7 Red Flags: Choosing a Home Remodeling Contractor

7 Red Flags: Choosing a Home Remodeling Contractor
So, you're in the midst of searching for the perfect home remodeling contractor to take on your renovation project. With so many options, however, you're feeling understandably overwhelmed. As you sift through home remodel contractor reviews, they all seem to run together, and you're at a loss of who to choose for your project. As you speak to individual contractors, there are some potential red flags you may want to be on the lookout for that could indicate a particular home improvement contractor isn't the right fit for your project.

1. Poor Communication

Communication is extremely important when hiring a contractor, no matter the size of the project. Your contractor should be in contact with you through every step of the process and keep you well informed. Contractors often have a preference for the way that they communicate with you, but they shouldn’t force you to use one or the other. For example, if you prefer to use email and they rely on text messages, they should be willing to follow your specifications at least for the most important communications.
 
A lot of times, you can get a good idea of how effective a communicator a contractor is in your initial dealings with him or her. For example, is he or she quick to respond to e-mails or calls? Does he or she respond in a professional manner? If not, then it might be time to look elsewhere.
 

2. Won’t Show a License or Insurance

Arizona law requires a license for most types of construction work. However, there are lots of people out there who claim to have a license and don’t. That can be bad for homeowners, especially if they end up getting work from someone who hasn’t invested the time or effort to qualify for a license. Failing to get or keep a license may mean that someone doesn’t have the qualifications for the work they’re advertising. It might also mean that they had a license, but there were so many complaints about their work that the Registrar of Contractors revoked it.
When you’re considering a contractor, ask them to show proof of license. If they can’t, there’s reason to believe it’s because they don’t have one. Even if they do show one, you can still look them up at the state licensing board. Every state has one. This is a great place to verify that your contractor has an active license, and you can also confirm that they’re licensed to do the work you need.
 
When you’re following up on the licensing, be sure to ask about insurance. Some projects require additional insurance to protect you, your property, and the workers on the job. Most contractors will cover this as part of their estimate, but you’ll want to follow up. If something goes wrong, the last thing you want is to get sued and be held liable for an accident that you didn’t cause.
 

3. An Impossibly Low Estimate

No homeowner wants to spend more than they need to when undergoing any home improvement project. However, a contractor who offers a significantly lower estimate than others is a potential red flag. He or she may be cutting corners or may not be including all of the costs that may be involved in your project (such as dust protections, or debris clean-up, or employing licensed sub-contractors).
 
There's a lot to keep in mind when searching for the perfect contractor for your home improvement project. Take the stress and hassle out of this task; you deserve to enjoy remodeling your home.  Learn more about the Hochuli's, and take a look at these additional homeowner resources we've included to help you choose a contractor for your home remodel.
 

4. Very Little in Writing

Documentation is the best way that you can protect yourself as a homeowner. When you conduct most of your communication over the phone or in-person, you lose access to those records that help you ensure that you get what you want. In some cases, you just have a misunderstanding with a contractor that would be better clarified in writing. If they’re unwilling to answer your questions by email or even by text, be wary. Someone who won’t communicate with you in a way that leaves a paper trail may be trying to cover their tracks.
 
This is particularly true for the estimate. Never take someone’s “back of the napkin” quote as a final indication of what something costs or what they expect you to pay. Get a detailed estimate and review it carefully before you let anyone start work or even request permits. Go through each item and make sure that you understand it all. If you see any vague categories like “labor” that covers the whole project, get clarification.
 

5. Lack of Past Work

Reputable contractors should have photos of the work they have done in the past readily available in a portfolio, or gallery of completed remodeling project pictures on their website--not stock images. If you’re not sure whether or not someone’s work is really their own, do a reverse image search to confirm.
 
 

6. Inability to Obtain Permit

Any reputable contractor should be happy to go through the process of obtaining any necessary building permits from your local municipality. If a contractor asks you to obtain the permits for any reason, this should be seen as a red flag. More than likely, this contractor is asking you to do the work because he or she isn't licensed to obtain the permits as a contractor, which is obviously a huge red flag. You shouldn't be needed to get any permits. You may need to sign the paperwork, but that's the extent of your involvement in the permit process.
 

7. Requesting Total Upfront Payment

Generally, you can expect to be asked to pay a portion of your project cost upfront, but you should never be expected to pay-in-full before the project has even started! A contractor who wants your business should allow you to put down a deposit and then render the remaining amount of payment over the course of the project or upon the project's successful completion.  Ensure the contractor has clearly outlined the payment schedule in the construction agreement, so you're all on the same page as to when progress payments are due, and for how much.
Also, be skeptical of any contractor who asks you to pay by cash only. You want to have a record of your payment, and cash doesn't allow for this. By paying through credit card or check, you'll have a record of your payment.  Only make checks payable to the company name; a home remodel contractor that asks you to make a check out to him personally, may not be properly set up as a legitimate business.
 

There's a lot to keep in mind when searching for the perfect contractor for your home improvement project. Take the stress and hassle out of this task; you deserve to enjoy remodeling your home.  Learn more about the Hochuli's, and take a look at these additional homeowner resources we've included to help you choose a contractor for your home remodel.

 

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