Every day I get this question: can you help me find a reliable contractor in my area? Sure! But not by giving you the name of a particular person or company, because I can’t refer someone I don’t know. I can help you by giving you the tools to make an informed decision yourself. Like with any profession, there are contractors out there who are excellent at their jobs, and others who aren’t. And since you’re trusting them with something so important, it’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to hire just anybody. So read on for a few tips if you just don’t know where to start.
It used to be that people would check the yellow pages and start cold calling companies in the area. Fortunately, that’s not the way we do things anymore. The Internet provides massive amounts of info with the push of a button, so check referral sites like Homestars and Houzz to see who’s out there. With these types of sites, you can check out photos of previous work and read customer reviews.
Online referrals are a great place to start, but I recommend that you also ask the people in your life for recommendations. Family, friends and colleagues can be helpful, but what’s even better are neighbourhood recommendations. If you know of houses nearby that have gone through renovations, knock on the door and ask the owners who they used and how it went. Whenever possible, you want to work with someone who knows the area and the type of house you live in. A contractor who is familiar with the neighbourhood can anticipate the types of issues he or she might run into, the local permit process, and so on.
Home Improvement Stores
Another great place to look for contractor referrals is at a local home improvement store. The staff there will be accustomed to all the local trades who come in and purchase materials. Ask the staff if they know who purchases quality materials, who is friendly to work with and who they consider reliable. Home improvement store staff can be a wealth of information and are a great untapped resource.
Contact 10 Contractors
People always come up to me and tell me that they called two or three contractors for estimates and have been shocked that no one called back. But this isn’t uncommon. Good contractors are generally very busy, and since they usually run their own small businesses, they can sometimes get overwhelmed with work. When this happens, finishing a job ends up taking precedence over returning calls and doing estimates. It’s not ideal, but it’s the way it often is. So I always recommend that you call at least 10 companies. It seems like a lot, I know, but chances are good that of these 10 you’ll only hear back from five, and of those five you’ll only get estimates from three. Rather than get upset, adjust your expectations and prepare accordingly.
Hiring a contractor can be a scary thing. You’re trusting him or her with your house and your money, and that’s a big deal. But don’t let fear get the better of you. Do your research, trust your instincts, and ask as many questions as you can. And don’t hire anyone until you feel completely confident.
Images courtesy of The McGillivray Group and HGTV Canada