Home improvement projects are inherently stressful. Right from the beginning, before you even have any work done, the stress starts as you start the hunt for a Pro. Everyone knows that you should be getting at least three bids for a project, but not everyone knows why, or what it is you should be asking your Pro before you hire. This, in turn, could lead to homeowners who skip the screening process altogether, potentially opening themselves and their homes up to some serious problems. Screening isn’t fun, and it isn’t easy, but it’s entirely necessary before you have any work done.
Are They Who They Say They Are
In a perfect world, you could take what everyone tells you at face value. But this is far from an ideal world, and there are countless stories out there of home improvement scams and scam artists who prey on unsuspecting homeowners. One of the biggest reasons why you should be screening your Pros is to make sure they are who they say they are.
Are they local? Do they have the licenses they claim to have? How long have they done business in your area? Can they produce at least three recent, local references for you to check? This is critical information for you to know. While someone could claim that they work locally, they could be a storm chaser from out of state hoping to cash in on roof work after a hail storm hits your neighborhood. Or you could have a contractor who claims to be licensed, but in reality, has let his license lapse.
If you don’t follow up on your Pros by asking for copies of driver’s licenses, Pro licenses, and business addresses and phone numbers, you could be taking a risk.
Are They in Good Standing
Part of the reason you need to know that this person is who they say they are is to double check on their license. Remember, there are general licenses and specialized versions. A GC and a Roofing Contractor can both fix your roof, but only one specializes in roof repair. It’s not enough to know your Pro is licensed; you need to ensure that they are licensed for the job you are hiring them to do.
Likewise, you should check out your Pro on the Better Business Bureau. Everyone is bound to have some complaints; what you are looking for is how the Pro handles these complaints. Did he make good on his promises, or leave the homeowner high and dry? You should only hire Pros that are qualified, licensed, and able to take care of you if something goes wrong.
Finally, you need to make sure that your Pro is in good standing with suppliers. If your Pro leaves a bill unpaid – even if you have paid him – a lien can be put on your property. Make sure your Pro is in good standing with the suppliers he uses and has a history of paying his bills. If the supplier he intends to use has never heard of him, it’s not a good sign.
Can They Offer Manufacturer’s Warranties?
This isn’t applicable for every Pro you hire, but any Pro that installs specialty materials or name brand products for you should be able to offer things like specialized training and certification from the manufacturer, or if they sell the product themselves, the manufacturer’s warranty that can extend the life of the product. For example, roofers often sell the materials they install. If they train with the manufacturer, they can offer you an extended warranty on the shingles, as well as on the labor. When they’re done installing, a representative from the manufacturer will arrive to inspect their work, guaranteeing it for you.
A quick call to the manufacturer will confirm that this training or warranty is in place, and can give you a lot of peace of mind down the road.
Do They Want the Job?
Believe it or not, not every Pro wants to tackle every job. Unfortunately, most of them are too polite to tell you to your face. Instead, they’ll often quote a pie in the sky price or a long delay in starting to try to put you off. If you go with them, at least they make more money to make up for the fact that they don’t want to do the work.
By screening at least three Pros, you can catch on to the ones that don’t want the work. Bids should come in reasonably close together; outliers usually indicate an issue. Your Pro should also at least seem enthusiastic, willing to do the follow-ups and get you the info you’re asking. Reluctance or a lack of call back could mean that he just isn’t interested.
We understand that screening is long and complicated, but it's truly necessary to hire a great Pro. That's why we developed the matching service that does the heavy lifting, screening and background checking every Pro, so you don’t have to. Now you can focus on things like style, design, and getting the project off the ground.