How to Hire a General Contractor
Use a methodical approach to researching and choosing your general contractor
By Daniel Ray
We have all heard the horror stories of general contractors who either skipped out on the job or used shoddy construction practices. The chance of this happening to you can be greatly reduced by conducting some simple research. With the high cost of construction materials and labor, a few hours of phone calls and Internet searches can be time well spent.
- What You Need to Know
- Get a list of local contractors from the local building association or from real estate offices. Ask questions about the reputation of each contractor and how long he's been in business. In addition, you'll want to ask how much each contractor charges and whether he stands behind his work.
Compile a list of general contractors for your project. Ask neighbors, family and friends for recommendations. Page through the local Yellow Pages for names in a large city but visit your local Chamber of Commerce in a small town where contractors may not advertise in the phone book.
Research the contractors on your list by checking each name through the Better Business Bureau (BBB). The National Association of the Remodeling Industry keeps a list of licensed contractors. However, the BBB only maintains a list of contractors with complaints against them and not all dissatisfied customers are willing to file a complaint.
Make another list of the contractors that interest you. Check that each one is licensed and insured. Ask for a list of references from prior jobs. The most recent references are the most valuable. Ask each customer if he or she was satisfied with the job and whether or not the contractor finished on time and within budget.
Complete background checks on each contractor. Mark off names that do not make the cut. You should wind up with a list of 3 to 5 names.
Have each of the remaining contractors submit an estimate for the job. Pick the best estimate that satisfies all of your requirements. Keep in mind that an estimate is not a concrete bid. If you're interested in locking in a price, ask for a bid.
Meet the contractor, and ask questions about the business. Make a list of questions you want to ask beforehand. Are he and his staff professional? How long has he been in operation? Does he have experience with the type of job you want completed? Inquire about payment details and methods for him and his men.
Have someone you trust review the contract. Make sure that everything is included and that there are no "hidden extras" that add to the cost. Do not sign the contract and hire the contractor until you are fully satisfied that everything is taken care of and in order.
About the Author
Daniel Ray is a contributor to DexKnows.com.
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