Every day, thousands of homeowners across the country are hiring contractors to work on their homes. Whether it’s for an entire renovation or just a few projects around the house, there are certain questions that you should ask before making your final selection.
Here are questions to get you started:
1) How long have you been in business?
This is often one of the first questions asked by contractors, so why not ask them first? Don’t be intimidated if they’ve been in business longer than you’ve been alive; however, it is helpful to know what kind of experience and expertise they bring to the table. If they don’t have much experience working on houses like yours, this could pose problems down the road. In addition, if they are still relatively new to the business, there may be a higher risk of them walking off the job mid-project or not finishing what was promised.
2) Will you provide me with references?
Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor for references; otherwise, they may not feel the need to offer them up. Before you even hire a contractor or agree on a contract, make sure that you request references and contact at least three of them. If the contractor is reluctant to provide good contacts, this should set off some red flags.
3) What is your fee?
Generally speaking, contractors should provide their services and fees with an hourly rate and an estimated time frame (e.g., “I charge $100 per hour and work 8-hour days”). Keep in mind that while certain hours may be more costly than others (i.e., after-hours, weekends), higher rates do not always indicate better quality service. Also, consider whether any additional fees may apply. For example, some contractors charge three-fourths of the quoted fee as a down payment before starting work on your home. In addition, make sure that you understand all labor and material costs – it’s not uncommon for the contractor to provide the supplies upfront and then be reimbursed by you after everything has been completed.
4) What permits/licenses do you have?
Your selected contractor should have a legitimate license for each trade used to complete your project (e.g., electrical, plumbing, etc.). If they don’t have a specific license for something that requires one (such as electrical), it is perfectly acceptable to ask them if their employees are certified in that area. In addition, many states require general liability insurance for contractors who plan to conduct business within that state. You don’t want a contractor walking off the job mid-way due to a licensing problem, so make sure you have all of your information prior to signing a contract.
5) How many projects have you completed in my area?
A good sign of quality service is when the contractor has extensive experience working in your geographical area – especially if they have been there for a number of years. The more projects they complete on an annual basis, the better chance that you will get what you pay for (and more). Don’t be afraid to ask them about their experience; it’s not an embarrassing question and it can save some major headaches down the road.
While you don’t have to ask all ten questions, they are a great starting point for any homeowner. If the proposed contractor is not willing or able to answer these questions, it may be wise to continue your search. Remember, the best contractors are busy because they deliver quality service at fair prices.