What to Ask When Hiring Help — Part I

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Sometimes home ownership can feel like one long list of repairs. If you are in the process of hiring a contractor or craftsperson to perform work on your home, it is important to carefully screen possible candidates to make sure you hire a reputable professional. Do a little research and ask these questions before hiring help.


Ask for references. A qualified professional should be able to give you the contact information of at least three former clients with projects like yours. Contact these references and ask them when the work was completed, if the work was completed on time, if they were they satisfied with the work, and the cost of the job. You should also ask the contractor if you can visit any jobs that are working on or have recently completed.


Look at sites you trust that post reviews and ratings like Angie's List and Yelp. Did people who used this contractor have similar experiences? Look for comparable descriptions to see if you can find a pattern, good or bad. You can also search the internet for the company's name and words like "scam" or "complaint" to see what comes up. Go to your state's Better Business Bureau's website to see if anyone has lodged a complaint against your potential contractor.


It's always a good idea to check with your neighbors and get recommendations from them or ask them if they know anyone who has used the contractor you are considering. If you can, ask friends if you can look at any work completed by this business and about their experience working with this person. Search through your local neighborhood Facebook pages to find any mention of this company or individual.


Check the company's qualifications, like any necessary licensing or bonding. Different states require different certifications depending on the type of job and sometimes based on the dollar amount of the job. Check with your local consumer protection agency to determine licensing requirements in your area. Licensing can vary from simple document registration to a comprehensive qualification process. If licensing laws do apply, make sure the candidate's license is current. 


Ask about insurance. Ask for copies of insurance certificates for policies like personal liability, worker's compensation, and property damage coverage. Lack of the right insurance on the part of a contractor can lead to liability on your part should injuries or damage occur during the project. Make sure these policies are current for the time period of your project.


Unfortunately, bug problems can arise from time to time, and you may need a professional pest control company to help deal with an pest infestation or regular monitoring. Consider talking with several companies before making your choice. Look for a pest control company with current licenses, reputable standards and integrated techniques, including environmentally friendly options. Try to get estimates for services in writing, and make sure you know whether you are required to sign up for a long-term contract before you agree to their services.


Electrical jobs are one avenue where you should call a professional for even the smallest job because electrical wiring can be dangerous, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Since electricians tend to specialize, make sure you hire one for the job you have. Get three to four quotes from various electricians so that you know all costs involved before work begins. Ask the electrician if they guarantee their work and if they will correct any work that does not meet applicable standards. As always, make sure your candidates possess any required licensing. 


Proper plumbing design is a science, so there is no shame in hiring a plumber for any repair needs, big or small. In addition to the usual questions to ask, inquire with your plumber whether they charge according to "time and material" or a "flat rate". Ask them about the quality and number of fixtures to be installed and whether these materials are included in the cost. If your repair needs to be done during the weekend or a holiday, make sure to ask about potential overtime charges. Also, don't forget to go over any warranty on labor and materials.


When choosing a remodeling contractor, ask questions like these to ensure you are making an informed choice: How many similar jobs like this have you completed? What is the average square-foot cost for this type of job? How much experience do you have with energy-efficient construction? Who is your on-site construction supervisor? What work will be delegated to sub-contractors?  Do you charge by competitive bid, cost-plus, negotiated price, or something else? How do you keep the job site clean and safe for children and keep dust out of the living quarters? Once you have decided on the best choice for your job, get everything in writing and decide on a payment schedule to avoid any unforeseen issues down the road. 


Before embarking on any significant project on your home, make sure you have the proper insurance policies to cover your home during the project and for any necessary changes to your policies once the work is complete. We are always happy to answer any questions you may have so that you have peace of mind moving forward with your home improvement venture. Give us a call at 1-866-315-1252 or visit us online to find out more.  

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