Whether you just need a minor repair, or you’re adding an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) onto your home, it is important to hire a professional contractor to help you get the job done right. Hiring a professional doesn’t only save you time and money, but it ensures your home is up to code so you can remain safe, healthy, and comfortable for years to come.
However, finding a contractor can be intimidating. Fears of being charged too much are common, and the possibility of work being done incorrectly could put you and your family at risk.
At Habitat, we know the power home repairs can have on a homeowner’s life. From installing grabrails to making roof repairs, making necessary repairs can not only safeguard a family’s health and safety – it could keep a family from being evicted due to code violations. That’s why hiring a trustworthy contractor is at the top of our Home Preservation team’s priority list before we make any home repairs.
So, what do we look for when hiring a contractor? Here is our hiring a contractor checklist to help you get started on your next home repair, renovation, or home addition project.
- Get Recommendations
Start with your friends, family, and coworkers, or check review websites such as Yelp or Angi's List. Searching neighborhood mailing lists and websites like NextDoor for reviews or posting a request for recommendations there can also yield good recommendations. If a contractor doesn’t have reviews, ask him or her for referrals from previous clients.
Hearing first-hand experiences can help you understand what you’re looking for in a contractor and feel confident that the contractor can help you reach your goals.
- Do Phone Interviews
Once you've made a list of contractors you're interested in, call each of them and ask them for more details about your project. Here are some important questions to ask a home repair contractor before you hire them:
• Do you regularly work in my area?
• How many other projects would you have going at the same time?
• How far out is your schedule booked, and when could you perform my project?
- Meet Face to Face
Based on the phone calls, pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a way that puts you at ease. One of the most important things to look for when hiring a contractor is your ability to communicate well with one another.
- Go With Your Gut
A contractor could be in your home and around your family for days, weeks, or even months while changing the way your house looks and functions. So, if you don't like a contractor for any reason, don't hire him or her. If someone says something that you feel is even slightly an embellishment of the truth, it’s reason enough not to trust them and move on to another contractor. You have to trust them 100 percent, not 95 percent.
- Is the Contractor Legitimate?
To make sure a home repair contractor is legitimate, he or she must be licensed to work in your area, bonded, and insured. Having a license and insurance demonstrates a contractor's credibility and knowledge. It shows that a contractor has taken an exam and proven their knowledge of building codes and processes. A license also minimizes the risk that you will be taken advantage of because if you file a complaint against a contractor, and it is verified, that contractor can lose their license.
Click here to verify whether a contractor is licensed.
If a contractor doesn't have insurance and a worker gets hurt on your project, you could be liable. The same goes for accidents that damage your next-door neighbor's home. You want the contractor's liability insurance to cover costs associated with accidents and damage. Ask for proof of liability insurance.
- Project Types Should Lead the Way
Research contractors to find ones with experience in the types of projects you are interested in. Many projects are regulated and code-specific, so you want someone who knows the details of what’s required of your project from start to finish. An experienced contractor knows how to anticipate the issues that might come up and plan accordingly.
- Compare Several Bids
If you’re asking several contractors for a bid, makes sure each one is basing their estimate on the same set of variables. For example, if you are getting bids for a roof replacement, make sure the estimates are based on the same approach: are they proposing to remove the existing roof completely and replace it? Or are they proposing to install a new roof on top of the existing roof, which takes less time? Are they basing their estimate on materials that are more or less expensive?
- Understand Your Responsibilities
Working with a contractor to build onto, make repairs to, or remodel a home is a true partnership. There are a few important things to understand before hiring a contractor:
• What are the payment terms?
• How much money do you have to pay upfront?
• Are there any payments due mid-way through the project?
• Would the contractor be moving any of your personal belongings out of the way in advance of working on your project, or would you be responsible for that?
- Have a Detailed Contract
The contract should cover costs, brands of items being installed, approximate start and end dates, the complete scope of work (detailed list of what work will be done), and a detailed project budget, including specifically what materials will be used. Make sure that you and the contractor have the same expectations. If you both agree on everything upfront, there will be no surprises later.
- Know Who is Doing the Work
Will the company or person you are hiring do the work themselves? Or will they in turn be contracting it out to someone else (called a subcontractor)? It’s good to know who will be showing up on your doorstep. Having subcontractors is sometimes a good thing. They have more thorough knowledge of their part of the job. If you trust your contractor 100%, then you can trust they would never put a bad subcontractor on your project.
This checklist is the result of years of our Home Preservation team’s own research and experience seeking out dependable, reputable, and competent professionals to help us keep homeowners safe, comfortable, and healthy in their homes. We know that the process of finding a contractor can be daunting, but we also know firsthand from thousands of clients what a difference a well-done home repair can have on your quality of life and peace of mind. We hope that the above tips get you well on your way to your next home improvement project! Want to learn more about how our Home Preservation Program serves our community?