HomeAdvisor.com recently published an article entitled 7 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring Pros that gives some good tips to take into consideration when you are looking for someone to work on your home. Most of the points are very good, but we wanted to take a moment and add our thoughts to each one of their bullets. Hiring a contractor is not always easy, so hopefully the HomeAdvisor article and this post will give a few pointers to any Ventura County residents who may be looking for a contractor in the near future.
The article states “Open communication is the golden rule of dealing with home improvement contractors.” Although we don’t know if it’s the golden rule or not, it is definitely one of the bigger aspects to take into consideration. Being able to communicate openly and freely with your contractor will allow your project to run smoothly and help to alleviate some of the headaches that may arise in the future. Not everything always goes as planned, so you want to make sure that not only are you are comfortable communicating with the contractor, but that they know they should feel comfortable communicating with you as well. Along these lines, you want to make sure that you have as much in writing as possible, including a Scope of Work (SOW) and project schedule.
Call a Professional Before It’s Too Late
The premise of this bullet is to not wait until an item fails before bringing someone out to look at it, as it could be more expensive to repair as it gets worse. This may be a good rule of thumb, but depending on whether it’s a roof, plumbing, structural issue, etc., it may not be too easy to notice a problem early on. The article suggests that you contact a professional as soon as you notice a problem or something out of the ordinary. We would like to add that if it’s something major, like a roof repair or sewage issue, you may want to get more than one opinion. Don’t be afraid to call around and ask two or three contactors if they will come out and give you a free quote.
Beware of Doing It Yourself
I’m sure we have all heard the classic stories of a husband trying to fix the plumbing only to end up flooding the house. This bullet point is meant for “that guy” who thinks he can tackle any job on his own. Of course it will ultimately be up to you to decide whether you think you can handle a certain repair job or not. The article puts fence building and exterior painting in this category, but personally I do not see anything wrong with someone attempting these projects on their own. There are plenty of resources out there to get tips to assist you, especially at your local Lowe’s or Home Depot. However, for projects that can have an adverse effect on your quality of life, such as plumbing or electrical, I would suggest that the novice think twice before attempting them.
Hiring someone who shows up at your house
Quite frankly, I have never seen or heard of this happening. Maybe if there was something glaringly wrong with your house that can be seen by the public from the street. Otherwise, I’m not sure why anyone would spend their time knocking on random doors hoping that the house needs repair. But since the article even mentioned this, I am sure it must happen somewhere. If this does happen to you and you actually need whatever service they are offering, make sure that you do your due diligence. Even if the person is legitimate and has the best of intentions, you want to make sure that you either call some past references or at least see evidence of their work.
In essence, they are saying don’t put a Band-Aid on something that requires surgery. Hopefully, if you are bringing in a professional, they should be competent enough to tell you what is actually wrong and show you everything that needs to be repaired. Of course there are some unscrupulous people who may only do exactly what you ask them to do, even if they know there is a bigger problem, and then ask you to pay them a lot more at a later date to repair everything that should have been repaired in the first place. This goes back to the first bullet about having open communication with the contractor and knowing that you can trust them. The article also talks about being aware of contractors who may try and tell you that the house needs more repair than it actually does. As stated earlier, the way to avoid this is to always get at least two opinions before hiring a contractor.
While most homeowners probably would not consider a bid that is substantially higher than the other bids, you may also want to think twice about automatically accepting the lowest bid. If a bid comes in super low, that usually means that the contractor does not have enough work to keep them busy, and there is probably a reason for that. While high bids can mean that this particular contractor either has a heavy workload or primarily focuses on higher-end homes, a low bid can mean that contractor either performs low-quality work or has little experience. For many people, money is tight and a low bid can be very enticing. If this is the case for you, please make sure that you check their references and/or past work to verify that you will be getting the quality of work you deserve.
Look Outside of City Lines
This probably does not apply to Ventura County, as there are more than enough contractors within 20 miles that are willing and able to bid on your project. I would like to add an additional point about looking around though. Be wary of hiring a family member or friend because you feel obligated to. It is one thing if they do that kind of work for a living, but sometimes helping someone out that is close to you will end up costing you in the long run. If you do go that route, do not leave anything to chance and have everything in writing. We would all love to think that we can trust family and friends, but all it takes is something to go south to ruin a relationship forever.