Begin your search by asking people you know for recommendations. Make a note of any particularly good –or bad– experiences. Even if you don’t know many people in your area, your friends will probably have some advice on where to stop and what to look for. Also, check the Internet for reviews. It may be worthwhile to subscribe to Angie’s List, especially for an expensive renovation.
Once you’re done getting recommendations, call the contractors on your list with some questions. Interview each contractor on the phone. Describe your product to them and ask if and when they’d be able to take it, how many other projects they’d be doing simultaneously, and how much time they expect it to take. If they will be working with subcontractors, ask them about their experience with those subcontractors and references for them.
If the phone interview goes well, arrange to meet them face-to-face. Some people seem great over the phone or Internet, but give off major warning signs when you see them in person. You don’t want your first time meeting to happen when you’re letting them into your home.
During the phone interview, be sure to get references. Ask for financial references. You don’t want a contractor who’s scrambling for funds. Get the names and contact information of previous clients and call them for reviews and useful information. If someone seems to check out, try to visit a job site. Are the workers respectful of their client’s space? Do they seem to work efficiently?
Once you have a short list of potential contractors, ask them for bids. A good bid should be much more than a sum total: it should have specific amounts set aside for labor, materials, and so forth. Double-check the material costs with suppliers. Ask the contractor any questions you have. Bear in mind that the lowest bid is not necessarily the best one. A lowball number might signal a contractor desperate for work, or one willing to cut corners.
Consider additional costs
It’s not uncommon for a contractor to find a new problem while fixing a known one. Determine beforehand how to handle these. Do you have extra budget for pressing issues? What about non-pressing ones? Solving issues as you discover them might save you headache later, but costs can rack up quickly. Be upfront about your expectations, and your budget.
Once you’ve found the right contractor, get a contract in writing. The contract should include a time frame, payment schedule, contractors license, project description, and a list of the subcontractors and suppliers involved.