As a property manager I rely on a team of contractors daily. Finding plumbers, electricians, painters, masons, landscapers, pool technicians or air conditioning servicemen who will perform quality work at a reasonable price can be a daunting task. The following tips can help you avoid unscrupulous, disorganized or inexperienced contractors who may deliver broken promises, bad work and blown budgets rather than professional results.
Word of Mouth: One of the best ways to begin your search for a contractor is to get recommendations. There are a wide range of sources: try friends, family and neighbors, especially those who may have had similar work or required similar services; contact people ‘in the know’ like property managers, other contractors you know and trust or a sales person in an affiliated business (e.g. paint supply store for recommendations on painters); there are even social media groups, like ‘MAJ’s List’ and ‘Rate it All Bermuda’, specifically established to provide reviews and recommendations on local service providers.
Investigate the Facts: Does the contractor specialize in the work you want performed? Does he have the necessary qualifications or licensing? Ask for, and then actually check, multiple references to determine whether former clients’ projects or services were completed on time, if there were any surprises in final cost, if the contractor was suitably skilled and if they would use the contractor again. If appropriate for the type or scope of work, ask to see the finished product.
It’s all in the details: A prospective contractor should carefully review the specifications of your job before submitting his bid. If he doesn’t take notes and measurements and make material and labor calculations, or if he simply names a price based on a similar job, he may not be detail-oriented or thorough enough to do a good job. A conscientious contractor will listen to you to determine your end goal and answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease.
First Impressions: In any business, first impressions are important. How a contractor presents himself and maintains his truck, tools and equipment are good indicators of how well he’ll take care of you and your job. He should look neat and professional, and his vehicles and equipment should be clean and in good repair.
Analyze the administration: Courtesy, punctuality and professionalism are some of the most important attributes a contractor can have next to their basic competency. Are phone calls and emails returned in a timely fashion? Does the contractor show up on time or at all for appointments? Does the contractor utilize professional quality business cards, estimates and invoices?
Beware Low Bids: Price is always an important consideration when selecting a contractor, but don’t let a low price or a special deal blind you to a potential problem. A bid far lower than others may indicate the contractor isn’t experienced enough to know the actual cost of the job. Disreputable contractors may bid low to secure a contract and then tack on extra charges as the job progresses. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit and other expenses.
Put it in writing: A good contractor is willing to put contract details in writing; payment schedule, proof of liability insurance, a start date and projected completion date, specific materials and products to be used and any industry licensing required.
Remember, your home is a major investment so don’t be afraid to be selective!