Interviewing Contractors

​Thinking about improving your home, or starting a property rehab project? A valuable member of your team is most likely going to be a contractor.. know what questions to ask during your contractor screening and selection process!

Questions to ask a contractor before hiring them

Whether you are thinking about updating your kitchen, finishing your basement, or completely renovating a home – one of the most valuable people on your team is going to be a contractor. But.. Finding a reliable, honest, and great worker is not always easy. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to interview a contractor, and ask as many questions as possible before hiring them.

For those of you who are the shy type, this may not be the easiest thing to do the first time you are on the phone with someone. But doesn’t it sound better to leap out of your comfort zone by asking a contractor a load of questions up front, opposed to finding out the hard way during the project that they stop answering the phone once they receive payment, or they don’t even have a contractor’s license!? I am sure it does!

Here, I want to provide you with a list of questions for you to ask a contractor when you are interviewing them.. Trust me, this could save you time and money in the long run!

1. Are they licensed? It is so important to know whether a contractor is licensed or not. It is always essential to work with someone who is licensed, and experienced. A contractor will need to be licensed in order to pull the permits for certain aspects of the work that is completed. Permits must be pulled in order to stay up to code with the city!

2. Do they have insurance? Ask the contractor if they have General Liability Insurance, and Workers Comp Insurance (if they have employees working for them). This bit of information will protect you if something bad were to happen to someone at your job site. If they have insurance, then the insurance will take care of them if someone gets injured. On the other hand, if they don’t have the appropriate insurance, then YOU could be liable!

3. How long have they been in the business, and how many people are working within the company? It is essential to know how many people are going to be working on your home, and how experienced they are.

4. How does their project management work? Know who is going to be working on the job site from day to day, who will be doing what, and how many people are going to be working on your project.

5. What are some similar projects that they have worked on? If possible, obtain a list of references for past clients that they have worked for. Give those past clients a call, or better yet.. Visit those projects! If a contractor is not willing to give you this information, then you may need to re-consider working with them. If a contractor is experienced, does a great job, and is reliable then they should have no problem showing off their past accomplishments!

6. What is the most complicated job that they have worked on? If they tell you they have worked on massive rehab projects, or have built homes from the ground up, then you will know that they will be able to handle the rehab project that you would like to hire them to do.

7. What is their bidding process? Do they charge for a bid? And what is included in the bid, and excluded?

8. How often do they communicate with their clients – How often, and in what form? Communication is absolutely key. Set the expectations straight right from the beginning and let your contractor know that you would like to remain in the loop at all times. Make sure that you are going to be compatible with your contractor and the form of communication that they carry out. A rehab project can be time consuming, and a little overwhelming if you have never done one before. The last thing that you would want is your contractor to not answer your calls! You don’t want to be the one having to seek them all the time!

9. How long would a project like yours take them to complete? Time is money.

10. Payment – How much money is required up front? And what is the payment schedule? Essentially, this is negotiable, but it is always good to understand the contractors best practices. If they don’t tell you what you want to hear, don’t be afraid to negotiate!

11. Would it be an issue if you wanted the job sites cleaned up at the end of each day? If you are having a contractor work on a home while you are living in it, then most likely they are hands down going to clean up every day. But on the other hand, if the home is vacant, they may be more likely to let the cleaning slip at the end of the day. The last thing that you want is the job site to be messy. Especially if you are going to make an unexpected visit with a prospective buyer!

12. How many jobs can they handle at one time?

13. If they have employees working for them, what is their average turnover rate? If they have a high turnover rate, then this could be a major disadvantage for you. If someone decides to quit one day then that is going to slow your project down. I cannot emphasize this enough – Time is money!

14. Are they going to be subcontracting out the work, and what work are they planning on completing themselves? If you are looking for a way manage costs and keep them as low as possible without cutting any corners, then it may be good to do the hiring for all of the other contractors that are going to complete work that your contractor does not do on their own. That way you will be in complete control of the finances.

15. How is the work guaranteed? Make sure that the contractor will be able to guarantee their work, in writing opposed to verbal. Some contractors will offer a 1-2 year warranty on the work that they compete.

16. What is the general outline of their contracts? If possible, be the one to create the contracts for the contractor to sign. It is always good to hire an attorney to review all the contracts that you create. If you are the one creating the contracts, then you will be more in control with the agreement that you have with the contractor.

17. Do they pull all the permits? They should! That is not something that you should have to worry about.

18. Do they provide lien waivers, and lien releases? Lien waivers and releases are documents that are provided by contractors that state that you have paid them what you owe for the project. These documents ALWAYS important, but especially important if you are planning on re-selling the property after a short period of time. When you sell your home, your closing company is going to require proof that the work you completed was paid for, they will specifically ask for lien waivers and releases.

*Before you sign any contracts with a contractor, make sure to check out the Better Business Bureau website to see if they are an established company, and what sort of reviews that they have. If they have some bad reviews, it does not have to serve as a reason to not work with them, but rather a way to question why they believe they received this review.

Overall, there are many different questions that you could ask a contractor up front, during the initial interview. Don’t be afraid to ask these questions, and interview them. First impressions matter – And to complete a successful project you will want compatibility with your contractor.

Thank you for taking the time to read my article, and good luck with your future projects!

For more information about how to pre-screen/interview a contractor please feel free to give me a call! Also, if you are looking to complete work on your home and need a great contractor, I am happy to help!

-Josie Johnson

(612) 709-5487

[email protected]