How do I choose a contractor?

This is a very important initial step. Your home holds most of your valuables and is your "safe haven." The more complex and invasive the project will be the more important the decision becomes. However it need not be an insurmountable challenge.

Here are a few simple yet effective tips:

1. Is this person someone I will be comfortable to have in my home for an extended period of time?

• skill and ability can not compensate for lack of good character
• what is your gut feeling about this person in general

2. Will the person selling the job to me be readily available and involved throughout the job?

• some companies have representatives who appear professional, they are trained to make a sale, but when the job actually starts they are no longer involved, instead you will now be dealing with a crew foreman who may be of a very different caliber

3. Ask to see the Company Policies and Mission Statement

• If they have none, that reflects their level of professionalism
• Policies and a Mission statement can reveal allot about the people behind the company

4. Ask the contractor where they buy most of their materials. Call that supplier and ask if this contractor has a current line of credit with them. Suppliers will usually extend lines of credit only to financially responsible accounts. You may be able to get reviews about the contractor while you are having the conversation with the supplier.

5. Always Always Always avoid high pressure sales tactics
• If you are told to sign a contract today because the price will go up tomorrow
• If a deep discount is offered to showcase your project
• If you are promised a deep discount but no final sales price has been established
• Be especially wary of people who offer a bargain price, claiming they are doing a job in the neighborhood and have leftover materials
• If the salesperson starts at a certain number and brings the price down throughout his "pitch" without reducing any real tangible value to you

6. Check the Business ratings on the Better Business Bureau website.

7. Are any references available from past clients?

8. Does the contractor have the required licenses?

9. Is the business covered with current Liability and Workers comp. Insurances?

10. Is the Bid/Contract provided for your work thorough and clear.

11. Are you given the option of choosing certain material, (tile, lights,) etc. (and, is that cost included in the contract price?)

12. Are the items not included in your contract specifically noted? (communication is key, understanding what is not included can be very important also)

13. The Cheapest bid is rarely the best choice.
• Homeowners who accept a rock-bottom bid may wind up less satisfied overall than those willing to pay more.
• One bidder may be using smaller-diameter copper tubing or cheaper tile.
• He or she may also be bidding on exactly what you say you want, without making it clear that your
pre-World War II house may also need new wiring and water lines, which will cost extra.
• The term "comparing apples to oranges" may well have been invented during the bidding process.
Some contractors intentionally submit a bid at a price they will lose money on, and than they make the difference up in extras

14. Is there a general schedule for the order and duration of the work?

15. It is important that an agreement is reached and put in written form explaining when the payments will be made.

16. Know your plans
• It can be costly to change job specifications after the work has begun.
• Revising your plans can add substantially to cost overruns, with changes resulting in lengthy delays.
• A less-than-straightforward low bidder is counting on these changes to make the job profitable.
• Does this company have a well organized and conclusive plan.

16. Is the entire process from initial meeting to contract presentation done in a professional manner?