Hiring a Contractor
With all the recent inclement weather, some of your clients may turn to you for advice about home repair and maintenance. As a home insurance professional, you can help them avoid the all too common disaster stories. Here are six simple ideas that will help you and your clients better evaluate contractors for their home repair needs.
1. Get at Least Three Bids
With any project it’s wise to get multiple bids. Doing some preliminary research online and getting at least three bids can make all the difference in finding a better price and better options. Review a variety of small and large businesses, recommendations from neighbors or nearby friends and family. It’s also a good idea to get at least three references from each contractor.
2. Call Suppliers to Determine Material Costs
Most contractors will outline the materials cost for a project, but calling suppliers yourself gives you a point of reference for how much the materials should cost and avoid hiring a contractor that adds huge markup to their materials.
3. Look for Integrity
If you want to find a contractor who sticks to their word, pay attention to what they say versus what they do. Did they check all the items they said they would? Did they show up around time they said they would? We’re all human, so don’t take it too far, but paying close attention to how a contractor handles the initial estimate can give you a general idea of their honesty and integrity. Checking any online reviews can help clear this up too.
4. Ask the Important Questions
When facing a home repair, we’re often flustered, in a hurry, and not a little distracted. But before letting someone tear into your biggest investment, here are some good questions to ask:
- Is the company insured? Do they have workers’ compensation and general liability insurance? Be sure to keep copies of the policies on file.
- Is the company in good standing with a trade association?
- How long have they been in business? A well-established contractor is likely to be a safer bet. Protect yourself by asking for proof of business length.
- What is the contractor’s record on complaint resolution? Make sure to get references, and review past work.
5. Pay Attention to Your Contract
A good way to steer clear of trouble is to get everything in writing. A contract protects you and the contractor by stating everything you have both agreed upon and spells out exactly what the contractor will and will not do. Don’t accept vague proposals, and read your contract thoroughly before signing it.
6. Know the Warning Signs
There are also some obvious red flags to be aware of, before you even start asking questions. Under most circumstances you should avoid the following:
- Contractors who only accept cash payments, or pressure you to make a quick decision.
- Contractors who only want to give you a telephone number. Always verify the business is licensed to operate in your area, and check for a local address for legitimacy.
- Contractors who don’t want to provide any references. Always obtain references and, if possible, visit the job sites and speak with the homeowners.