Hiring a contractor? Tips & hints on finding the best one

April 17, 2011

Our roof

If you are a homeowner, the odds are that eventually you will need to hire a contractor to do some kind of maintenance or repair work. This action can be fraught with angst and indecision as one thinks over the myriad of horror stories common to urban lore. If you are considering a big remodeling project, the tension level can ratchet up even further as the time and financial commitment increase exponentially with the size of the project. The homeowner – contractor relationship tends to be fragile and rife with suspicion due to some unscrupulous contractors within the industry making life difficult for everyone. In fact, the percentage of bad contractors is actually quite small, but they are the ones who make the news, so the reputation of everyone is sullied. The process can be unnerving as one invites this “stranger” into the home to perform mysterious operations on the home’s life systems like the plumbing or the heating & cooling system. In addition, the remodeling process further exacerbates the problem as these types of projects frequently cover a longer time span and can be more intrusive than a simple leaky faucet service call.
How can the average homeowner help reduce this tension and stress when seeking help from a contracting professional? There are some simple things you can do to gain some relative peace of mind when considering hiring a contractor.
Choosing a service contractor:
Several types of basic systems need attention on a regular basis, and occasionally on an as-needed call. Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, Electrical, and even Septic fall within this category. Usually people choose to do routine maintenance if a neighbor, friend or relative experiences a problem. At that moment, we are reminded that we have the same type of potential problem and think that maybe it would be a good time to have it looked at. We talk to the neighbors or watch for a deal and call the contractor whose name appears in this communication.
Word of mouth and others personal experience can be a good way to locate potential contractors, however, do not let your diligence stop there. Once you know whom you want to call, it is up to you to check them out. One of the goals of this research is to find a dependable, reliable, honest contractor to have on your short list of phone calls for when you have a real problem in the future. Do a quick online search on the company, find out their trade affiliations, and BBB rating. Visit the company website (most good contractors of this type have one) and look for clues on how they run their business. Contact information: Is it easy to locate? Pictures of vehicles or building: clean, neat and orderly? Are they paying attention to details in your opinion?
Once you have chosen a company, it is time to pay attention to the clues that will illustrate their attitude and ability. When you call them do they answer the phone quickly, professionally and politely? Are you talking to an employee, an answering service or voicemail?  The answers to these questions will give you an insight into how they interact with their customers. Is it uncomfortable to speak on the phone with them? Are they easy to contact and connect to? 
Most importantly – How does it FEEL..? Are you at ease or tense with these new potential guests in your home? Do you get a sense of comfort or distress when they arrive and you meet them for the first time? Millions of years of evolution have given humans an innate ability to sense trouble, but our societal domestication has taught us to override or ignore this feeling. Trust your gut feelings!
Now that you have examined the company more closely, and learned to respect your own instincts, it is time to decide if you can trust this contractor to work in your home. Proper credentials (license, insurance, identification) will help bridge the credibility gap so be sure to ask for, and review, these when presented.
The process is simple:
Get a recommendation from someone who has used this company before
Due diligence and some simple research to verify the veracity of the lead.
Trust your gut when engaging the company representatives.
Request for, and review credentials presented by the company.
Carl R. Munkwitz
First Weber Milwaukee Concierge Desk Manager

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