Your home is an investment! It is often one of the most valuable assets a person owns. If you are seeking to hire a contractor to repair or remodel your home, a lot of energy should be dedicated to selecting the right contractor for the job. The time and effort you put into picking a contractor at the start of a project can save you a lot of time and effort as the project progresses. If you don’t choose carefully you could end up with an unscrupulous contractor that takes your money and leaves you in a lurch. Here are seven tips to use when selecting a contractor:

1.   Get Recommendations. Seek recommendations from friends, family, and co-workers who have used a contractor and had a positive experience.

2.   Conduct Phone Interviews. You can eliminate some contractors right off the bat by calling and finding out a few simple items: 1) do they handle your type of project; 2) will they provide financial and past client references; 3) how busy are they; and, 4) who are their subcontractors and how long have they worked together? If they are unwilling to answer these questions cross them off your list.

3.   Schedule a Meeting. You should get estimates and conduct an in person interview with at least three contractors. Interview them rigorously. If you aren’t happy with their answers or they make you uncomfortable, eliminate them from your list.

4.   Research. Search the contractor online and see what you find out. Check with the Better Business Bureau and other consumer companies. Contact former clients. Request that the contractor submit financial references to you. Ask to visit a current worksite to see them in action.

5.   Review the Bids & Select a Contractor. The bids should be broken down into the cost of the materials, the cost of labor, the profit margin, and other expenses. Materials should be roughly 40% of the total, and the profit margin should typically be 15-20% of the bid. Don’t select your contractor based on the lowest price. You need to trust and feel comfortable with the contractor you select, it is worth protecting your home to spend more for a better contractor.

6.   Negotiate the Contract. You need a detailed contract with the contractor. If the person you picked doesn’t want to enter into a detailed contract move on to a contractor who will! The contract should include the payment schedule (usually 10% at signing, 3 payments of 25% evenly spaced throughout the project, and the final 15% when every item on the punch list has been completed); proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; the start date; the projected end date; the specific materials you want used; contact information for both parties; who is responsible for different parts of the project; a requirement that the contractor secure lien releases from subcontractors and suppliers; a process for change orders if new problems are discovered or if you want to request additional work; as well as any provisions specific to your project needs.

7.   Oversight. Keep in close contact with your contractor. Stop into the jobsite unannounced (if you won’t be living there) to check on progress. You don’t want to interfere with their ability to get the project done, but you want to be aware of where the project is at all times. Address any problems you have as soon as they come up!

While no system is without flaws, if you follow these steps you are far more likely to select a contractor that will get your project done to your satisfaction. Protect your investment; choose your contractor wisely!