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How To Find a Reliable Contractor

Renovating your property is a first step towards either getting it rent-ready or upgrading it to attract more renters. Once you have decided to make renovations on your rental property, the challenge becomes finding a reliable contractor that you can trust.

If you know a good one, you’re lucky. For everyone else, here are seven ways we have learned to find and work with a good contractor.

1. Educate Yourself

Before you start searching for contractors, first decide what type of renovation you’re looking for. Does it require plumbing, electrical, roofing, HVAC? Not every contractor is an expert in every area, so break down the parts you’re looking for. Will you need a general contractor who can manage all the subcontractors? Will you need just one or two specialists? If you’re not sure what a kitchen rehab requires, then you need to start educating yourself on what’s involved. You could also call a general contractor who can walk you through the process or a company that specializes in kitchen renovations. Educate yourself on what the parts are that make up the entire renovation, and you’ll have a better idea of where to start looking for a contractor.

2. Ask a Friend for Referrals

If you have a friend, who has already undertaken the task of renovating their property, going to them for referrals is an easy way to build up your list of potential contractors. When asking for referrals, make sure to ask about their experience. How long did the contractor take to complete the job? Was it easy to communicate with the contractor? How much did they charge? What was the end product? Ask if you can have a tour around the renovated property to familiarize yourself with the quality of the contractor’s work.

3. Read Reviews

Visit Yelp, Facebook, Houzz and other review sites to find what other people say about their experience of the contractors you’re interested in. Be mindful to look at the overall trend of the reviews, and don’t get hung up if there are one or two bad ones. There are always a few cranks. You want to look for the overall sentiment of all the reviews combined as well as how the contractor responded to the bad reviews. Was the contractor positive and helpful in their response? Did they just ignore it? How someone responds to a bad review is indicative of how they will respond to your complaints or concerns.

4. Visit Angie’s List

Angie’s List is an online platform that vets home services. This website features qualified providers that you can hire to do work on your property. The site includes everything from plumbers to designers, and each provider has undergone reviews and background checks before being admitted to the site. You can find in-depth reviews from verified buyers after signing up. (It’s free to sign up.)

5. Talk to the Contractor(s)

Once you have gathered a list of prospective contractors, call them for details on their service. Some of the more sought-after contractors may have a long waiting list, which is typically a sign that they do good work. Once you contact the contractor, you should have a list of questions ready. Questions can include:

  • Are you licensed and insured?
  • How long they have been in business
  • What size projects do they typically take?
  • Do they use subcontractors?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • How long have their employees been with them?
  • How many projects do they take on at the same time?
  • Can you talk to some former customers?
  • Can you see some of their completed work?
  • Can you tell me about your professional standards?

You want to get a feel for if they have been doing this kind of work for a while, or if they are a fly-by-night operation.

6. Check The Contractor’s License

An important step to getting a trustworthy contractor is ensuring they have the appropriate professional licenses[G1] . You can look up any contractor’s license status at the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation of Virginia’s license lookup page. Keep in mind that while licensing is one indication of professional status, it does not ensure competency, so follow the steps previously outlined as well.

7. Get Your Contract in Writing

Once you have decided on a contractor to do the job for you, get a written copy of your contract. The contract should include the payment schedule, liability, deadlines, and materials to be used. Having a written contract ensures your and your contractor’s safety should problems arise during the job.