How to Locate a Contractor

A Roofing Job Placed by a Contractor

A New Roof Placed by a Contractor

By Serena Norr

Remodeling is great way to alter some rooms in your home to add value to your property, or as a way to fix and repair existing damage. Anything from adding on new bathroom tiles to expanding your kitchen to knocking down walls can be a great way to add value to your home and of course make it more presentable.

Some people opt to go the do-it-yourself route as they channel their inner decorator/contractor in order to save money. This can be a great idea for simple projects like painting and gardening, but with massive projects such as landscaping or window installation it is better to hire a professional such as a contractor.

Once you decide to hire a contractor, there will be the challenge of actually finding one and not finding just anyone, but someone whose services, rates, professionalism and personality are all on par with what you need. This will require some time and research on your part as you ask friends, post tweets, scour the internet and skim through your phone book. It is also important to figure out exactly what you need (bathroom tiles), as well your design ideas (pink elephants on the tiles, but not too pink) and of course your budget. Having in-house meetings where you can ask questions, show the potential contractor your home, as well as receive multiple bids is huge when locating a contractor. Be wiry of going with the cheapest bid, sometimes this may be the right decision, but the old adage of “you get what you pay for” is certainly prevalent with some contractors. You also want to pick someone that you get along with since they will be working for you, as well as fixing or creating part of your home. Through this preparation you will soon be working with the contractor of your dreams.

1. Contractors from Friends and Family Referrals
Word-of-mouth research is a great (and easy) way to locate contractors. Start by asking your co-workers, friends and family members for referrals. These first-hand experiences will be the best way to hear contractor stories from a trusted source. You can also visit the homes where the contractor worked, which is a great way to see their work before you even meet with them.

2. Social Media Contractors
Twitter, Facebook, Digg (and many others) have changed the way in which we share information and locating a contractor is no different. Post on your wall or write a tweet that you are seeking a contractor, along with the specific details of your job (if characters permit). You may also see postings about contractors on another friend’s wall, which was the case with one of our readers. She writes: “A friend/former colleague posted on Facebook about a roofing job he was just completing at his home and mentioned the contractor who was doing the work. He praised the good work this contractor was doing so I wrote back asking for details. He posted photos of the contractor’s work to my wall and forwarded along contact information. We’re planning to use these guys this summer for some home projects.”

3. Contractors in your Neighborhood
Another great way to locate a contractor is to be on the look out for any home construction projects in your neighborhood.  Even if you don’t know your neighbors, asking a few questions about their contractors and their services will narrow down your selections. In the very least, it will add another connection on your list of prospective contractors.

4. Searching for a Contractor Online
Yes, you can find a contractor via the Internet, but you have to be very aware of too-good-to-be-true prices and claims online. Make a list of four-five contractors that you are interested in; based on their services, rates, Better Business Bureau to see if any unresolved issues or complaints were taken out against the contractor. You can also check out the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and Contractor Check, which allows consumers to search for contractors in their area, check their background, licenses, years in business, insurances of if  they have any complaints. You can also locate a reputable and licensed contractor through our extensive database of local professionals. When looking at prices online, don’t use those numbers as concrete figures until a contractor actually visits your home and you receive an estimate in writing. You can also locate contractors on sites like Craigslist, where local contractors post advertisements about their service, etc, but also be sure to look into references and liabilities when going this route. Also, this goes without saying, but be wary of any contractor that only accepts cash or requires money upfront.

5. Phone Books for a Contractor
Not many people use phone books anymore, but these local directories can be a great way to locate a contractor. The same way you searched for contractors online, you can also try your luck by finding one from the yellow pages. This is also not very time-consuming and you can go at your pace. When you call a contractor, have these calls be a consultation where you ask companies about their services, company history and customer experiences. Generally, contractors that are reputable have a list of customers that have agreed to act as references. Ask the rep or contractor themselves if you can have the names and contact information of past customers. If they don’t have these listings you can also ask where you can see examples of their past jobs (pictures, websites, etc).

This initial call may even determine if you want to meet with them in-person based on the amount of information that you received to the demeanor of the customer service rep. Also, be aware of guarantees or if a rep tells you have to make a decision now and offers you a rate over the phone, as this also can fall into the “too good to be true” category. Based on what information you like, arrange to meet with these individuals in person.