Best Ways to Find and Vet Contractors for Construction Projects

October 1, 2019

If you like listening to the news, you might have seen this horror story: A fly-by-night contractor won the trust of a dozen homeowners and managed to scam them out of thousands of dollars before disappearing without a trace!

We know no one wants to go through this, but the challenges homeowners and property managers face are real. And unfortunately, this is something that happens far too often. Now, there’s no need to classify every contractor into this category as there are several that are genuine and trustworthy. At the same time, you don’t have you follow every lead recommended to you without making sure they are legitimate.

The question is, how do you make sure you're hiring the right contractor? And on top of that, how do you find a contractor for your construction projects in the first place?

Finding a Good Contractor

Here are some ways you can use to find the ideal contractor for your construction projects.

1. Do Your Homework

The first step towards finding the best contractor starts when you begin your homework! Thanks to the digital age, you no longer have to visit with them in person during this process. You can use online databases (most state and large cities have one) or search sites (e.g., Google, The Blue Book) to take the guesswork out of hiring.

You can also use public websites like Angie’s List or Yelp to see if there are any reviews left by other customers who've used their services in the past. These reviews can give you better insight. A red flag here is to find a perfect mix in those reviews, but don't entirely rely on these metrics. Use them to shortlist a few contractors and move onto the next step.

2. Get Creative

If you don’t want to rely on what websites tell you, you can go to your local chamber of commerce and ask them for their recommended contractors. Similarly, you can also ask your insurance provider, even if they aren’t involved in the project in any way.

Most insurance companies are on good terms with highly skilled local contractors. By asking them for a recommendation, you can not only take benefit of their vetting process, but also save a lot of your time in finding the right contractor for the job. Another advantage of using this approach is that you might get a discount on the services offered because you'll be using the insurance company as a reference.

3. Shortlist Three Contractors

The third step of the process is where you make a list of the best contractors you’ve come to know from these methods. The purpose behind creating a list of at least three contractors is that you will get to compare their quotations, reputation, and other necessary details. By following this process, you'll be able to find the right contractor for your tenant improvement projects, whether you are a landlord or a homeowner.

Once this step is done, your next target is to start vetting all the shortlisted contractors.

Vetting Contractors to Pick the Best One

Since we've found the top three local contractors by getting creative and doing our homework, the next step is to vet them so that we don't end up taking any chances.

1. Ask for their License Number

Now that the shortlisting is done, you need to narrow down the list and ask for their certificates of insurance and license numbers. Every contractor needs both of these to operate as a service provider. Once you have their business license number, you can contact your local municipality and check the legality of the contractor's business. Every contractor should also have certificates of liability insurance and workers comp to help with any problematic situations.

2. Ask for References

An experienced contractor always has some reliable references to back up their credibility. As a potential customer, you can reach out to them and ask for things such as professionalism, timeline strictness,and work quality. Here it would be good if you can create a review list of individual contractors and compare them later. If a contractor fails to provide references, be sure to think twice before signing a deal.

3. Interview Each Contractor

Interviewing is the best way to get to know the professionalism of a contractor. Create a list of questions and ask them to get a better idea of their workflow. Some of the must-ask questions are:

  • Are you part of any local trade association?
  • How long have you been in this field?
  • What timeline do you have in mind for this project?
  • What is the payment schedule you are easy to work with?

There are several other questions you could ask them, but these are the important ones. Although some of them might come off as nitpicky,you must ask them.

4. Ask for an Itemized Bid

The last part of the vetting process is asking for an itemized bid. Since you would have already gone through several vital details about that particular contractor, this final piece will seal the deal for you.The ideal case would be that the best contractor, according to the vetting process, also places the lowest bid. If this happens, go ahead and allow them to start working immediately. Here, you should remember that no business is perfect. There's a chance that a contractor would lack in a particular area. You must make sure you find the perfect mix.

Red Flags to Avoid

There are times when no matter how hard you try; you don't feel right about a particular contractor. To avoid getting harassed or even scammed, here are some red flags you need to look out for:

  • If a contractor asks you to move ahead with the work without signing a contract, consider it as a red flag! Make sure you have everything pinned down before you start.
  • If a contractor asks you to get permits, the chances are that they don’t have a valid license number. Take precautions and report such an event to the authorities.
  • Similarly, if a contractor asks for all the money upfront, consider backing off from the deal.

Other red flags include bids that are too low or too opaque,which will likely lead to change orders. As a property manager or property owner, you must make sure that the contractor you have on board is legit. Take additional time if needed, but never fall for a trap!

About Toolbox

Toolbox takes the pain out of finding the right contractor for your construction projects by matching you with a certified, vetted contractor at no cost to you. Simply post your project on our site and we will match you with a relevant contractor within 24 hours, with direct visibility into their insurance, licenses and certifications. Invoicing and payments are also taken care of through our site to give you a better project experience. Try Toolbox for your next project today.

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