With colder weather on the way, you might be in a race to batten down the hatches and get a few things fixed around the house. Finding the right expert might seem daunting and it’s true that sourcing someone with know-how can feel like a job in and of itself. But trust me, hiring the wrong professional can do a lot more harm than good. So where do you start? Here are my top tips for finding an honest, reputable contractor.
Ask for referrals.
When it comes to hiring an expert for remodeling or home repair work, you should look at it the same way you would for a doctor or an accountant. Start by asking friends, family or co-workers for a referral, or you can also try your local building inspector or the owner of the lumberyard in your area. Additionally, every tradesperson has a network of other home professionals they deal with regularly; so if you have a plumber but need an electrician, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Click the “like” button.
When meeting with professionals, your gut feeling is as important as anything else. Home improvement is a personal process so go at it in the same way you would a first date. Do you like the solutions and options the expert provides? Does he communicate with you in a way that’s clear and concise? Do you feel comfortable that she will do the job the way you want it done? Don’t get caught up in special deals or flashy talk, trust your instincts and go with a professional that feels more like a partner than a salesperson.
Don’t ask for a rough estimate.
If you have a big job that you need done, there is no use in asking for a “ballpark figure”. Chances are that the prices quoted in the estimate will change once the contractor has a chance to understand what is specifically required. Certain things such as the condition of the property, the materials used for the job and the personalization that you require will make up the price, so save yourself some time and confusion by making a list of what you really want before the contractors show up for the first appointment. Most professionals will give you an estimate for free so make the most of that opportunity by getting specific. Getting a good deal is important, but not if it means scrimping on quality workmanship.
Do ask for a plan.
Understanding your costs is key, but it’s also a good idea to ask for a plan of action to ensure you are fully aware of both the process and the timeline for the job. A simple step-by-step explanation will give you the clarity you need to ensure that you and your contractor are on the same page and it will also help you plan around activities you might have going on, like family coming into town for the holidays. As a professional, I like to make sure the steps involved in a job are clearly articulated for two reasons; it gives my customers confidence in the project and it helps them understand all of the work being undertaken, especially the parts that might not be as obvious. In my opinion, an educated customer is the best kind of customer.
Bob O'Donnell is the owner of O'Donnell Bros, Inc., a Bristol-based home improvement company established in 1975. Email your questions for Bob to email@example.com with the subject line “Ask the Pro”. All questions may be considered for publication. To contact Bob for your remodeling needs, call O'Donnell Bros, Inc. at (860) 589-5155 or visit www.odonnellbros.com. Advice is for guidance only.