How to hire the right contractor

The Philadelphia Inquirer put out an advice column on what questions to ask any potential contractor to do renovations for your home.  You want to hire someone with whom you feel comfortable, and you want to make sure all your questions get asked before agreeing to the work.  Here are some real estate tips on what to ask.

First of all, you want to make sure you can communicate effectively with your contractor.  If they speak a different language than you, make sure that you understand each other before any work gets done.  You want to make sure they understand what you want out of the job and your concerns.  You’re the one that’s going to be paying them, so your needs need to be addressed.  You’ll also want to ask the same number of questions to each person you interview so you know you’ve done a thorough job.

contractor-using-pry-bar20to-replace-windowMake sure to ask how long they’ve been in business and how long they’ve done the specific work you’re looking for.  With this tougher economic situation, you don’t want the one you hire to fold when you need a repair a year down the road. 

An important question you should ask is whether work will be subcontracted out to other contractors.  Make sure you find out ahead of time what work that will be and if they’ve ever used those subcontractors before.  You might want to go ahead and get references on them beforehand, as well.  If possible, try to visit current job sites where these contractors are working on a job so you can ask the homeowners how the work is progressing and whether they’d recommend them.

If work will not be subcontracted out, find out how many employees they have working for them and who will be working on your project.  All contractors should provide proof of liability insurance as well as workers’ compensation insurance in case something is damaged while they are working or one of the workers is injured on the job.  I’ve seen lawsuits arise because of injuries without proper insurance.

Speaking of lawsuits, make sure everything you agree to is written out in a contract.  Hire a lawyer if need be to draft one up.  As changes get made during your project, it’s important to put those in writing, too.  Make sure that the products that will be used, whether it’s the paint color or the brand of carpeting, is also put into the contract so you’re not charged more for a different product than you ordered.

For more tips or a list of recommended contractors, please visit me online.

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