Our thanks to Tammi Keckler, CFO, CEO and partner at JGL Consulting, for her thoughts on what to keep in mind when hiring a general contractor.
Ask around – word-of-mouth referrals are a powerful thing and what some consider the best way to find a qualified professional to do the job. Ask relatives, friends and neighbors about whom they’ve had a positive or negative experience with, what did they like about the contractor and whether he or she would use the same contractor again.
Take a walk – check out what’s going on in your neighborhood. Is there a specific house going up that you like? Or a remodel that you’ve been admiring from afar? If so, reach out to the homeowner to see what his or her thoughts are of the contractor.
Pay attention to reviews – there are plenty of ways to read reviews on a company, whether it’s on the company’s website, HomeAdvisor, the Better Business Bureau or even on social media. You will receive plenty of honest feedback using these resources that will help you narrow down your options.
Verify credentials – do your due diligence. Take a look at the contractor’s website and see whether the company holds the required licenses from state and local municipalities, which can be verified with the Registrar of Contractors (ROC). If the contractor claims to be licensed, verify that they have a current bond, current insurance and a current ROC license. This simply requires you to ask the contractor for their ROC license number and ACORD certificate to show their proof of insurance.
Don’t be afraid to shop around – if a contractor comes recommended to you by a trustworthy source, don’t hesitate for too long. Keep in mind that Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the country and one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. However, if you haven’t received any great recommendations, it’s a good idea to interview candidates. After you’ve narrowed down your options, set up meetings with them. We would suggest keeping it to three contractors to avoid unnecessary confusion and headache.
Check out past work – don’t be afraid to ask to see some of the contractors’ past projects. Keep in mind that most reputable contractors have professional websites on which they display the work that they’ve done. If you have a specific idea in mind for a project, be prepared to present those photos to the contactor to see if that’s in their scope of work. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be sure to listen to the answers given.
Look for a team – It is important to understand that you shouldn’t hire a contractor for design services. Designers and architects design the buildings and contractors build from the plans and each of these services carry separate costs. Many reputable contractors have architects, building engineers and interior designers that work exclusively with them and offer their services for reduced rates when you hire that contractor.
Protect yourself and your home – the contractor you choose should carry general liability, workers compensation, and commercial auto insurance that protects you from liability. Always ask for a copy of the insurance certificates just to be sure.
Patience is a virtue – it’s highly unlikely that a great contractor will be able to start on your project immediately. More often than not, these contractors are always busy and may not be available to work for you for a few weeks. Keep in mind that any project that requires pulling a permit can be an arduous process at first – haste makes waste.
Get it in writing – congratulations, you’ve hired your contractor. Now, take a good look at the documents he or she has prepared. They should be professional, fair and balanced and, if in the state of Arizona, should include statements specific in accordance to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors: contract price; scope of work; date of commencement; timeline of work; outline of contractor’s and homeowner’s responsibilities; warranties; outlines OSHA laws; change orders and any additional items you can be charged for; and addresses written complaint procedures.
JGL Consulting is a family-owned, Phoenix-area general contracting business, handling all types of construction and home-improvement projects.