Ten Best Practices to Hire a Competent and Reliable Contractor

If you own a home, sooner or later you will need to hire a contractor to fix something broken in your house, an urgent repair, updating, or for those general home upkeep jobs that you are not able to find the time for.  However, hiring a competent and reliable contractor is not necessarily as easy as it may seem.  In this article, we’d like to outline ten best practices to follow in order to avoid bad surprises for either of you.  A good contractor won’t mind discussing these items with you, and will also have questions for you.  A key to successful job completion is communication- try to make sure you and your contractor are in agreement throughout the process of your contract.

  1. No license and insurance, no job

Usually, contractors must have a permit and a license to perform their profession.  You can check what types of tasks require licensing here: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/ They must also be insured against general liability in case of accidents on the job.  These are minimum prerequisites for professional contractors.  So, no license and insurance, no job.  This will also avoid your own liability in case of problems.  In Virginia, you can check for a business’s license by looking here: http://dporweb.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/

  1. Hire someone from your area

Not only are you supporting your local community, is it also easier to get information about your contractor. You may also spend less that way because of lower travel costs.

  1. Define the scope of work very well

Miscommunication is a major cause of headaches, misunderstandings, disappointing results on both sides, and as a last resort- litigations. A detailed and precise scope of work allows your contractor to make a good evaluation of his costs and, consequently, of the final price, with no room for arguments, discussions and litigations.  Both parties will be much more satisfied with the final outcome if they agree about what is going to take place during the contract period, and how.

  1. Get 3 quotes at least before hiring

It is not only about money, as this trick will help you to know your contractor and understand his strengths before making any decision. Choose between a wide range of companies, in order to get a good idea of what the local market offers in terms of price, quality and conditions.  If the contractor will be working in your home for any length of time while you’re living there- please make sure your personalities mesh well.

  1. Ask for references

References and recommendations are important, as contractors often find new customers through networking.  So, serious contractors make great efforts to build and keep a good reputation and consequently have several good references.

  1. Consider how much time your contractor takes to deliver the quote

After all, delivering the quote is the first job that your contractor does for you, isn’t it? Therefore, you can have a quick idea of how your contractor works by simply considering how well they communicate and delivers during this phase.

  1. Let your contractor interview you

Communication is not a one-way road.  Meet your potential contractor in person and let him ask you about as much as he or she wishes. This will build confidence between both parties.

  1. Try to determine material costs

This task is not too difficult to achieve- you can simply call suppliers and ask or go shopping to see for yourself.  It will help you to understand if your contractor’s mark-up is reasonable.  Contractors mark-up supplies because they need to set aside time to select, purchase, and deliver supplies- or stand by for delivery.  Some home owners buy their own materials- which may work.  A caution about this is that if the wrong materials are supplied for the job- the contractor may have a very difficult job making a beautiful finished product.

  1. Write or ask for a written contract

A written contract is the best way to prevent possible problems and protects both you and your contractor. It is important that the detailed scope of work, agreed-on price, completion date, payment schedule, and any other necessary terms are written on the contract. Make any changes during the project in writing with signatures from both parties.

  1. Pay as the job is finished

Paying when the job is finished protects you from bad surprises.  However, in some cases you may have to pay according to a draw schedule (for larger jobs) or in advance (or at the store) for the cost of the material. As a rule of thumb, give as little money as possible before verifying completion of work.  Your contractor must put trust in you as a customer as far as this is concerned, but what company pays before employees do any work?