Renovating a home is a major undertaking – one that requires a good deal of preparation, organization and knowledge. Without the right general contractor, you could end up with a botched project and an overall experience that is less-than-pleasant. Not sure how to choose the best contractor for the job? Start with a thorough search that includes seeking word-of-mouth suggestions from friends and neighbors and searching digital marketplaces, such as Angie’s List and Houzz.
While expensive, general contractors can make your home renovation experience a smooth and successful one. After all, it’s unlikely that you, the homeowner, will be able to spend all of your time overseeing and managing various subcontractors (think: electricians, plumbers, drywall repair, etc). Trust us when we say that there’s a lot more to renovating a home than HGTV would lead you to believe. An experienced general contractor should be able to manage all of the moving parts of a home renovation, including subcontractor work, inspection approvals, obtaining permits and other building requirements. Here’s how to choose the best contractor for the job in 7 easy steps.
How to choose the best contractor for the job
Obtain multiple bids
First and foremost, you’ll need to obtain bids from at least three different contractors. Don’t ever accept a bid over the phone. Make sure you have met the contractor in-person and walked them through the home. Conducting a walk-through with the contractor and explaining the renovation in detail is the best way to ensure you receive an accurate cost estimate. It’s also a good idea to provide the contractor with an itemized list of any and all changes you wish to make to the home. This will ensure that you receive the most accurate bid possible. Once you receive bids, compare the estimates and offerings. If a bid is exceptionally high or low compared to other bids, be sure to ask why.
Consider the needs of your specific project
In addition to costs, it’s important to consider what projects a contractor specializes in, if any. Be sure to ask the contractor about prior experience. A reputable contractor should be able to give you photos and references from past projects. Think about the specific needs of your project. Are you remodeling one room or an entire home? Do you need someone who also has experience with landscaping and dry scaping? What about someone who has experience renovating a wood-frame house versus a concrete-block home? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself when determining which contractor is for you. For instance, if you need to build or renovate an outdoor patio area, but a contractor only has experience renovating a kitchen, then that contractor may not be the right person for the job.
Take note of their communication style
When interviewing a contractor, take note of their communication style. In other words: pay attention to how they communicate with you. Is it mostly by phone and text or does the contractor prefer to email? Are they slow to respond or do they reply quickly to any and all inquiries? If you need someone who gets back to you at lightning speed, then don’t hire a contractor who ignores your calls and texts for long periods of time. If you prefer to talk in-person, then be sure the contractor is available for meetings at the home. In addition to the ways in which a contractor communicates with clients, be aware of their specific style of communication. Are they assertive or passive? Home renovations can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, so it’s important that you jibe with the contractor and their specific communication style.
Consider their availability
How available is the contractor? If the contractor is in high demand, then you’ll likely have to pay more for their services. In addition, you may have to wait for the contractor to complete other projects before they can take on your home renovation. A contractor who is extremely busy may even try to price themselves out of your project with an exceptionally high bid. Keep in mind, though, that a contractor who is in high demand is also one who is clearly good at their job (and may be worth the wait!). However, if you need someone who can start work on your project asap, then you’ll need to find a contractor with more availability.
Check to make sure the contractor is licensed and insured
To avoid being ripped off, scammed or sued, it is absolutely crucial that you check to make sure a contractor is licensed and insured. Without proper insurance, you could be liable if a subcontractor or worker becomes injured while on the job. In addition to bodily harm or injury, a contractor’s insurance should cover property damage. Unfortunately, there are contractors out there who claim to be licensed and insured when, in fact, they are not. To ensure that you are hiring a reputable and licensed contractor, be sure to ask for a contractor’s credentials during the interview process. Check with your state and local government to confirm that the contractor meets all licensing requirements. For further information, check the Better Business Bureau’s licensing resource page.
Meet their team and subcontractors
Keep in mind, you’ll be interacting and dealing with the contractor’s team and subcontractors on a regular basis. When interviewing a contractor, make sure to ask who they use for certain renovation projects. For instance, if you’re renovating an entire home, you’ll likely deal with multiple service professionals, including electricians, plumbers, HVAC professionals, flooring professionals and more. You’ll want to do the same due diligence on your subcontractors as you do for your contractor. Be sure to also ask about the contractor’s management style. For instance, do they personally oversee every aspect of the renovation in-person? How much time do they spend overseeing the subcontractors? Do they conduct a background check for all subcontractors?
Check reviews and references
Finally, be sure to check a contractor’s reviews. We recommend first searching for a contractor’s Better Business Bureau profile to obtain information about their complaint history and customer reviews. According to the BBB, “BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to uphold BBB’s accreditation standards including: to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity.” In addition to checking the BBB profile, ask the contractor for local references you can call.