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6 Tips for Finding a Great Contractor

Most homeowners hire a contractor at some point or another, whether it’s to remodel the kitchen, construct a shed, or just handle an assortment of smaller projects around the property.

Choosing a quality contractor is critical.

Unfortunately, that can be harder than it looks. Most markets have hundreds of contractors to choose from, and not all of them are created equal.

Want to make sure you’re hiring the best person for the job? These six tips can help:

Ask for recommendations

Hands down, the best thing you can do is ask someone you trust for a recommendation. Did your neighbor recently have their home repainted or their patio paved? Get the name of the contractors they used and short-list them.

You can also ask a local real estate agent for guidance. There’s a good chance they’ve had clients who’ve hired contractors, so they may be able to point you in the right direction (or, at the very least, tell you who to steer clear of).

Get at least three to five quotes — in person

Never go with the first contractor you find or the first quote you get. Always interview at least three to five different options, and get a detailed estimate from all of them. Make sure to do the interviews in person, too.

Remember: They’ll be working in your home and around your loved ones and valuables. You need to be sure you’re comfortable around the contractor before hiring them for the job.

Interviewing in person also gives you a chance to evaluate the contractor. Do they show up on time? Do they have a business card to hand out? Do they conduct themselves professionally? Answering these questions can tell you a lot about the person and their ability to successfully take on your job.

Check out online reviews and ratings

Don’t hire a contractor without checking past customer reviews first. Start with sites like Yelp and Google, and be sure to check any social media accounts the contractor has, too, especially Facebook. Contractor-specific sites like Angie’s List, Thumbtack, and Home Advisor will often have reviews as well.

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Ask for their portfolio and past customer references

Experienced contractors should have some proof to back up their quality of work. Can they show you photos of the last couple of projects they took on?

You should also ask for the name and phone numbers of two or three previous clients. Contact those customers and get a feel for their experience. Were they satisfied with the contractor’s work? Did the project turn out as expected? Would they hire that same contractor again?

If they say no, then you should probably steer clear.

Try them for a small test job first

If you’re hiring out for a sizable project, you might first start with a smaller test job to get a feel for the contractor’s work. Have them fix that fence post you’ve meant to get around to, or ask them to hang some artwork or shelving.

It doesn’t have to be big — just something that gives you a chance to see their skills and work ethic in action.

Go beyond the rate

Price matters, but choosing a less-than-stellar contractor just to save some cash probably isn’t the wisest move. In fact, it could cost you more in the long run. That’s because a shoddy contractor probably means a shoddy final product.

You might have to pay to re-do the job, or it could even hurt your home’s marketability or price point once you’re ready to sell later on.

If you think you’ve found a great contractor, but they’re significantly higher than your other quotes, show them your other estimates and ask if they can compete. You could also look into different ways to reduce your costs, like sourcing your own materials, for example.

The bottom line

Choosing the right contractor can be challenging — but it’s worth the work. Not only can it help you get the best deal, but it will also ensure your project’s done right and in a way that improves your home’s value (not hurts it).

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