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Top 10 Red Flags to Watch Out for in Hiring a Contractor

Top 10 Red Flags to Watch Out for in Hiring a Contractor

Apr 14 2022

If you’ve been considering a home improvement project but are nervous about hiring a contractor, you’re not alone! Many people say that finding the right crew or company to take on their remodel can be one of the most stressful parts of beginning a project. 

Fortunately, finding someone you can trust to get the job done right can be simple…if you know what to look for. Save yourself time, worry and stress by keeping an eye out for these ten red flags in hiring a contractor.

Red Flag #1: They Won’t Say If They’re Licensed, Bonded or Insured

In the US, a home improvement contractor license is a must for professional remodelers. However, every state has different licensing requirements. Insurance and background checks are important too, as you need to be able to trust the people on your property and don’t want to be held liable in any way. Check what your state requires, then ask your contractor to provide credentials. If they balk or can’t do it, consider that a big warning sign. 

Pro hiring tip: Ask if the company has had any recent name changes and if so, why. Some may do it to run away from legal issues or ongoing bad reviews. This is where a little research can go a long way in saving you trouble down the line. 

Red Flag #2 They Ask You to Pay 100% Upfront

If a contractor asks for you to pay 80% or more of the project upfront, it may mean they don’t have enough steady business to cover the cost of materials for your project. This, in turn, means they’re either new in the industry or they don’t get many repeat customers. And, if they’re especially scummy, they may simply take your money and walk away from the project before it’s complete. Never make your final payment before ensuring the end product meets your expectations. 

Pro hiring tip: Watch out for contractors who offer a discount if you pay entirely in cash. This could mean they’re trying to avoid paying taxes. If you do pay with cash, DEFINITELY get a receipt. A notarized affidavit is best. 

Red Flag #3: They Provide Quick Quotes or Very Generic Renderings 

If a contractor gives you a quote within minutes or offers a diagram of your remodel without knowing your project and site specifics, they may be in a hurry to close the deal. That can result in pricy change orders coming your way once they begin your makeover!

Red Flag #4: They Only Make Verbal Agreements

Handshakes (and elbow bumps) are great, but don’t begin a project or make a payment on one without getting EVERYTHING in writing. By creating a contract complete with detailed drawings that clearly spells out what’s included, you have something to refer to if your project seems to be going off track. 

Pro hiring tip: Fixed price contracts are better than open ended ones, so you’re not hit with last-minute bill surprises. 

Red Flag #5: They Give You a Bid a Lot Lower Than Competitors 

When it comes to remodeling, you get what you pay for. Yes, companies can differ in prices based on their overhead and costs, but if someone quotes you a bid significantly lower than a reputable business, chances are they didn’t price it correctly. This can mean cut corners or change orders coming your way. 

Red Flag #6:  They Have Little to No Online Presence 

If a company has been around long enough, they should have easy-to-find reviews and an online presence. If they don’t, they’re probably hiding something! Or they may be a new business. Being new isn’t always a negative, but there’s a steep learning curve to the remodeling industry and you don’t want your project to be their science project. 

Pro hiring tip: Check for the overall number of reviews a company has. Hundreds of four-star reviews are more trustworthy than a handful of five-star reviews.
 

Red Flag #7: They Can’t Provide References 

Like reviews, references should be something every credible contractor is comfortable sharing. If a contractor is confident in their work and their reputation, they should be more than happy to provide you with contact information from a past client or two. 

Red Flag #8: They Take Forever to Return Phone Calls

If they’re too busy to return phone calls or get your bid back to you, they’re probably backed on projects. Know that if you go with this type of contractor, you may be way down the list and it may take a while for your remodel to get started.

Red Flag #9: They Can Start Your Project Tomorrow

On the flip side of being too busy are contractors who have nothing going on. If they say they can start your project immediately, they may have been out of work for a while or are new to the business. This would be a good time to ask for references to see how long ago they last worked on a project!

Red Flag #10: They Fumble When Answering Technical Questions 

If you ask basic technical questions and can’t get a straight answer, you may be dealing with a remodeling newbie. Yes, even the most experienced craftsmen may encounter a head scratcher or two, but in general, your contractor should be confident in their work. 

When in doubt, it’s usually best to do your research, talk to friends and neighbors and go with your gut. If someone has several of the above red flags, you’d do well to avoid at all costs. Likewise, if a contractor has great word-of-mouth reviews or a solid online presence, you should have confidence your project will proceed without a lot of unwanted surprises. Once you find someone you can trust, you’re halfway to the remodel of your dreams. Here’s to smooth sailing in your future!

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