As a stubborn, bull-headed and self-proclaimed little bit of a know-it-all, most of my lessons in life have been acquired through one recurring theme: learning things the hard way, and selecting a good contractor is no exception. When it comes to finding the right man (or woman) for the job at hand, from bathroom remodels to drywall repair, I have found that a few things ring true, all learned through loss and bad experiences.
1. Honesty and Integrity
While this should go without saying, finding an honest contractor who exudes integrity can be as challenging as finding an honest mechanic, attorney or (dare I say it since I train them for a living) real estate agent. When it comes to selecting a general contractor, their track record is crucial. The first contractor I hired to do my recent home remodel didn’t have either of these traits, and I would have known this had I researched him online, asked for past client reviews and a portfolio of his work – things that my new contractor provided even without being asked.
2. Contracts, Agreements and Invoices…Oh My
I certainly understand that during construction, remodels and reconstruction there are some things that can pop up that you didn’t plan for – another thing I have learned the hard way both in working with clients throughout my career and in my own life. A great general contractor, however, will give you a contract and only ask for deposits for materials (if he or she is buying them) upfront, and the remaining balance due when the work is complete. Looking back, I realize that I have only myself to blame, since I did not hold the first company I hired accountable to this standard (even though I knew better), and even though that company ripped me off over $8,000, I know that had I done my due diligence and required written agreements up front, I could have avoided a fiasco of epic proportion.
3. Referrals and Word of Mouth Advertising
It is true what they say, when people have a good experience, they limit the number of people they tell about that experience, that is, unless you ask them. Good contractors have a track record and a plethora of happy clients they have helped in the past, all of whom will be more than happy to share their experiences with someone waiting in the wings to hire “their guy” (or gal). Referrals and word of mouth advertising still hold a lot of weight, and they should. After all, that is what successful businesses are built around, even using the real estate sales model that I (personally) train to everyday.
The bottom line is that choosing a contractor isn’t meant to be challenging on a rocket science level. A few common sense practices and a little follow up (and follow through) can save you from making a costly mistake, and I know that (in my case) had I followed my own advice, I could be writing this right now without having wasted $8,000 on a dud of a company, and a head full of regrets.
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