3 common mistakes to avoid when hiring a contractor

3 common mistakes to avoid when hiring a contractor
A bran new screened-in porch addition

I taught a continuing education class entitled "How to Hire a Remodel Contractor," and asked, "How many of you have had a bad experience hiring a contractor?” What percentage of people do you think raised their hand? It was consistently more than half the class.

I would ask a few people to share their experiences, and suggest what they could have done differently to have a better chance at success. I offered these three observations:

Homeowners hire who they like

Obviously we hire people we bond with and have a rapport with, but that does not mean they are qualified, or the best fit for our needs and expectations. Clients would do well to use "I like this person” as a reason to explore further information. Just because you like them doesn’t mean they are the best fit for the job.

Homeowners don't check references or ask the right questions

I was always surprised at how many people would either not ask for references or get them and then not call them. Even when they called, some would not ask pertinent questions like, "I want to design and build a master bedroom addition: Do you think Johnny could do that?” “Did they do design work for you?” “How did that go?” “How long did it take?” “How long ago did they work for you?“

I think that last one is important to check out. What does that tell you if the contractors’ references are five years old? I encourage clients to ask for a contractor’s last five clients. That separates the men from the boys.

Homeowners are swayed into time and material contracts

Many believe that a stated hourly rate is going to be a better deal than a fixed cost. I have an entire article on this subject alone. The best proof of this: the state of California says time and material contracts are against the law, because they are the most litigated situations. A fact some contractors don't understand.

About this Angie’s List Expert: Mark Labourdette has been a remodel contractor since 1980 and is a frequent speaker at industry events. He represents Design Build Specialists Inc. providing contracting service to the San Francisco Bay Area. You can learn more at the company website.

As of July 30, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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