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Angie’s List: How to Hire a Contractor

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Talk to homeowners who’ve remodeled and 8 out of 10 may tell you how hard it was to find the right contractor or provide stories about what went wrong. Angie’s Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, has spent 20 years helping people hire the right company the first time, and she shares her best hiring advice in this report.

“I hate to hear bad contractor stories because I hear so many good ones! What is important for consumers to remember is once they pick their contractor, take the time to outline all the details of their project because it can be time very well spent,” said Angie Hicks.

Angie says good hiring starts with a three-step process: get at least three written estimates; check references and credentials; and negotiate a contract that ties payment to progress. Never hire based solely on an advertisement or recommendation and don’t pay too much too soon.

“When it comes to payment, you want your payments documented. You want a paper trail and you shouldn’t pay everything up front. You should have a payment schedule and hold back at least 10 percent until you are completely satisfied,” said Hicks.

“I can’t tell you how many times – not only in the painting industry, but in the carpentry industry, the roofing industry – I have heard of homeowners paying a gentleman 50 percent down before the job begins and they do not come back to do the job,” said professional painter, Todd Cartmel.

Make sure your contractor is licensed if one is required. Ask to see proof of liability and worker’s compensation insurance and if they plan to subcontract any of your job to another business. Check the company’s longevity and their business address, which will make them easier to contact if an issue develops.

“One last thing to check off before you hire your contractor is making sure you have a good gut instinct with them. You don’t want to have someone you are not comfortable with. You are inviting them into your home. A good project is based on good communication and comfort.”

A few more tips from Angie: don’t be afraid to ask your contractor if he or she will provide background checks on employees; be wary of any estimate that is significantly lower than the rest – that could indicate a contractor cutting corners; and move on from a company that’s hard to reach during the interview process because communication won’t get any better after the job starts.