Hiring a General Contractor? These 5 Steps Ensure You’ll Choose the Right Person for the Job

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Text by Kaitlin Madden

Hiring a contractor to work on your home is a major decision. You’re not only trusting the person you hire to execute your vision for your home, you’re also trusting them to manage timeline and budget constraints and hire qualified subcontractors. (Not to mention that you’ll be spending the next few months interacting, so it’s also a good idea to like your contractor as a person, too!)

If you make the right hire, you’ll find your job is well managed, the work is high quality, and the communication is sound. Hire the wrong contractor, on the other hand, and the repercussions can be costly for your wallet, your project timeline, and your sanity.

Bottom line: it pays to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to hire the right person for the job … the first time. Below, we’ve compiled important tips for hiring a reliable, skilled general contractor. Want to simplify the process? Read on to learn about Sweeten, the free renovation matchmaker.

List Out the Scope of Your Home Renovation or Remodel
Before you begin interviewing contractors, it’s important to get clear on exactly what you’re hiring them to do. Not only will this help the contractor understand the details of the job, it will make certain that you’re looking for the talents required for your specific project. If you’re planning a gut-rehab bathroom remodel, for example, you’ll need more than just a contractor who has the skills to replace sinks and cabinets. You’ll need someone who can successfully move plumbing, tear down walls, tile, and rewire electrical—or one who knows how to manage subcontractors deftly enough to get the work done.

Choose a General Contractor Local to Your Area
If you live in an expensive area, like Fairfield County, Connecticut, for example, it can be tempting to search neighboring areas for money-saving alternatives. But hiring a contractor from a different county could end up costing you more in the long run. Local pros will know the ins and outs of your city or town’s permitting and licensing requirements, and, if you live in a historic district, what is and isn’t allowed. Plus, someone local is more likely to have established relationships with the resources you’ll need to complete your project, like materials suppliers and subcontractors. Ideally, the contractor you hire should live nearby or have experience in your area.

Investigate Your Contractor’s Credentials
Licensed and insured professionals are the only people you should allow to work on your home. As trustworthy as a prospective contractor may seem, don’t enter into an agreement until you’ve received proof of licensure and valid insurance for everyone who will be working on your home. It almost goes without saying, but should a contractor be unable to furnish proof of their credentials—like copies of their records or a license number you can research—cross the business off your short list. Also note that different states have different requirements and licenses for contractors. In Connecticut, for example, licenses are segmented into new home construction, home improvement contracting, major contractor, and specialty trade contractors, and the type of license your contractor requires will vary with the type of work you’re doing.

Get References from Homeowners
After validating licensure, checking your contractor’s references is the best step you can take to verify their workmanship. The best way to get an accurate assessment? Instead of asking your contractor for a list of references, ask for the names and contact info of the last two clients with whom they worked. This is a better gauge of customer satisfaction since preselected references are likely to be chosen by the contractor because they’ve had a positive experience. And as simple as this sounds, actually call those references, asking how the contractor handled the timeline and any bumps along the way, along with the quality of the work and communication skills.

Let Sweeten do the Work for You (For Free!)
Want to guarantee that you make the right decision for your major renovation project, whether it’s a kitchen, bathroom, or a full home gut reno? Consider renovation matchmaker Sweeten, a free platform that’s dedicated to pairing homeowners with the right general contractor for the job, with support until the project is completed (an extra layer of security!). To start, you post your project details like your scope, budget, location and style on their website. From there, the Sweeten experts will review your renovation and match it with a group of vetted, pre-screened general contractors who’d be a good fit for the project. You can elect to meet those who interest you, and you can ask Sweeten for help in evaluating the estimates, even if you have a bid from an outside contractor. If you choose to hire a Sweeten contractor, their team will check in at key stages until the project is done to see that everything is going according to schedule.

Interested in learning more about Sweeten? Click here.

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