7 Tips for Finding the Right Contractor for Your Home Renovation

How to find a dependable, responsive contractor—above and beyond even price.

COOL! AARRRGH! WHOA! These may express some of the emotions you’re feeling as you explore the many aspects of renovation—house plans, financing, contractors, etc. We’re here to help! The summary below gives seven tips about finding a renovation contractor you know, like, and trust (click here for a longer version of this summary):

  1. Renovation loans have a limited time frame for project completion. If you were building a new home or paying cash for a renovation, you could spend several months doing the planning and finding a contractor. But with the limited time frame of a financed renovation project, you need to do the detailed planning, select your contractor, and get written estimates before you close the renovation loan.

  2. Here are some leading indicators of responsive, dependable contractors you can trust:
    • Do they return phone calls promptly?
    • Do they show up on time for appointments?
    • Do they prepare the paperwork as requested? How much pushback do they give regarding the details the lender requires?

  3. Do your “due diligence” to be sure the contractor is licensed, insured, and in good standing. The homeowner-contractor relationship is one of the most litigated processes in the country, so consult county resources about contractor licensing and insurance requirements. Most county offices have a great section on frequently asked questions, a list of do’s and don’ts, etc.

  4. The best contractors usually aren’t the cheapest contractors. If you choose a cheap contractor, you don’t have much legal recourse if the process doesn’t go as planned. If you file a lawsuit, you can get tied up in litigation for months, sometimes even years. And even if you win, collecting from contractors is extremely challenging. During this time, your house is sitting uncompleted in the middle of rehab.

  5. If you switch contractors, you’ll need a lien waiver from the first contractor. This is a huge pain. Your lender will need your first contractor to sign a lien waiver that releases any future liens the old contractor may file against the house. If you and the old contractor disagree, they probably won’t sign that lien waiver, especially if you’re in litigation or arbitration. This stalls your project from moving forward.

  6. How the contractor is paid under renovation loan financing. Most states allow contractors on non-financed projects to collect a deposit, but contractors on a financed renovation project don’t get a deposit. But with a lender involved, the contractor knows the money will be disbursed as the project is satisfactorily completed. If the contractor does the work and it passes inspection, they’ll get paid.

  7. Ask friends, family, and neighbors for references. Go visit homes and projects done by various contractors to see their work.

These tips and others will help you avoid common renovation nightmares as you make your dream home a reality! Read more at “18 Tips for Finding a Reliable Home Contractor.”


At Academy Mortgage, we create life-changing experiences through lending. CONTACT US today to explore your financing options.