6 Steps to Finding a Great Contractor
As a real estate investor, or even as a homeowner, you might at some point be faced with the challenge of hiring a contractor. No matter the project scope—a bathroom remodel or a full renovation—you should absolutely do your homework before choosing a Craigslist contractor to get started. As discussed in previous blogs and podcast episodes, your contractor is an essential member of your A-team and can make or break the experience. Doing your due diligence beforehand can save a lot of frustration down the line.
We’ve identified six steps to help you navigate the screening process when choosing a contractor.
- Get on the phone
Start with a phone call. Take this opportunity to screen the contractor like you would a prospective tenant. This is your first chance to gauge their level of professionalism and get a feel for how it would be to work with them. This is also the time to find out if they are properly licensed, bonded and insured. Make sure they have the correct licensing for the work you need done. Ask questions like: How long have you been in business? What are your specialties? What are your weaknesses? How soon can you start? How many other projects are you currently working on? How many people do you have on staff? This will help you get a clear understanding of whether the person or company is a good fit for your project. If you are feeling confident after the initial conversation, you’re ready to move to the next step. Ask for references.
- Reference check
Checking references is key in this process. We all know how to say the right things in an interview, but calling a past employer can be more enlightening and truthful. Call these references, or better yet, go to the past job sites and scope out the work for yourself. Calling references is your chance to ask for the truth! How did the contractor handle setbacks? Were they on time and budget? Did they pull all of the necessary permits? Would you hire them again? These kinds of questions can be eye opening and give you more clarity into the true quality of their work and work ethic.
We live in the Age of Information. If you are leveraging Google, you are missing out on free and easily accessible info. Look at Angie’s List, Google Reviews and other professional review boards. Understand that not all reviews are truly valid, but by Google searching the company name, you can unearth some dirt the contractor may be trying to hide. Searches for scam or rip-off might unveil negative complaints online. At this step, you may also choose to run a background check on the prospective contractor as you would a tenant. Again, conducting all the due diligence up front can save countless headaches in the future.
- Scope their level of experience
When hiring a contractor, you want to make sure they have experience successfully completing similar projects. This means not only the type of work you need, but also in your city and at your target budget. If they aren’t able to prove they can deliver with past jobs, you may want to continue your search elsewhere.
- Meet face-to-face
By this point, the contractor has checked out. Having done some digging, you are feeling confident that they are legitimate and qualified to do a great job on your home renovation. Meeting in person kills two birds with one stone. Invite them to visit the job site and get the opportunity to meet in person. There is value in meeting face-to-face rather than over the phone or through email correspondence. Are they on time to your meeting? Are they respectful? Do you communicate well together? These are important factors to consider before entering into a relationship with a contractor.
- Trial run to hire
You made it to the last step! At this point, the proof is in the pudding. The contractor may have made it through the other five steps but their work will speak for itself. Hire the contractor to do a small job for you before committing to a lengthy project. If they are able to deliver on the project, stay on time and budget, and are a personality fit, then you have a prospect worthy of tackling your larger ticket projects.
While vetting prospective contractors can be an intense and time-consuming undertaking, consider it an investment. By doing your homework in the beginning, you are laying a solid foundation for the future. You may even come out of the process with a long-time partner. Finding a dependable contractor can save you significant time and money in the long run.