How To Choose a Contractor
So you’re thinking about a major home improvement? Congratulations! When done properly, a home renovation project will make your home more enjoyable and increase its value over time. Unfortunately, we’ve all heard the horror stories of home improvement gone bad – unfinished projects, shoddy workmanship, longer than expected project durations and final bills that come in higher than the quote. So there is no wonder that the average homeowner does not know who to have do the work or who to trust. Yes, there are some good companies out there, but unfortunately that is more the exception than the rule. Consider these industry stats:
- #1 in consumer dissatisfaction (up to 70%)
- #1 in written complaints (according to BBB)
- #1 in bankruptcies (non-food industries) according to the SBA
Now it is nice to be number one, but not for those reasons! To make matters worse, it is estimated that about 96% of all new home improvement companies will fail within the first 3-5 years. It is amazing that a $300 billion industry is fraught with so many problems. So how can you protect yourself? There are some basic “DOs and DON’Ts” the average homeowner can follow to ensure they navigate the maze of contractors to a successful finished project.
Top 3 Homeowner “DOs”
1) DO your research before you set an appointment
In today’s world of information there are lots of ways a homeowner can search about a local contractor – especially online. If you have a difficult time finding information about a company you are considering…beware! There should be lots of third party information, such as the Better Business Bureau, that can help give you a better feel for who you will be doing business with.
2) DO look for a company who have been in business for a good length of time
Obviously the longer the better, but usually a company who has made it past ten years is doing something right and is much less likely to go out of business. Ask yourself if the company looks stable or are they “fly by night”.
3) DO look for a company who is fully insured and has its own employees
In this day and age it is a lot cheaper to do business without insurance and many contractors take advantage of this fact. Don’t just take their word for it – ask to see the actual documents and make sure they are correctly dated. In general you can expect more professional workmanship from an employee. Many companies opt for subcontractors in order to save money, often at a sacrifice for quality work.
Top 3 Homeowner “DON’Ts”
1) DON’T look for the best price
This is one of the most common mistakes made by a homeowner. You cannot get a quality product that is professionally installed and also expect great service – all at the cheapest price – because it doesn’t exist! Generally in life it is true that “you get what you pay for”. Instead look for the company with the best value for what you are getting so you only have to do the project once.
2) DON’T hire a friend or family member to do the work
This often sounds like a no brainer because a homeowner is promised a “great price”. The problem is what happens if there is a problem? Usually the homeowner feels guilty asking for service because they know they got “a deal” and the person who did the work feels angry because they thought they were doing “a favor”.
3) DON’T get a least 3 quotes
Really? Well, people have been saying “get at least 3 quotes” for years and the industry is still ranked #1 in consumer dissatisfaction – so it hasn’t worked! There is no evidence to show that a customer who spends the time interviewing 3 or more contractors has any better luck. In fact, many homeowners get confused and end up going with the cheapest bid. The best solution is to do as much research ahead of time as you can. If you find the right company you won’t need other bids.