Q&A / 

Tips for Finding a Professional Contractor

For many years, I was oblivious as to the anxiety that homeowners experienced concerning the selection of a builder or remodeler. This anxiety was brought to my attention during a consumer panel discussion in Washington D.C.which took place in the spring of 1993. The homeowner panelists who answered questions indicated to the remodelers in the room that they were frightened about the prospect of hiring a contractor. They made it very clear that large sums of money were at stake and they were placing their most valuable possession, their house, in the hands of a stranger. My guess is that you have or are experiencing this same anxiety. I hope the following tips will aid you in spotting the professional.

Tips for Finding Professional Contractors

First and foremost, professional contractors are also business people. This is a very important quality. Your remodeling or building project is also a major business transaction. The professional will have the staff or the ability to handle all of the required paperwork in a timely fashion.

A professional will comply with all laws and regulations, both on a local and national level. Generally speaking, these laws are in place for the protection of people and property. A professional will respect these laws.

A professional will execute all change orders promptly and in writing. This practice helps to minimize confusion and disagreements.

A professional will return phone calls promptly. Twenty four to 36 hours is a reasonable expectation. Because a contractor may be tied up on a job or in a meeting, instantaneous response is not always possible. However, you will find out that when dealing with a pro, you will rarely need to phone him or her. They generally have things under control and you already know in advance what is supposed to happen.

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Professionals are knowledgeable concerning project financing and how your project will enhance the value of your home. Studies are done on a regular basis which indicate the relative value of improvements. A professional is informed about these values and how and where to obtain financing.

Professional contractors are polite, well mannered and well groomed. They are clean and courteous. They respect your privacy and do not indulge in off-color jokes. Professionals refrain from profane language and will not pollute the air with loud or unwanted music. A professional who wishes to listen to music will request permission to do so and will listen to tasteful music that you also approve of.

A professional contractor is considerate of your house, its furnishings and the grounds. He or she will provide protection for all of the above when work is in progress.

Professionals will notify you in advance of disruptions to utilities. This will allow you plenty of time to prepare. These disruptions will generally be timed so as to cause minimum disturbance to your lifestyle.

A professional will not resort to 'special deals' in an effort to sell you his or her services. Their work and past record should be enough to prove to you their value. A wise homeowner recognizes that quality comes with a price tag. A professional does not have to 'discount' his or her services.

Professionals pay great attention to detail. They take notes at meetings. Nothing is left to chance. Follow up is a constant driving force. A professional will, in most cases, keep you abreast of all developments. There generally are no surprises.

A professional is honest. Integrity is a given. A professional will readily admit to a mistake. He or she will not hesitate to tell you what will be done to correct the mistake. There will be no excuses.

Professionals know the value of clean job sites. A clean jobsite is a safe jobsite. Production takes place at a higher rate. Clean-up is done on a daily or regular basis. Provisions are employed to minimize and control the spread of dust.

A professional will only request deposits for special order non-returnable items which need to be ordered in advance. A professional will sometimes request a deposit for other services or permits which are obtained prior to the start of work. These services, however, must be exclusive and must be for your benefit only.

A professional will take excellent care of his or her vehicle. Tools and equipment are also maintained on a regular basis. Organization of materials, tools and paperwork is evident on a professional's job site. There is never confusion.

Professionals pre-order materials. They call ahead. Professionals will readily make use of a supplier's free delivery policy. A professional will plan ahead so that materials are on site when needed. A professional generally never has to resort to 'crisis management'.

A professional charges a fair profit. This profit is then reinvested back into the business. Professionals know that they need to constantly upgrade their capital improvements. They want to continue to be in business. Profit is the only way to ensure that this will happen. They realize that they have to invest this profit, not take it in the form of a payroll bonus.

Professionals respond promptly to legitimate warranty or service calls. They do not hesitate to fix problems. They do not push blame onto something or someone else. They simply correct the problem and get your life back to normal.

A professional does everything possible to keep an appointment. They realize that you have adjusted your schedule and plans in order to meet. However, things happen. When and if an appointment has to be rescheduled, a professional will give adequate notice.

A professional will not hesitate to give a job cost breakdown. He or she knows that this often is the way in which you can see why the other contractors are the low bid. A professional has nothing to hide.

Professionals have all necessary insurance. Their policies are up-to-date and they can provide copies of all certificates of insurance. Frequently, professionals will automatically provide copies of their certificates with their quotations.

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In states that require licensing, professionals are always licensed. They can provide necessary documentation to prove that their license is current.

Professionals will provide a detailed description of the work they intend to do. There will be no questions as to who, what, when, where and why.

A professional will provide accurate start and completion dates. In the event of a change order during the course of work, a professional will readjust the completion date accordingly.

Professionals do not use high pressure sales techniques. They do not have to. Their work and reputation are all that they need.

The contract which a professional uses is clear and concise. It clearly spells out all responsibilities. Often it will have an article within the contract which allows for a fair procedure to settle any disputes.

Professionals possess a wide grasp of knowledge concerning building and remodeling techniques. They are experienced with past building practices. Not only are they aware of current building procedures, they are also aware of future trends.

A professional is often an active member of a trade association. Often, a professional will participate in seminars or other opportunities which will provide for continuing education.

Professionals can provide you with countless references. These individuals can be readily reached and will tell you both the contractor's strengths and weaknesses.

Often, a professional is a member of his or her local Better Business Bureau. They will often have a very good record. However, in the event that the B.B.B. tells you that a complaint or complaints have been filed, don't be alarmed. The more important issue is to ask whether or not the complaints have been resolved. A professional will resolve problems and the B.B.B. will be notified after the problem has been corrected.

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