Hiring a contractor 101

Verify online in seconds (WA State)

In Washington State you can easily verify any contractors license/insurance/bond,  There are plenty of websites that claim to do this screening on your behalf,  but it’s best you run this check yourself directly through the state.

All you need is a contractor’s name or company name to learn everything about the business

Other than the obvious (license,insurance/bond) I suggest you verify the following:

  1. Verify business address to make sure it is not a rented PO box or shared office.  Both those appear as real addresses so I suggest you do a map search of the address.  If the company uses a home as their office, verify that the home is owned by the contractor.  You can do this for free on the King county property look-up
  2. Check years in business and be sure to click on “past and related licenses”
  3. Verify number of employees  to identify businesses that claim to have many teams, but list 1 or 2 employees legally.


Quality contractors do not have immediate availability

Needing a contractor right away doubles your chances of having a bad experience.

If you’ve ever adopted a purebred dog, you already know that ethical breeders have long waitlists, while puppy mills sell puppies on craigslist.  This rule applies to contractors.  The good guys are booked for months while the other guys can start tomorrow and will  pressure you into signing an agreement on the spot.

This means you should never put yourself in a situation where you need to hire a contractor last minute.  


Don’t pay 2 contractors for 1 job

If you are building your own home, you need one general contractor who will hire and manage dozens of specialty contractors.

But if you need a microwave installed, you do not need one contractor to hire and manage the company that installs your appliance – and take 50% off the top for this service.  This is common practice.  You hire a contractor to install your microwave and agree to pay $1600.  He will then find another company willing to do it for $800.00.

So the rule is hire a general contractor if your project requires multiple trades, but do not hire a subcontracting firm if your project involves a single company, Example: if you need just some plumbing or a landscaper. 

So many fake reviews

One of the biggest surprises I experienced when I started my own business in 2005, was the number of emails I received from companies offering to leave my business fake reviews.  For $2200 you can have about 50 fake reviews – guaranteed not to be detected or remove – or your money back.   As of 2021, Yelp is the only review site that actively removes fake reviews.

Become a fake review detector

  • Look for a consistent number of reviews across platforms; if a business has 200 reviews on google and 3 on yelp, they might be paying for reviews.
  • Review dates:  Are all the reviews written in the same month?
  • Number of reviews:  A company with 2 employees should not have more reviews than major local retailers.
  • Just play it safe and assume all online reviews are fake


Top 50 contractors near you = we sell your data to contractors

Like all free things, YOU are the product.  They’re called lead generators.  It’s a website that claims to have a list of trusted contractors ready to compete for your business.  Once you enter your contact info, it is sold to a number of local companies.  These trusted companies are the very same ones you’d find if you simply search the internet locally.


So how do I find someone to work on my home?

Direct, in-person referrals are still the best method for finding a home improvement contractor.  Talk to your neighbors, co-workers and friends.   Online groups are simply too saturated with businesses recommending their own services.  As of 2021, Nextdoor.com is the only online platform that does not allow businesses to join and promote their services as users.