When it Comes to Choosing a Contractor: Don’t Settle for Good; Find the Best!
Vetting a Contractor: Level 300
Many homeowners believe they have done their due diligence when hiring a contractor as they have checked out the businesses name at the Registrar of Contractors. A current license number, a quick look at a couple of review sites on the ‘internet machine’ and a ‘good feeling’ is often enough to make them feel good about signing the dotted line on a contract.
With the renewed interest in all things home, remodeling and updating projects are on the rise, that means that there will be some well-meaning, and not so well- meaning, attempts to fill the need for contractors to do the work. If you are not a cynical person, and even if you are, it is not uncommon for folks to make mistakes in choosing a contractor that can cost them in many ways. The three biggest mistakes we see, along with their consequences, are:
- Hiring a contractor that comes knocking on your door. Often times contractors will come into a state that is in a significant period of growth or suffering from a natural disaster. They will pay to ‘borrow’ a local contractors license for the duration of the demand. They leave when the demand has passed leaving no one to perform warranty work that has been completed. Or worse, they leave while holding the customers money and not completing the job. In this scenario, there is little chance of recourse for homeowners.
*NOTE: This practice is illegal!
- Believing that the lowest bid is the greatest value. One way to come up with the cheapest bid is to cut corners. Often, the cuts are severe enough that the contractor must rely on change orders to make up the difference as he won’t be able to complete the job with the contracted price. What started out as the lowest bid often ends up being ‘change ordered’ to the most expensive bid.
- Not performing due diligence in vetting a contractor. It is not enough to just look up a contractor’s license number. Conduct a thorough search. Make sure that the license number is posted on all official paperwork, business cards and any place the company name appears. Confirm they are licensed in the area of expertise you are hiring them for. You don’t want a plumber working on your electrical system! Check that the owners name on the license is the same on the company’s website. Check to see if the owner has other companies and thoroughly check the standing of those companies as well.
Think Long Term:
Are you looking for any contractor, a good contractor, or the best contractor you can afford?
To choose the best contractor takes more than a quick check on the AZ ROC website. Rosie suggests the following:
- Visit wholesale showrooms to learn about available products you will need such as tile, plumbing, carpet, countertops etc. While you are there ask the sales rep for referrals for your job. A good question to ask is, "if you were having this project done at your home, who would you use?" They will usually refer contractors who are timely in paying their bills.
- For a kitchen remodel, visit two or three appliance distributors. In addition to learning about the newest features, ask each representative you speak with to recommend a kitchen remodeler that he likes and has observed working with customers.
- There is a good chance the same name will pop up more than once. You’ve just identified your first candidate.
- We are very skeptical of most digital review sites because they are also easily accosted for personal vendettas or manipulated or sanitized for the named companies benefit. If you must check review sites look for sites like Guild Quality as their reviews are verified to be legitimate customers and reviews.
- Listen for word of mouth referrals; a first-hand referral from someone you trust remains one of the best ways to acquire an honest assessment of a company’s job performance.
Get even more out of the referral by asking the right questions:
- Was the job kept organized and clean for the duration of the job by all of the subcontractors involved?
- Were subcontractors and suppliers adequately and correctly informed of the scope of work to be performed?
- When questions arose was your contractor immediately available?
- Was the project completed on time? If change orders were made was the time added to the project reasonable as well?
- Were there surprise change orders?
- Had they interviewed anyone else that they wish they had chosen instead?
The Next Step: Getting to know the contractor
Now that you have done some preliminary work, set up a meeting with two or three of the contractors. You will want to become a detail hog from here on out.
You want to be like a detective; take nothing for granted.
- Is Communication reliable? Do they call and or show up when they say they will?
- Acquire referrals from their list of past customers. Ask for the names and contact numbers of the last 3 jobs they have completed. Most people are happy to show off a new remodel that they are happy with! When visiting with the clients, refer to the questions listed above.
- Take a look at one of their jobs that is currently in process. Are there piles of litter and trash? Is the crew conscientious to their surroundings (I.E. are they considerate of parking and life flow for the family).
- Check out their office, even if it is a pick-up truck! Is paperwork neat and orderly or haphazardly strewn around the office or truck.
The time to ask questions is BEFORE you hire a contractor.
We hear from many homeowners who hired based on one or two pieces of information and are then left holding the bag. Our desire is always to help the Arizona Homeowner by arming them with reliable information.
Good friends don’t let friends hire unprofessional contractors! Luckily this best friend of yours has done all this work for you: Find Trusted, Rosie-Certified Contractors Here!
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