In Tips

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Hiring a contractor can be a big decision, requiring a significant financial investment. Helping your client select the right company for the job should not be an off-the-cuff decision. Hiring whomever offers the cheapest price can also be a mistake. Rather, it is important to take the time to investigate and dig deeper into claims and credentials of contractors before recommending them to clients.

Read on to discover the most important questions to ask before recommending a contractor.

  1. Are You Licensed and Insured?

States and some cities, counties and municipalities require specific licensing for certain trades. While there are some exceptions, typically, a contractor must register with the local license-issuing agency and prove he holds the minimum insurance and/or certifications as required by law.

Hiring a properly licensed, bonded and insured contractor protects a property owner from being held liable for damages or injuries that occur on a job. Contractors must carry:

  • A contractor’s license to verify he meets the most minimal requirements for the jobs he performs, as required by the jurisdiction. 
  • A bond to cover repair costs should a homeowner need to replace shoddy work.
  • Liability insurance to cover property damage, injuries or negligence caused by the contractor or subcontractors.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance to provide payments to injured workers for lost wages and medical services. Not all states require self-employed individuals to carry this coverage.

Plumbers, HVAC mechanics, electricians and other trades are also required to carry trade-specific licenses that involve much more extensive knowledge and experience to attain.

Also, be sure a contractor has recent experience obtaining proper building permits, to confirm a project will meet all applicable local codes and can pass compliance inspections. That experience should include working on projects similar to yours. There is a difference in skills and experience needed for remodeling work versus new construction.

  1. What Kind of Guarantee Do You Provide?

The standard work guarantee is one to two years, covering anything that may be damaged because work wasn’t properly installed or repaired. Most guarantees don’t cover materials or appliance failures, which are typically covered by manufacturer warranties. It is important to also know state standards when it comes to warranty requirements for contracting jobs, as well as the rights a homeowner may have upon discovering deficient  work.

Any warranties or guarantees are ultimately only as reliable as the contractor. Confirming a contractor holds proper licensing, insurance and bonding; requiring a written contract, and checking references to vouch for the quality of work are the best steps to preventing disappointment and financial loss.

  1. What Fees and Services are Included?

When contacting contractors, inquire as to whether an estimate is free of charge or will cost a fee. In addition, determine whether all your plumbing, electrical, painting or mechanical needs can be handled through one call to the company.

Once you select a contractor, take the time to create a detailed contract to provide peace of mind and eliminate the potential for miscommunication.

Make sure the contract includes:

  • Project details (e.g., agreed upon materials, paint colors, etc.)
  • A proposed timeline
  • Payment structure, including an itemized list of all costs
  • What is not included in the total cost or agreed upon services (e.g., clean up or disposal of materials)
  • How unforeseen problems will be addressed (e.g., cost approvals, etc.) Commonly known as change orders

Be sure to gain agreement with the contractor on methods of communication. Does the property owner want weekly reports? Does the homeowner need to be able to contact him at any time of day or night? Settle on whether communication should primarily occur via phone, fax, email, text, etc.

  1. What Is the Timeline for Completion?

An experienced contractor should be able to provide a realistic timeline for completion of a project. A detailed schedule outlining tasks and anticipated completion dates will help homeowners monitor and ensure projects go according to plan. Many contractors will even provide schedule updates and reports, with photos of progress.

While most jobs may end up taking longer than planned, a timeline can help keep the contractor on task. Ask whether the contractor will also provide a detailed project report upon completion of the job, with before and after photos.

  1. How Will You Protect My Property?

It may seem obvious that a contractor will need to take reasonable measures to protect your home, furniture and belongings. Yet it doesn’t always happen, and damage can be done. It is important to know how seriously a contractor takes respecting your property. Ask such questions as:

  • Will tarps be used to cover nearby furniture or surface areas near the job?
  • Will vents be sealed off and doorways covered to limit the exposure of dust to the rest of the home?
  • Will crew members wear shoe covers while in the home?
  • Should furniture be moved to another area of the home, away from the work site?
  • Will doors be closed and locked upon leaving the home?
  • How will you access the property?
  • Will clean-up be conducted at the end of each day? What does that include?

Keep in mind that one person’s definition of “clean” may not be the same as yours, so get everything in writing and be explicit about what you expect. A daily “broom” clean is not the same as a final finish clean.

Should problems arise on the job, be sure to have a plan in place for how your contractor will address any issues. For example, if he needs to shut off the water or gas— he should know in advance where in your home the valves are located. Does he have contacts for other problems that could arise (an electrician, plumber, etc.)?

Hiring a contractor can be a stressful and overwhelming process for home owners. However, a recommendation from you can make it a little easier. With due diligence you can ensure buyers and sellers aren’t ripped off, disappointed with shoddy work, or worse—left liable for damages, injuries or unpaid expenses left by an unlicensed, disreputable contractor. Taking the steps above will help to protect your client’s interests and reduce the risk of falling prey to dishonest companies.

Ready to find a contractor that you can feel confident recommending to clients? Market Ready is happy to discuss these questions with you and provide detailed answers that show why we earn our clients trust. Contact us today to learn more.