4 simple steps to protecting yourself while shopping for a home improvement contractor
Why is hiring a contractor such a risk?
There are some excellent companies out there, but they are far and few in between. Home Improvement industry has long been in the hands of people with little concern for homeowners.
- Just about anyone with little to no money can acquire a contractor’s license.
- Five- star reviews on any website can be acquired for $249 per month.
- Lack of drug and background screening attract many individuals with questionable habits.
- Subcontracting firms with trained sales personnel close the deal and pass the job onto a much cheaper contractor who has no legal obligations to the homeowner.
1) Ask who will perform the actual labor
Roughly half construction contractors sell the client to a cheaper contractor who cannot acquire his own clients. These are called subcontracting firms who sell clients to subcontractors. There are several hidden dangers in this method of conducting business;
- You hire a licensed contractor, he passed the job down to an unlicensed subcontractor; state may hold homeowner responsible.
- The subcontractor may not be someone you would ever choose to hire, had you met him/her at the time of the estimate.
- Subcontractor fails to pay his workers, State may hold Homeowner responsible.
2) Verify their legal status
A handy WA state website helps you verify a contractor’s legal status, complaints, tax debt, insurance, bond, etc.
3) Avoid “find local contractors” websites.
This includes all “five-star review”, “top 30 painters in your area”, “rated by people like you” sites and lists. Historically, quality tradesmen are able to generate their own clients through word of mouth. In the last few years many contractors have begun purchasing client information through lead generating sites. These websites are often populated by contractors who cannot generate their own client list due to obvious reasons.
4) Ask real people to refer someone
Contractors are notorious for paying for five-star reviews. Your best bet at finding a quality company is asking your neighbors, friends, or coworkers. An internal corporate forum is far more reliable than a review site that collects sales revenue from the companies it promotes.