5 Questions to Ask your Potential Contractor

When it comes to remodeling, most people have heard of someone who has been burned by a “professional”. Maybe their contractor left the project before completion and refuses to return phone calls. Or maybe the contractor asked for money up front, did a poor job, and now refuses to fix anything.

Thankfully, these situations are few and far between. We’ve talked about this before, not every contractor is a bad person. Most of us have morals and integrity, and truly enjoy helping you turn your house into your dream home!

I know you may still feel worried after reading this, and I don’t blame you! The idea of someone stealing your money or creating a remodeling nightmare is worrisome, but it can be avoided. Here are 5 questions to ask your potential contractor before you hire them:

1. Ask for a list of references.
It is a red flag if a prospective contractor doesn’t have references or refuses to provide them. This could mean they haven’t done any remodeling before, or they don’t think their previous clients will have anything positive to say about them. Yikes. If they are able to provide references, that’s great, now ask for a few subcontractor references.

If you speak with another homeowner, ask about the contractor’s responsiveness. Did they take forever to respond? Did they neglect calls and emails entirely? Was the job site relatively clean throughout the project? Were there any lengthily gaps in work and why? Were there any surprises to the over cost/budget and why?

If you speak with trades or subcontractors, ask if the contractor has ever had any issues with receiving payment from the contractor in question. Also ask about their relationship with the contractor and their employees. How someone treats and pays their subcontractors can say a lot about how they will treat you.

2. How much will they require upfront for a deposit?
It is completely reasonable to a contractor to ask for a deposit before work begins. Ten percent Is standard in the industry, but if they ask for more than that or pull a number out of thin air run away. And no, that wasn’t a joke! A larger deposit request is usually a sign of financial instability.

3. Do they have job specifications or a scope of work and can you see them?
We cannot stress enough the importance of having clear specifications that you understand and agree with. And ideal specification or scope of work will call out every detail in your project.
Food for thought: If your contractor gives a price up front with no scope or plans to back it up, something has been overlooked in their bid. Again, always ask to see your job specifications on paper.

4. Why is their price exceptionally lower than everyone else?
Lower isn’t always better. In fact, its usually the opposite in this case! If your contractor is thousands of dollars less than anyone else, I automatically jump to – what’s the catch?! Does your contractor expect you to purchase and provide all the materials and fixtures? Is your contractor paying their employees fair wages and providing benefits? Does this contractor have the appropriate liability insurance? You get the picture. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

5. Do they carry the appropriate insurance?
If something were to go wrong during your remodel, does your contractor carry the appropriate liability insurance? If not, you, the homeowner, will be held responsible! $1 million general liability is an ideal policy amount, but some contractors carry more, it depends on the type of work they do. Either way, verify with your potential contractor that they carry liability insurance before you sign a contract!

In short, stay aware while you’re searching for the right company to work for. Do your research, ask questions, verify they have liability insurance, and read the whole contract before you sign it!