7 Signs Your General Contractor Search Is Over
By Erica Garza
You’ve been dreaming up your next home renovation project and can almost visualize it all—the sleek new floors, that fresh coat of paint, the bright, airy kitchen you’ve always wanted. But, what about the person who’s going to help you get there?
Picking a general contractor can be daunting. You might ask friends and family for recommendations. You might pore over search engine results and customer reviews to see who has the best rating. If you’re on the lookout for the perfect general contractor for your perfect home, look out for these seven signs that you’ve found your match.
1. They Have References
While you may turn to friends and family for contractor recommendations, don’t stop there. Check what other customers have to say about a contractor’s work. If complaints outnumber praises, you may have to keep looking. A contractor who doesn’t have references to share might indicate a novice or someone who has left past clients angry. A good contractor will want to share past triumphs. A hefty list of references translates to a hefty amount of experience.
2. They’re Busy
Some homeowners may be turned off by a busy contractor who doesn’t return calls right away. Don’t be. A busy contractor typically indicates a good contractor who is in high demand. Waiting for the right contractor is always a better idea than too quickly hiring the contractor that nobody else wants.
3. They’re Licensed
While they may be more expensive than their unlicensed counterparts, licensed contractors are preferable and can help you avoid big disappointments down the line. Licensed contractors are less likely to cut corners on your project, as they can lose their license if they do. Also, by law, they must have worker’s compensation insurance, which protects you, the owner, in the relatively common case that they or one of their employees gets hurt on the job.
4. They’ll Get the Right Permits
Almost all home renovation projects require permits, but many contractors will suggest working without permits to cut costs. Resist the urge. Without the proper permits, you risk being assessed fines and running into trouble when it’s time to sell. Also, beware of contractors who ask you to obtain the permit—it’s their job.
5. They’ll Sign a Contract
If you don’t get a contractor to sign a contract indicating the tasks that need to be completed, including deadlines and exact materials, your summer renovation may turn into your two- or three-year renovation. You also run the risk of your contractor abandoning the project halfway through.
6. They Take Payments
A contractor who takes only a small payment upfront is ideal. If a contractor asks you to pay more than 10 percent, ask him to reconsider or seek a new contractor. Unless expensive materials must be purchased up front, you want to make a small deposit to begin with. To protect yourself if a project goes awry, never be tempted to pay all of the costs upfront. The final payment should be made only when the project is 100 percent complete.
7. Their Record Is Clean
Beyond online reviews, always check the disciplinary boards, Better Business Bureau and local court records for problems. If your contractor’s record is clean, it’s likely to stay that way, and you’re likely to love the work she’ll provide.
If your general contractor meets the above criteria, your search is likely over. Now, the fun part can begin!
Erica Garza is writer from Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health and VICE.