5 Key Questions to Ask a Contractor for Long-Term Savings
Resist the temptation to save money by going with the cheapest contractor you can find. Instead, ask contractors these 5 key questions to assure quality service, a good relationship, and long-term savings.
1. How long have you been in business?
This question speaks to the caliber of work you can expect from a contractor as well as whether you can expect them to still be in business 5 or 10 years down the line, when your repair will likely need maintenance. Remember, a company can offer all the warranties and guarantees in the world, but going out of business renders them meaningless.
Especially concerning are big-ticket repairs, like an entire HVAC overhaul. When dealing with a job of this size, it’s never a mere one-time deal. It’s important that your initial investment isn’t wasted on a company that closes its doors before routine upkeep or replacement parts are needed.
2. How long will it take to get a permit?
A contractor that can’t answer this question is not one you want to employ. Regardless of the answer, your chosen vendor should already be informed of the rules in your area and be able to articulate the permit process to you. After all, there are big ramifications for getting this wrong — major costs. To start, every city and county have their own specific regulations, and many larger electrical, heating, and plumbing projects will require a permit. Those permits are to be acquired by the party executing the work, not the homeowner.
If you are unsure about the requirements for a project, stay in the know by contacting your town’s building department. If a permit is needed, your contractor should be able to provide a timeline and costs associated with it, as well as any necessary inspections. Cutting corners by skipping on the permit process is not a good idea, as any space upgrades have the ability to increase your home value and tax bill. If you go to sell the property later on and potential buyers doubt that the additions are up to code, they will low-ball you on their offers. It really comes down to paying for the permits now or paying a potentially bigger price later when you sell the home.
3. How many people will be needed for this job?
By asking this question, you give yourself a baseline so that you can monitor the project and have an indication if things are starting to go awry. For example, if a company says five workers are required but only two or three show up, you can assess that the project may take longer than was promised. You can then decide to take action, whether renegotiating the contract or canceling the job altogether.
Another good outcome of asking this question is knowing whether or not you’ll need to leave the home while the work is being done. A week-long job involving only one or two workers won’t require you to seek out other accommodations. However, a 12-person job tells you that the house will essentially be taken over and you should either go elsewhere for the duration to avoid disruptions and headaches, or negotiate a schedule with your contractor to minimize interruptions to you and your family.
4. What’s included in the quote? How many items and what grade are they?
Find out exactly what kind of materials are included in the quote and which materials will cost extra. We’re talking things like boxes of flooring, light fixtures, square feet of carpet, roof sheets, and gallons of paint. You want to make sure pricing is appropriate for the materials you’re receiving and that there are no surprises once the project has begun.
Unethical contractors can inflate material costs or allocate fewer quantities than needed to finish the project, which causes an emergency situation where unanticipated add-on costs start racking up. To avoid this, offer to order high-dollar items directly from the source and oversee your own inventory so nothing disappears during the project. Choose durable materials that will last.
5. Have you had any Better Business Bureau complaints? If so, how many?
While online reviews and recommendations can be unreliable, the Better Business Bureau offers real consumer protection. A contractor worthy of your business will have a clean record with the BBB. This doesn’t necessarily mean good contractors won’t have complaints filed against them, especially if they’ve been around for a long time. It simply means those contractors handled the issues brought up in those complaints with integrity.
By searching on the BBB website, you can find out if a service provider is accredited as well as what complaints they’ve received in the last three years. If a complaint was made, you’ll be able to view the resolution so you can assess how the company handles criticism. While not every company is listed, if you find one on your list with a poor rating, it’s a safe bet to cross them off and move on.