How to Choose Builders, Contractors & Remodeling Pros

How to Choose Builders, Contractors & Remodeling Pros

Once you've decided to do a project to improve your home, the first challenge will be selecting the right contractor. This often confuses even the savviest of homeowners. But don't worry, we've got your back.

Turning to “neighborhood” web sites or social media for advice doesn't provide the full picture. You can be certain that at least some of the info is biased. Believe it or not, many reviews on the internet are fake (hopefully that's not a revelation). 

Often someone will recommend a service provider for one task, based on their experience in a completely different task. Our recommendation is to get multiple bids and as much info as possible. 

In 2015, a national poll showed that 30% of all homeowners believe the most difficult part of any home improvement project is just finding the right pro to do the job. Because the home improvement market is so complex, it is 

In order to help you out, we've assembled the following list. Use your knowledge and intuition, just as you would when hiring any home renovation professional. Consider the complexity of the project and how to ensure that you hire the right pro. Don’t worry, with the right guidance you can find a great contractor who will make sure your purchase is the ideal one for your home and objectives.

  1. First, make a list of requirements according to your local municipality. Building according to code matters. It matters to quality and to your insurance company. They'll only cover you if you do thing right. 
  2. Collect a list of contractors that meet these guidelines. Ask for recommendations from family or neighbors but be sure to check several sources and verify all licensing, certifications and insurance (that the contractor carries liability insurance that is). 
  3. Once you have a list, contact each provider and ask for an estimate. Usually an installer will visit your home, and if they don't it's a red flag. Use this step to filter out substandard installers and get info up front before a site visit. This will help avoid numerous sales pitches and create a short list of contractors with minimal effort.
  4. After you get the first few quotes, review the information. Take note of the equipment choices, experience, pricing, and availability of each contractor. Then rank each according to your own preferences.
  5. Contact the top 2-3 contractors and request a final estimate. Make sure to talk through the options with each and if you have a preference, ask the pro to revise his/her estimates. 
  6. After you get the final evaluations, create a list of the top factors in your decision and assess the offers on each of the important categories. Your list should include:
  • Availability
  • Licensing
  • Experience
  • Equipment
  • Reputation
  • Price
  • Services Provided

Explanations:
- Services Provided - find out what services are included in the contract. This should include permits, change orders, etc.
- Price - don't automatically accept the lowest price. In fact, we'd advise first choosing the top installer from your evaluation and then negotiating cost with that company.

7. Finally, find out if the installer offers any financing or credit options. Even if you plan on paying for the system in full, some installers have special incentives such as interest fee financing to provide funding until rebates are obtained, etc.

Hiring a contractor can seem like a tough job at first. This is especially true for specialized jobs like installing solar panels. Fortunately, most homeowners who have done renovations themselves are happy to talk about their experiences. Speak to as many homeowners as possible and evaluate what works best for you and your own goals. 

Jeff Larson

About the Author

Jeff Larson

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