Whether you are doing repairs, adding on to your home or renovating a room, you may decide you need help with that project you are finally tackling. That’s where a contractor comes in.
A contractor is anybody you hire to provide materials and labor to complete a job. Some contractors focus on a specific type of project, like plumbing or tiling or painting, while others will work on any type of project. For larger projects, a general contractor may also serve as a project manager working with other vendors to get all the work done.
Hiring your contractor is one of the most important steps for your project. Hire the right one and you can relax knowing that your project is being handled. Hire the wrong one and you could be facing a wide range of problems from unfinished work to being sued if workers aren’t paid.
These are tips to think about when you set out to hire a contractor and will serve you well when hiring anybody to work in your home:
- Research their track record. You can search for a contractor’s Business Profile at bbb.org/Amarillo or call 806-379-6222 to see if they are an Accredited Business, get free information on their history of complaints, and read verified Customer Reviews. Also ask for local references and speak with those customers about their experience with the contractor and the quality of work. Ask if the contractor is a member of a professional association that has standards or a code of ethics.
- Licensing. Verify - with your city code enforcement - that the contractor is properly licensed, bonded and insured.
- Building Permits. Unpermitted work can void insurance converage and violate zoning and building codes. Be leery of the contractor who asks you to obtain permits. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project.
- Ask for multiple quotes. You should always shop around and get at least three quotes from different businesses. Compare apples to apples - based on the same warranty, specifications, labor and time. Remember that the lowest bid may not necessarily be the best bid; if one bid is significantly lower than the others are, the contractor may be cutting corners or may not understand your work requirements.
- Get it in writing. Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. The contract should include contact information, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be done, any material costs, payment arrangements and warranty information. Make sure all verbal promises are included in the contract. Ask how much work will be subcontracted and ask for information on the subcontractors. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract. Never sign a partial or blank contract.
- Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver, in the United States, is a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
- Think about future service issues. Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
- Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it. In some cases, large jobs for example, a contractor may ask for one third of the price down. Pay this one thrid after the first day of work. Make payments during the project contingent upon completion of a defined amount of work (typically another one third). Do not make the final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work, all required inspections have been completed and you have proof subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Do not pay cash; make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card.
- Do not agree to financing through your contractor or someone he suggests before checking all options. After a rush to sign papers you may later find out you agreed to a home equity loan with a very high rate, points and fees. Secure financing on your own by shopping around and comparing loan terms.
- Get a receipt. Request a receipt marked “Paid in Full” when the job is completed and your final payment made.
- Door-to-door. Use caution with companies who are going door-to-door, or are claiming to be doing work for your neighbors. Ask for their door-to-door solicitation permit.
- High Pressure Tactics. Don't fall prey to high pressure tactics. A legitimate company will be here when you're ready to buy and they will be more than willing to allow you time to check them out. If they don't, let that be a warning sign.
- Criminal History. Check out anyone you allow onto your property to see if they have a criminal history.
- Keep your contract. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.