Plenty of responsibility accompanies property ownership, and certain tasks are particularly bothersome. Some projects are simply too numerous or too complex to handle yourself or with your own staff. Such situations, like major home-improvement projects, require hiring a general contractor – an expert who can oversee your project and ensure the job is done efficiently and effectively. Hiring the contractor, however, can cause as big a headache as personally conducting more menial tasks. Who do you call? What do you ask them? How do you choose the best candidate?
Knowing how to choose the right contractor is a key step in making your home improvement project a success. Check out the following nine dos and don’ts of hiring a contractor:
1. Do your homework
Just because you won’t be performing the work yourself, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be informed about the scope of your project. Read articles and watch YouTube videos detailing similar projects so you can understand your options and know what activities the contractor and crew will be performing for you. The contractor might have options from which you’ll want to choose, or they might have questions for you should issues arise during the project.
2. Do get recommendations
What do other people think of the contractor? It’s vital to talk with other consumers about their experiences with each candidate. Start with friends and family to get recommendations on who has worked well for them. Be sure to check with neighbors and colleagues about their past experiences with local contractors, as well.
3. Do interview prospects
Once you’ve done your research and asked for recommendations, it’s time to interview your list of prospects. Call the contractors and ask basic questions, ensuring they can manage your specific project. Be sure that they can provide additional references, paying attention to each company’s availability and reliability. Choose your favorite three or four prospective contractors and meet with them in person to further discuss your project and their qualifications.
4. Don’t hire the first candidate
The first prospective contractor with whom you speak might seem to meet your qualifications. It might seem simpler to just hire them and call off the search, but resist that temptation. You can’t compare a contractor to potentially better options unless you interview at least three professionals before hiring a contractor for your home project.
5. Do get bids
It’s not enough to consider which contractors offer the best work ethic and track records. Price plays a huge component in choosing the best contractor for your project. Ask candidates not only for an overall bid on the project, but also a breakdown of those costs into materials, labor, other expenses and profit margins. Be sure that provided estimates cover all the costs so you won’t be surprised by hidden fees down the line. Avoid any contractors who appear to be underbidding the project only to tack on unexpected fees once the job has been awarded.
6. Don’t hire the cheapest professional
Many people are rightfully tempted to hire the contractor with the lowest bid, but experts advise against this. The cheapest professional might be offering the best deal, but they also might source inferior supplies or commonly experience project delays. Instead, split the difference and hire the contractor who bids the median price, provided you also feel comfortable working with that choice. Of course, if you’ve done your research and the professional with the lowest bid also offers the best credentials and stellar work history, there’s no reason not to hire that person.
7. Do ask for proof of insurance, license and bond
Only hire contractors who are licensed, bonded and insured to protect yourself, your property and your finances. It’s not enough to ask and take the contractor’s word for it, either. Be sure and ask for written proof of insurance, licensure and bonding before hiring the professional. This further ensures the contractor is trustworthy and qualified.
8. Don’t pay upfront
Be sure and work out a payment schedule before hiring a contractor. A contractor who insists on full or even half of the payment upfront might run into their own financial problems or might have quality or timeliness issues as the project progresses. Experts suggest a payment schedule starting with 10% at the time of contract signing, then three payments of 25% spaced over the duration of the project before a final 15% upon completion. Never pay a contractor more than one-third of a project’s costs upfront.
9. Do put it in writing
Unless the details of a contract are in writing, nothing is set in stone. When hiring a contractor, be sure and take notes that detail the terms of the project. Include these terms, including items like agreed-upon completion dates, payment details, materials estimates, proof of liability and procedures for changes, when drafting the contract. The contract will protect both the property owner and the contractor should issues arise.
Motili customers can avoid some of that headache involved with hiring an HVAC contractor by taking advantage of the company’s nationwide support with more than 2,000 contractors and 1,000 distribution centers. Motili offers multi-family, single-family and commercial property owners a single point of contact for all their HVAC service needs. The already-vetted contractors can provide all the HVAC repairs and installations without the hassle of interviewing, taking bids and signing separate contracts.