Luckily, you don’t need any building or home renovation expertise to hire a contractor you know will do the best work possible if you follow some simple practices. With the right approach, you will find the contractor of your dreams!
Where to Look
The first issue when hiring a contractor is knowing where to look. Any contractor you hire will only be as good as the place you find them, so looking in the right places is key.
If you are looking for a general contractor, asking friends and neighbors is a good place to start. But if you want to cast a wide net and find the specialty contractor who is best suited to your project, you can use online reviews.
Asking Friends and Neighbors—Good for Finding General Contractors
The first place to look for a contractor is with people you know. Asking your friends or neighbors for recommendations will allow you to hear about a contractor’s work from someone who has experienced it firsthand, from start to finish.
Why Friends and Neighbors Are Worth Asking
Because these are people who know they will have to see you regularly and are likely to have to hear you complain about your contractor if things are going poorly, they have good reasons to give you the best advice possible.
Also, unlike strangers on the internet, you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that people in your life are trustworthy and are likely not receiving payment to provide recommendations.
Another thing worth considering is that if a contractor worked on your neighbor’s property, they would know all the various by-laws and regional codes they must abide by in your area. This knowledge allows them to provide the best possible advice on what you can and can’t do in your neighborhood.
The Limitations of Asking Friends and Neighbors
When asking friends and neighbors, it is much easier to find a general contractor than a specialty contractor. If you are looking for a specialty contractor, you are likely to take on a unique project that requires specific skills; therefore, it is unlikely that whatever contractor your neighbor uses will have the skills you need.
If you are copying a friend or neighbor, then their contractor will certainly have the skills required for your project, but if you are undertaking your own unique project, the pool of contractor recommendations from friends and neighbors is unlikely to be broad enough to have the exact contractor you need.
Online Reviews—Good for Specialty Contractors, but More Time Consuming and Less Trustworthy
When you are hiring a contractor and want to be able to assess a wide range of candidates, the internet provides you with an invaluable resource. You can search for almost all the contractors who operate in your area and see countless reviews of their work.
The Wide Net Advantage of Online Reviews
Because you can see so many contractors when searching online, you can usually find a contractor who meets all your needs or has the specialist skills best suited to whatever project you are undertaking. By casting a wide net, you increase your chances of finding the right contractor.
Additionally, by drawing from a broader range of experiences with any given contractor, you increase the odds that you will find out about inconsistent work by the contractor.
If a contractor does a good job four out of five times but on the fifth time does a horrible job, you may not want to hire that contractor. However, if you only ask your friend or neighbor, they may have been one of the four times that things went well; whereas, on the internet, you will see the full range of experiences people have with any given contractor.
The Drawbacks—Time Consuming and Unverified Information
One disadvantage of using online reviews is it takes much longer than asking your friends. To get a reasonable estimation of a contractor online, you will want to read multiple reviews in multiple forums to ensure you are getting trustworthy information. Additionally, a contractor’s online presence may be too generic to infer information about their work quality.
Also, some sites will allow contractors who pay to remove bad reviews, giving the illusion a contractor who received many bad reviews has a stellar record. Other sites will offer a pay-per-lead system, in which they take money from contractors to lead potential clients to them.
Just because the internet says a contractor is great does not guarantee that they are. Because of this, you need to put some time and critical thinking skills into finding a contractor online.
Tips for Hiring the Right Contractor
Following a few simple steps when hiring a contractor can help you find one with whom you will have a good relationship and who provides you with the best possible work.
Make Sure to Have an In-Person Consultation Before Making a Commitment
Before you hire a contractor—especially if you found them online—make sure you meet them in person for a consultation before you make any sort of commitment. This meeting allows you to get a good read on them, look for red flags, and assess your compatibility.
The amount of professionalism they show towards you in a consultation often indicates their work ethic, so if they do not meet your standards in the consultation, they likely never will. If they are late for a consultation or seem disorganized, it likely means you will not be a top priority of theirs if you hire them.
Don’t Look for the Best Contractor—Look for the Best Contractor for You
If you are searching for the best possible contractor, you may end up overlooking the contractor who would best be able to meet your needs. Just because a contractor does amazing basement renovations doesn’t guarantee they will get your kitchen right.
You also want to find the contractor who you believe best understands what you are trying to do. It doesn’t help either side if you need to make massive changes to your project halfway through.
They Are Willing to Put Everything in Writing
Many contractors like to keep as much off the record as possible, but this can put you in a vulnerable position. The best way to know the contractor you are hiring is above board is if they are willing to put everything in writing.
The two most important things to get in writing are a contract and any estimates they provide. If you don’t both sign a contract or estimates, they can dispute any verbal agreements you have, and it will just be your word against theirs.
When hiring a contractor, there are many things to keep in mind. You can use friends to provide trustworthy advice or look through online reviews to cast as wide a net as possible, and by using a few simple tips, you can make sure you find the right contractor.