Tips for Hiring a Contractor

With the economy continuing to grow stronger, you may be looking to hire a contractor to make improvements and repairs on your home. There is no shortage of contractors in California, which can make hiring the right one difficult. Before you pick randomly from the yellow pages or a Google search, consider these tips when hiring a contractor.

Make Sure They’re Licensed

Licensing laws differ from state to state. In California, the state requires any contractor who performs a project valued at over $500 to hold a current and valid contract from the Contractors State License Board. This is to protect customers from potentially unqualified contractors, and to ensure that the work performed uses quality materials and meets regulations.

Even if your project is valued under the required amount, hiring a contractor who is fully licensed by a governing body is highly recommended.

Get Referrals

Even contractor who are licensed can perform shoddy work. It’s always a good idea to ask around for contractor referrals from friends and family. If you cannot find anyone you know who can recommend a quality contractor, sites like Yelp are a great place to read reviews for just about any business in the area. Just be wary of reviews that read like paid advertisements; they may have been planted there to lull potential customers into a false sense of security.

Beware Lowball Bids

Rather than just hiring the first contractor you come across, many people request estimates from multiple contractors. While it may seem like an easy choice to pick the lowest bid, this could actually be a huge mistake.

If one contractor’s bid comes in more that 5-10% lower than the rest, this could be considered a red flag. Labor and material costs do not vary much in a given location, so this low offer could mean that the contractor is intentionally lowballing the offer, only to hike up the price later. It could also indicate that the contractor uses low quality materials, or could perform shoddy work. At any rate, an especially low bid is cause for concern rather than celebration.

Don’t Trust the New Kid on the Block

The contracting industry can be turbulent, with a high amount of turnover. Every year, contracting companies go out of business and new companies open up. There is nothing stopping a company with a bad reputation from shuttering its doors, and reopening as a “new” business.

As a rule, before settling on a contractor it’s advised to do a bit of internet detective work to see how long a contractor has been in business under the same name. If it’s less than three years, proceed at your own risk.

Don’t Trust Unsolicited Work

There are some contractors who will try to be proactive and solicit their work door-to-door. They may ask if you are in need of any work on your home, or could even claim to have “noticed” something wrong with the house that is in need of repair. This type of unsolicited cold calling is unprofessional, and usually indicates an unscrupulous contractor. If a contractor comes knocking at your door unannounced, do not hire them.

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