I was recently asked how to pick a home contractor. This is a really significant problem for any homeowner and my response was, to ask questions, obtain references and investigate if possible using the internet.
When picking a contractor, it is always best to use someone with a good reputation. This means take your time by asking neighbors, local police, the District Justice office and the local supply shops about the contractor. Each one of these people are going to tell you something in a different way. If your neighbors give a good reference, that means the job got done to their satisfaction, and this is vital since that is what you ultimately want. When asking police, you need to watch the officer’s body language because unless he or she is your friend, they won’t come right out and say so and so is a bad person. However, many contractors, due to financial or other problems, often get behind, and use your deposit, not for your materials, but to complete the prior job. The police often know these types of things as well as the individual’s social habits. The District Justice (or the internet) can tell you if the contractor has ever been sued in small claims court, clearly a sign of bad performance. Finally, your contractor buys materials at one or more supply shops. This is a must reference for you. Then you can ask if he buys all the materials at one time the way he should when he gets your deposit. You can also find out if he pays his bills and lastly, you can ask if he does quality work.
Observing your contractor lets you know if this is a serious business person. Keep these questions in mind: Does he or she show up on time, do they have the proper vehicle, do they respect your home, do they take notes regarding the job along with any needed measurements? Later, do they provide a written agreement with proof of insurance? Does the agreement spell out ALL charges and costs, and is the contract itself professionally prepared? Additionally, consideration must be given to how much deposit do they want? Do they provide a time frame to commence and a time frame to complete the project?
The internet can be very useful with everything from the pay services of Angie’s List to court records. In Pennsylvania, all contractors and handymen need to be registered. This can be searched by name on the Attorney General’s website. In addition to being registered, this site will provide the insurance information which should match what you are provided. The BBB can be contacted by either phone or internet; just don’t be surprised if there is no report as most people are not registered. The issue of past lawsuits can be researched on the court website called www.aopc.org. The research limit here is as unending as is the internet, but a few quick inquiries here should include checking to see if there is a website or facebook account for the contractor or checking google and other search engines for the business and examine the reviews, if any, where much of the work is already done.
Obviously, be cautious, make the decision on your own time frame not to an unsolicited offer or price break for signing today type pressure and you should be happy with the result.
Written by Charles T. Clark, a general practice attorney located in Tarentum, PA, who can be reached by telephone at 724-224-3165 or on the internet at www.charlesclarklaw.com