7 Important Things to Consider Before Hiring a Contractor

contractor

You've scrimped and saved and you're finally ready to make your dream of expanding or renovating your home a reality. But what often stands between you and your new great room or master bath is finding the perfect contractor -- one you can trust to get the job done on time and within your budget. If that sounds harder than agreeing on the perfect paint color for your enhanced space, it doesn't have to be.

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The following tips can help you avoid making a potentially costly mistake when it comes to hiring a contractor:

1. Shop Around: Before agreeing to hire a workman or company, make sure you get multiple bids or estimates for the job. Don't be afraid to negotiate as often contractors are willing to drop their prices in order to get the job. 

Mom of two Kate P. of Connecticut said that strategy worked for her. When renovating her kitchen, she told the contractor she wanted to hire that his competition's estimate came in at $2,000 less and he agreed to meet that price if given a few weeks more to complete the job. 

"I'm glad I told him," Kate said. "He really understood what we wanted and so I definitely wanted to hire him over anyone else but didn't want to pay that much more." 

2. Go With Your Gut: Following your instincts is crucial, insists realtor and home stager Natalya Price of NJ Staged2Sell.

"Since a contractor is going to be in your house, around your kids, pets, and belongings for days, weeks and even months, make sure you listen to your gut. If you don't like a contractor for any reason, don't hire them. Also make sure you understand who exactly would be performing work, the person you are hiring or a subcontractor." 

3. Prepare Everyone for Stress: Speaking of your family, before construction even begins, prep your hubby and the kids so they're aware there'll be strangers in the house and things may not run as smoothly as they usually do.

For example, you may find yourself having to do dishes in the bathtub or survive without your kitchen for months. Keeping that all in mind ahead of the game can help you deal with it once construction is underway.

4. Look at Samples:  Once you've narrowed down your choices, check out examples of the contractors' work before making any final decisions.

"Seeing the quality of work a contractor is much more valuable then obtaining references," Price says. "Examples of completed projects would help you to not only shape yours, perhaps giving you ideas or seeing if the complexity of previous work matches yours, hence giving you reassurance in contractor's abilities."
 
 
Chris S., mom of three from Pennsylvania, said it was her contractor's before and after photos that convinced her to hire him. 
 
"Seeing the quality of his craftsmanship gave me a feeling of confidence that we'd be happy with the finished product," she says. "And we were."
 
tips hiring contractor
 
5. Do Your Own Research: Even if the photos blow your mind, don't forget to do your due diligence! 
 
"Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured to work in your state -- having a license and insurance demonstrates knowledge and professionalism," Price says. "You want to be protected by using someone who went through certification process and knows the code and requirements and should someone get hurt on the job site, you would not be held liable." 
 
If you have any doubts, you can always check the contractor's license status by using a site like Angie's List.
 
Also, don't hire a stranger who's pitching a high-pressure sales job at your first meeting or asking for cash up front. Make sure your choice has a solid reputation and a permanent office. Even if you want or need the project done quickly, you're better off in the long run taking your time to make sure you're dealing with someone who's on the up and up.
 
6. Have as Specific a Contract as Possible: Once you've picked the person for the job, get everything in writing before any work begins. 
 

"There are never too many details in a contract," Price says. "Make sure to outline every aspect. If some things are not agreed upon, make sure there is an allowance provided, such as 'up to $10,000 for appliances.' That way the expectations are set, which removes any grounds for disappointments and disagreements."

Also, provide your contractor with guidelines for working on your project. If you don't want them working on Saturdays or starting before 9 a.m., he needs to know as it will affect the time to complete the project as well as the price, notes Price. 

7. Iron Out Even the Smallest Details: It's also a good idea to discuss even minor items when it comes to who is doing what. Agree ahead of time on who will be responsible for picking up and paying for permits, Price recommends. Even something as simple as deciding who will move the furniture out should be determined ahead of time. 

Living through a home improvement project can be trying under the best of circumstances, but finding the right contractor can make the process a lot easier for all involved. 

What advice do you have for someone thinking of hiring a contractor?

 
Image © Sean Locke Photography and © Gunnar Pippel/Shutterstock
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