Here’s how to find a contractor you both like and trust:
1. Plan your project.
In order to find a contractor, you’ll need to have a clear idea of what you plan to renovate. Upgrading a small bathroom or backyard deck may be a less intensive project when it comes to time and money spent. But a major kitchen overhaul might require more detailed planning and a bigger budget, which could be funded by cashing out on your home equity or refinancing with a Renovation Loan.
Having a detailed renovation plan can help you get more accurate price quotes.
Do you have enough equity to fund your renovations? Contact your local Academy Loan Officer.
2. Ask friends, family, and neighbors for references.
You may have the most success by asking around for recommendations. Not only will you get first-hand accounts, but you’ll also get a glimpse at the final project. If your neighbor recently had new flooring put in, and you’d like to do the same, ask if they’ll let you take a look. If you like what you see, then find out more about their experience with their contractor.
It can also be worth asking on Nextdoor or in Facebook groups if referrals are hard to come by.
3. Request quotes from at least three contractors.
Reach out to a minimum of three local contractors once you’ve gathered your recommendations. This will give you a better idea of the average cost of a certain project in your area, and ultimately help you find a contractor who’s reasonably priced.
It’s not unusual for price estimates to vary. An estimate may skew low if a contractor is in a slow season and needs to take on more jobs; it may skew high if a contractor is in demand and/or has to hire sub-contractors. Factors like labor shortages, supply chain issues, and inflation may also cause contractors’ prices to be higher.
4. Look beyond the cheapest option.
That said, the best contractors aren’t always the cheapest:
- A contractor charging the least may not have the same level of expertise as a contractor who’s spent years (or decades) in the business.
- A low-price estimate may be due to cutting costs, potentially costing you in the long run if the materials don’t last.
- It’s also possible that a contractor might lowball you upfront and then start adding expenses.
If you find a contractor who’s cheap and comes highly recommended, then lock them in and celebrate. But in most cases, it’s wise to think twice before entering into an agreement with a contractor offering a very low price.
5. See how responsive they are.
Asking yourself a few questions can help you find a contractor you can depend on:
- Do they return phone calls promptly?
- Do they show up on time for initial appointments?
- Do they prepare paperwork as requested?
It’s especially important to have a responsive contractor if you’re using a Renovation Loan. A Renovation Loan has a limited time frame for project completion. If you were paying cash for your reno, you could spend several months planning and looking for a contractor. But with the time limits of a financed renovation, you’ll need to plan, find a contractor, and get written estimates before closing on your Renovation Loan.
6. Do your due diligence.
Take some time to do your homework once you’ve narrowed down your top pick. Check to make sure that a contractor is licensed, insured, and in good standing. The homeowner-contractor relationship is one that’s highly litigated, so visit the Better Business Bureau® to search for complaints. It’s also a good idea to ask for permits to be added to your price estimate so you can double check that all necessary permits are listed.
7. Look for a termination clause.
While the odds are good that everything will go according to plan, it helps to know your exit strategy. Most contracts include a termination clause. Without one, you may have to consult an attorney if you’d like to fire your contractor and hire another. If this happens, you’ll need to start the process from the beginning—screening and seeking out a new contractor who is experienced in taking over projects.