will often change the name of their business to avoid the angry customers and reviews they have received in the past.
Check online to verify the contractor’s claims and definitely request multiple references that you are able to call and talk to. If you are comfortable after having these conversations you can then ask for the contractor’s proof of licensing, insurance, and have them describe the permits that will be involved in this particular project.
The British Columbia Safety Authority has a website where consumers can look up licenced contractors in the province, a resource that should be utilized.
Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
It can be very exciting to receive a quotation for an amount much lower that what you were expecting to pay. Before you jump to sign a contract, ensure that you get several other quotes from reputable contractors in the area. If one business can offer a much lower rate than their competitors, it is usually because they are cutting a corner somehow. Common corner cutting techniques could include using cheap, sub-par materials in your home or subcontracting portions of the work out to unqualified workers.
Only Pay a Maximum of 10% Upfront
Another giant red flag is when a contractor asks for a significant portion of the job cost upfront. Professional contractors that are confident in their workmanship will typically only ask for a maximum of 10% upfront. A contractor with a well established business does not live paycheck to paycheck and should only require a small fee upfront to secure their time and start the process of purchasing raw materials that may be required.
Never provide more than 10% upfront.
Many homeowners in the past have paid 50% or the entire cost of the project before any work was started and then never heard from their “contractor” again.
Trust Your Instincts
When engaging in any business transaction, one of the best pieces of advice is to trust your gut instinct. Do you seem to get along with this contractor? Do they come across as a genuine and honest person?
Even if a contractor has rave reviews and is extremely busy with other customers, they still may not be the best choice for you if you don’t get along with them. Remember, if anything goes awry, you will have to work directly with the contractor to try and solve the issue. The better you get along and understand each other, the smoother the entire process will be.
Create a Detailed Contract/Estimate
After you have decided that you have found the contractor that you want to work with, have them draw up a very detailed contract and/or estimate. The more specific, the better. If old flooring is being ripped up and replaced with new hardwood flooring, what style of hardwood is going down? What is the finish? What direction will it be laid?
The more details that are documented the better. If problems do arise down the road, this contract will be the first place a meditator or law official will look. It is paramount that you go over a contract thoroughly before signing it, ensuring all the elements you want are present in the agreement.
Payment Schedule- Start, Finish, Checkpoints
Creating a payment schedule is an easy method of keeping both you and the contractor on the same page. It will be very clear how much the contractor will be compensated when specific check points have been reached. An example could be:
10% ($700) -upfront (September 1st)
10% ($700) -after old flooring from basement has been removed and disposed of
30% ($2,100)- after new flooring has been installed in basement
20% ($1,400) -after basement has been painted with one coat of primer/ two coats of blue 30%(remainder) when the project is complete and the contract is fulfilled (October 31st latest)
Total: 100% ($7,000)
A schedule like this establishes clear dates to begin and finish the project. The contractor also knows exactly what must be completed throughout the project to receive further compensation.
If you follow these seven steps the next time you need to hire a contractor, you can easily avoid 99% of the horrible con-artists that pollute the industry. If you have come across a “bad contractor”, the best thing you can do is spread the word. Report their business to the Better Business Bureau and leave accurate reviews anywhere you can online. Remember to only state facts that you can prove in your reviews to avoid any potential libel or defamation charges.
The same philosophy applies when you deal with an amazing contractor. Support their great work and leave reviews everywhere you can for them online. You can even offer to be a reference for their business in the future and help others find confidence just as you did. This helps strengthen the industry and makes it more difficult for shady businesses to take advantage of others.
At Building Pro Inspections, we love our customers too! Check out some of their testimonials here and don’t forget our seven steps the next time you need to hire a contractor!