When you’ve made the decision to move forward with your home improvement project, choosing the right contractor to complete the project is one of the most important steps in the process. Most homeowners will usually gather at least 3 bids for their home improvement project, which I recommend doing. Some homeowners will base their decision on which contractor to hire solely on the lowest price. Sometimes a homeowner is facing budget constraints, and thus they are looking to save as much money on their project as possible. I understand this, and price is absolutely an important consideration. However, this in not always the best way to proceed when deciding to move forward with the project. There are many factors to consider when choosing the right contractor, and price is certainly one of them. But it is not the most important one.
The quality of the work the contractor is hired to perform is and should be expected to be top notch. After all, it’s your home and it’s your money that is being spent. Home improvement projects can be a major investment in your home, and you shouldn’t cut corners when choosing the right contractor for your investment. You wouldn’t want the contractor to cut corners when completing the project, so why would you settle for anything less than the best? If done right, your home improvement project will add value to your home’s worth. If done incorrectly, the results could actually hurt your home’s value, along with your pocketbook.
I’m not saying the lowest bid will necessarily result in the lowest quality of work. Just as the highest bid may not provide the best results. What I am suggesting is that you do thorough research on the contractor before deciding which one to hire. Choosing the right contractor involves more than just going with the best price. It’s important to consider the value within the cost. Will the contractor stand behind their work and the materials they use after completing your project? Will they be accountable to you if something goes wrong? Will they honor their warranty two years down the road, long after they’ve cashed your check?
So what other considerations go into choosing the right contractor for your home improvement project? Here’s I list I recommend using when making the decision on who to trust with your investment.
- Ask for referrals, and check them. Quality contractors will be more than happy to provide referrals on projects they’ve completed. Don’t take their word for it. Make a few phone calls and talk with other homeowners who they have done similar projects for.
- Check their online reputation. In today’s tech savvy world, it can be difficult for a contractor to hide from their past (if they’ve got something to hide from). Many consumers today leave reviews for contractors online. The best source, in my opinion, are Google reviews. Google reviews require the reviewer to register with an actual name and verified email account. Unlike many other sites, Google users cannot leave an anonymous review, therefore it is much less likely to be a fake review, or a review left by a disgruntled former employee or a competitor.
- Check them out with your local Better Business Bureau. The BBB maintains files on legitimate registered contractors, and use a rating system based on several factors. If the contractor is a BBB accredited member, even better. Accredited members are held to higher standards in order to maintain their status.
- Get it in writing! I cannot emphasize this point enough. If it’s not in writing, it’s not worth the paper it’s not written on. If the work comes with a warranty, that warranty and it’s terms should be clearly stated on your contract. Don’t simply take their word for it. Everything involving your project should be clearly defined, and a trustworthy contractor would have no reason not to clearly state this in writing.
- Ask! Who is accountable if something goes awry with your project. Who is accountable? Not just during the initial stages of the project, but months or years later should an issue arise. If you have a warranty, who will honor that warranty? Will the contractor themselves provide the warranty service? Or is it sourced out to a third party? As a business owner, I will give my personal cell phone number to my clients, because I am the person that is accountable to them should something go wrong. I want to know if there is a problem.
- Review all proposals thoroughly. Compare apples to apples, and read the fine print. If you are getting a bid to install a central air conditioning system in your home, is the electrical wiring required to connect the AC included? I’ve seen some of my competitor bids that do not clearly state this specifically, and I’ve seen a few where it was hidden in the fine print that the electrical wiring was an additional charge to be paid separately to an electrician. Read everything, and ask questions if you are unsure. Like I said previously, “get it in writing”.
- Check out their website. Does it look professional? Do they offer 24 hour emergency service? (In the case of a heating and air conditioning contractor, this is important. You should be able to reach them should you experience an after-hours emergency situation).
- Big Box stores. Almost all Big Box stores use sub-contractors to perform their home improvement projects. Who is actually doing the work? Or they local? Are they licensed and insured? Are they accountable? Will you be able to reach them in an emergency situation? Who will honor the warranty if something goes wrong? Usually it won’t be the Big Box store!
- Check with your local Regional Building Department. Many contractors are required to be licensed and carry liability and worker’s comp insurance. This is especially true with heating contractors, plumbers and electricians as well as many others. Is your contractor licensed? If they are required to carry a license you can verify this with the local building department or other state agencies. Ask to see a copy of their license. In the Colorado Springs area of El Paso county, check with Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (www.pprbd.org). Unlicensed contractors put you at risk!
I hope this article assists you when it comes to choosing the right contractor. You can never be too careful when selecting a contractor to complete your project. If you have any questions feel free to contact me at 719.392.0032 or send me a question through our contact form at www.bassetheating.com
Mike Machado, President Basset Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc.