How to Start a Relationship With a Contractor

How to Start a Relationship With a Contractor

Establish a business relationship with a trustworthy professional

By Julie Hampton

Contractor and man with collared shirt talking
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A remodel or small construction project can be stressful to organize, and hiring a professional and reliable contractor to work on your project can add additional pressure to the project. You want to hire the right contractor who can be relied on to finish the project professionally and to your specifications. Still, the stories of hiring the wrong contractor are abundant. Starting a good working relationship takes time to build, starting with initial over-the-phone interviews to meeting in person.

  • What You Need to Know
  • When you're looking for a reputable contractor, get references from real estate agents, neighbors and others who value their contractor. You'll still have some research to do, but gather as many names as you can first.
  • Remember to hire someone based on factors such as education, portfolio and references; not solely on price.
  • Always get everything in writing when working with a contractor for both parties' peace of mind. Any changes to the initial contract should always be added in an addendum or change order to the initial contract. Again, changes should also be signed by both parties.
Building Trust With a Contractor

Step 1:

Find a contractor to work on your construction project by seeking referrals from a variety of sources. Ask local real estate agents for contractors they have recommended in the past. Request the name of contractors from friends and family members who have recently finished projects. Check with the local chamber of commerce to find local contractors. Interior designers and decorators work with a variety of subcontractors including electricians, flooring installers and carpenters, and may be able to refer a contractor they have personally worked with for several years.

Step 2:

Interview the contractor over the phone. Call three to five contractors initially. Take note of their phone demeanor. How did they answer the phone? Did they ask detailed questions about the project and your goals? Make sure to inquire about the contractor's schedule; many contractors can be booked for several weeks or months in advance. Choose two to three contractors you are interested in meeting in person.

Step 3:

Meet with the contractors on the job site, so they can visually see the project. Ask for references, including previous clients and projects that integrated the contractor's work. Discuss the contractor's experience and education. How long has the contractor been in business? Will the contractor be performing the work on the project, or does he manage the project and hire employees to perform the main body of work? Discuss how long the employees have worked for the contractor, and what their work experience is. Inquire about business insurance and worker's compensation. Contractors should be able to provide a certificate of insurance if asked.

Step 4:

Discuss the project specifics. Know what will and will not be included in the bid. Understand what happens if additional work that is not planned for occurs. Pinpoint when the project will start and end. Review all details of the contract before signing an agreement.

Step 5:

Keep an open line of communication between the contractor and yourself. Check in with the contractor in person on a daily basis. Drop by during lunch to see how the project is moving along. Remember to refer your contractor at the end of the project to others seeking work; most contractors receive work by word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Do not feel pressured to make an appointment to meet with the contractor after the initial conversation. It is okay to call back later to schedule a meeting.
  • Give the contractor both your cell and work phone numbers if it is necessary to contact you if a quick decision must be made.
  • Agree on some project ground rules for the contractor to abide by when working in your home. Set the times that work will begin and end each day. Convey your expectations for daily clean-up. And once you establish trust, you can provide your contractor with a house key and alarm codes so that he or she can work on your project when you are away.

About the Author

Julie Hampton is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

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