Majordomo Home Professionals and Contractor Research Tips
One of the hardest parts of any home project is knowing what professional to hire. Whether you need to fix a gutter that’s not draining right, or add a master suite to your 1100-square-foot starter home, how do you find the right professional for the job? Do you need more than one? How do you know if they’re trustworthy? Many homeowners have these questions.
First, let’s talk about smaller projects, like that rain gutter that needs regrading, or a faucet that suddenly starts leaking. These are the types of jobs that will likely cost hundreds of dollars, not thousands, and require only one professional. But the question remains: who is the right professional for the job? Here’s how to decide:
Create a list of potential contractors. You only need a small list of three to five contractors. Sometimes only one. To start building your list,reach out to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers for recommendations.You can also use Majordomo to find contractors in your area. We provide contact profiles of reliable local home professionals who offer the type of service you’re after. Use this information to compile a list of promising professionals, then confirm that each is bonded,insured, and licensed in your state (if your state requires licensing).
When checking a contractor’s license, try to learn the following: Are they actively licensed with a surety bond? Has proof of insurance has been filed? Do they protect their workers with worker’s compensation insurance? Have any complaints been filed against them in the past decade? If you find something negative, ask the professional about it. Everyone makes mistakes and often we learn from them. A past bump in the road may have taught them to provide better quality and service.
Hiring a reputable contractor with the appropriate licensing and insurance provides financial protection for you if the contractor fails to pay for needed permits, pay their workers, or doesn’t complete the work. It also protects you if your home is damaged or a worker gets injured on the job. And it ensures the contractor is up-to-date on building codes, permit requirements, safety policies, and handling hazardous materials.
If any of the home professionals don’t meet this requirement, scratch them off your list.
Conduct a brief phone interview. You can learn a lot through a basic phone call. Was the phone answered right away or did you have to leave a message (or many messages)?Was your call returned in a timely fashion? Did the person on the other end sound professional and treat you with respect? Ask what the professional’s preferred communication method is. If it’s a good fit with yours, excellent! If not, decide whether you can work with it or it’s likely to cause problems. Keep in mind that not all professionals are tech savvy – but many of them are truly amazing craftsmen. However, if you’re not impressed by the company’s communication skills, they may not be the right choice for the job.
Next, clearly explain the problem or what you want done and ask whether it’s something the professional has experience with. Inquire about rates. Even a small job can have a large price range. Sometimes there will be an hourly fee, other times rates will be based on the job and the contractor may need to visit in person to provide an estimate. Ask about the time frame, both for getting an estimate and when the work could be performed. Find out what happens if the work is completed, but the problem isn’t solved (for example, gutter repair work might be done during the dry season, but you won’t know if it’s successful until the rains fall again). If their answers aren’t satisfactory, cross them off your list.
Get bids and analyzethem.Once you’ve narrowed down your list to your top two to three professionals,invite them to come provide bids in person. Often for small jobs these canbe written up on the spot, but sometimes the contractor may need a littletime to prepare the estimate. Keep in mind that sometimes a small job canturn into a bigger one. That drippy faucet may not be the only flaw in thesystem and a professional may discover additional leaks or water damagethat will increase the project’s scope, driving up the cost.
Once you have all the bids in hand, it’s time to evaluate them. Make sure they’re detailed and adequately describe the work to be done, including materials and labor. Consider not just price, but also timeframe. When can the work be done and how long will it take?Also consider your overall impression of the business and the work they do. Trust your gut and go with the professional you feel offers the best combination of quality, price and timing. You’re unlikely to find all three in one professional, so pick your top two qualities and prioritize them. And remember: don’t go by price alone.
Keep records of thework.Take before and after pictures, so you have visual evidence of how thingswent. Notice whether the worker is considerate of your space.Are they cleaning up as needed, wearingbooties to protect your floors if appropriate, etc. This will help youdecide whether to use this company again in the future or recommend themto others. Keep a copy of the signed estimate and get a copy of the finalpaperwork. Get a receipt for payment, whether it’s via credit card orcheck. Never pay with cash.
Share the results.If you’re pleased with their work,endorse the professional. That’s the best way you can help your contractorand home professionals find new clients, and a great way to help yourneighbors, friends and family know who to contact when they need a jobdone.
All the rules for small jobs also apply to big ones, but on a grander scale. Remember that initial list of three to five potential contractors? On big jobs, you should start with a list of a dozen contractors.You also need to ask them more questions when you call them or receive a bid. And there are so many more considerations when analyzing those bids. But don’t be intimidated. Majordomo is here to help you through the process.
Create a list of 10-12 potential contractors and narrow it down to the top three or four. Friends, coworkers and neighbors are great sources for recommendations, but this is also Majordomo’s bread and butter. We provide a list of local, endorsed professionals who can get your job done.
Next, it’s time to research them. Making sure a contractor is licensed, bonded and insured is all-the-more important for large projects.
Cross off any contractor that doesn’t make the cut, and then make some phone calls to the contractors who remain, asking each of them a series of meaningful questions. Here are some good questions to ask:
How long have you been in business? Longevity isn’t a guarantee, and newcomers aren’t necessarily a risk, but knowing how long the contractor has been working is an important to know when evaluating whether they’re the right choice for you.
Do you take on projects of my scope, and do you specialize in the type of service I’m looking for? Ask if they’ve done similar projects and ask to see photos. Ask for referrals so you can see what previous clients have to say about their work.
Do you use your own employees, or subcontract for certain aspects of the job? Choose contractors who work with solid crews;, either their own trusted employees or subcontractors you can verify are licensed and insured. Ask how long they’ve worked with a subcontractor.
How long will the project take and when can you start? Make sure the time frame seems reasonable and ask how many projects they take on simultaneously, so you can judge whether your project will receive the priority it need
Will any building permits be needed? You should know the answer in advance (call your city’s building permits department and ask), and a good contractor will be able to easily answer it. They should also volunteer to get the permits, since they should be familiar with the process.
Narrow your list down to three or four contractors, considering the answers to all these questions and other cues. Did they sound professional in your conversation? If you left a message, were they prompt in returning it? Did you approve of their communication skills? Throughout this whole process, trust your gut. Did you feel comfortable with the people you talked with and how the exchange went? If not, cross them off your list.
2. Get bids and analyzethem.Aim for three or four. Two bids is typically not enough, but more thanfive and not only will you be overwhelmed by the options, but thecontractors may think you’re just shopping around for the lowest price andnot take you seriously as a client. Have each contractor come out for anin-person bid. , Duringthe visit, be aware of not just what they say but also how you feel aboutthe interaction. Then give them time to return a proposal, especially ifthey’ll need to contact subcontractors for specific aspects of the job.
Don’t just accept the lowest bid. Often you get what you pay for, and the cheapest bid may be the lowest-quality work. Ask questions to parse out the smaller details: What will happen to the old windows being removed? How will you work around the existing landscaping to avoid damage? How will you protect the hardwood floors as you do interior work? The answers to these questions should all influence your decision.
Ask for an itemized bid and check for allowances. Make sure each bid includes the same line items., If some items are grouped, make sure that all aspects of the job are accounted for in all the bids. While specific numbers are preferable to allowances, if there are allowances (eg. tiles, counter surfaces, appliances), confirm those values seem realistic and find out what happens if they’re exceeded.
Confirm any necessary building permits are included.
Make your selection after careful evaluation. Depending on the job, this contractor and their crew could be spending several weeks or even months in your home. Personal dynamics will matter in the long run, so choose someone you think is both trustworthy and comfortable to be around.
3. Finalize the contract. Clarity is important.Get as much detail as you can in writing.:
The contract should be written on company letterhead and include the address, phone number and license number (where applicable) of the business. It should also include your name and contact information, including the address where work will be performed.
Make sure any necessary drawings have been completed, appliances have been selected, and smaller details like paint colors have been chosen.
Find out how changes will be dealt with, and ensure you’ll be able to get them in writing and priced out, including labor costs.
If subcontractors are being used, make sure to get a list and verify their licensing.
The contract should specify the time frame, including start and finish dates as well as what hours of the day work could occur.
The contract should include a description of the work to be done and materials to be used, followed by the total price, and the payment plan. It’s typical for a deposit to be paid up-front, but don’t overpay early and don’t submit the final payment until the job is done to your satisfaction. The schedule should be detailed, with payments made as work is completed: for example, with a $50,000 addition, you may pay $15,000 up-front, followed by $5,000 after the foundation is poured and $10,000 when the walls are up and the roof is on. Another $10,000 will come as the interior is installed, with the final $10,000 withheld until the city has inspected and signed off on work requiring permits, all cleanup has been performed, and you’re happy with the finished product. Never pay with cash.
If any details are missing, work with the contractor to include the missing details. If they need information from you, respond quickly.
4. Oversee the work. Once you’ve gonethrough this lengthy process, selected a contractor andsigned a contract, it’s time for the actual work. And while yourcontractor and crew will be doing all the heavy lifting, you still have animportant role to play to ensure the project is done correctly and in atimely fashion. Managing the job well requires regular communication andcareful record-keeping. Here are some tips for a successful constructionperiod:
Talk with the contractor daily, by phone, email or in person. See how things are going and ask if anything unforeseen has cropped up. If you notice anything unexpected, such as a cabinet not being the size you envisioned, bring it up right away. It’s easier to fix a problem early rather than after additional work has been done. Take photos to document progress, especially where problems arise.
Keep records of conversations. If on Monday your contractor says the plumber is coming on Thursday, and the plumber doesn’t show, you’ll have notes from your conversation to follow up with and find out what happened. Make sure the work schedule is followed as closely as possible.
Keep records of payments. Get receipts, if possible, and notate check numbers or credit card payments.
Record this information on Majordomo. Back up your written records by storing the information in you Majordomo documents. It will always be at your fingertips., Someday it may be useful information for a buyer when you sell your home.
Verify your contractor is paying subcontractors for work and materials. You should have the list of subcontractors in your contract. After electrical work is done, call the electrician to make sure they’ve received payment from the contractor. Do the same with the plumber and the flooring company, etc. And the same goes for materials. Your contractor should be able to provide a list of where materials are purchased, and you should call those businesses directly to confirm they’ve been paid. In some states, subcontractors can sue the homeowner if the contractor fails to pay, even if your contract says the contractor will pay and you’ve paid the contractor. Not checking could mean you end up paying twice.
Don’t make the final payment until every detail meets your expectations. If the contractor has been paid in full, there’s not much incentive to come back for finishing touches. So, make sure all aspects of the contract have been met.Get – copies of any warranties and appliance instructions. Make sure the site is cleaned up and if, anything was damaged during construction, make sure it has been repaired or replaced – before submitting that last check. And at that point, be respectful to the contractor and pay promptly.
5. Share the results. Big jobs are likely toequal big improvements to your Domoscore.If you were impressed with your contractors work and would use themagain, endorse them as preferred professionals.That word of mouth will help them getmore work and grow their business, and it will also help your friends,family, neighbors and fellow homeowners find and evaluate potentialprofessionals as they prepare to embark ontheir own big projects .
Owning and maintaining a home is a major responsibility. But, with a little help – from us at Majordomo, it doesn’t have to be a major headache. Let Majordomo help you embrace your role as “head steward of a household.”
How to find the license status of a contractor by State:
Alabama – AL: http://genconbd.alabama.gov/database-sql/roster.aspx
Arizona - AZ: https://roc.az.gov/
Arkansas - AR: https://aclb.arkansas.gov/
California - CA: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
Connecticut - CT: https://www.elicense.ct.gov/
Florida - FL: https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp?mode=1
Georgia – GA:http://verify.sos.ga.gov/verification/
Hawaii - HI: https://pvl.ehawaii.gov/pvlsearch/
Indiana - IN: https://mylicense.in.gov/everification/
Kansas - KS: https://licensing.ks.gov/verification_krec/
Kentucky - KY: https://ky.joportal.com/License/Search
Louisiana - LA: http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov/mobile-app/
Maryland - MD: https://www.dllr.state.md.us/pq/
Massachusetts - MA: https://www.mass.gov/how-to/check-a-construction-supervisor-license
Michigan - MI: https://www.lara.michigan.gov/colaLicVerify/
Minnesota - MN: https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/lookup/licensing.aspx
Missouri - MO: https://renew.pr.mo.gov/licensee-search.asp
Nebraska - NE: https://dol.nebraska.gov/conreg/Search
New Hampshire - NH: https://nhlicenses.nh.gov/verification/Search.aspx?facility=%27Y%27
New Mexico - NM: https://public.psiexams.com/search.jsp
North Carolina - NC: https://nclbgc.org/search/license
North Dakota - ND: https://apps.nd.gov/sc/busnsrch/busnSearch.htm
Oregon - OR: https://www.ccb.state.or.us/search/
Pennsylvania - PA: https://www.pals.pa.gov/#/page/default
Rhode Island - RI: http://www.crb.ri.gov/search.php
South Dakota - SD: https://sosenterprise.sd.gov/BusinessServices/Business/FilingSearch.aspx
Tennessee - TN: http://verify.tn.gov/
Texas - TX: https://www.tdlr.texas.gov/LicenseSearch/
Virginia - VA: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/
Washington - WA: https://secure.lni.wa.gov/verify/
West Virginia - WV: http://www.wvlabor.com/new_searches/contractor_search_new.cfm
Wisconsin - WI: https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch
Wyoming - WY: https://wyomuni.org/members/