How to Find a Reputable Contractor: 5 Easy Tips
This guest blog was provided by Julia Clem, a member of the marketing team at Best Pick Reports.
For the past several years, demand for builders, skilled tradespeople, and home service providers has been high. Any time there’s high demand for a particular skill, a small number of scammers and charlatans sneak in.
The vast majority of contractors are upstanding, honest people who genuinely want to provide good services for homeowners, but finding these reputable contractors isn’t always easy.
If you’ve struggled to find reputable home service providers (especially air duct cleaning companies) in the past, you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading for five tips to make your search easier and scroll to the end to learn four red flags of air duct cleaning and home repair scams.
5 Tips for Finding Reputable Contractors
1. Consult a few different resources
The best (and easiest) place to start your search is with an objective third party that rates home service providers or with an industry-specific certifying organization, such as NADCA, that provides homeowners with tools and information to make educated decisions when hiring an air duct cleaning professional through their Breathing Clean initiative. They also make it easy for homeowners to find a NADCA-certified member in their area with their Find a Professional feature on the NADCA site.
If you live outside of the areas served by Best Pick Reports or a similar organization, ask your friends, family members, and neighbors about positive experiences they’ve had with local contractors.
2. Interview several companies
Even if you’re wildly impressed by the first company you talk to, keep your appointments with the other contractors on your list. You’ll need more than one or two bids to make a fair comparison.
3. Double-check insurance coverage, state-required licenses, and certifications
Reputable third-party organizations that recommend contractors should independently verify a company’s general liability insurance coverage; however, these policies do expire.
General liability insurance is important because it means that the contractor is financially protected if anything goes wrong while his or her company is working on your property. Without general liability insurance, any accidents will be your responsibility. Active state-required licenses are also a must. If an unlicensed contractor performs major work on your home—an electrical panel replacement or whole-house re-piping, for example—that work will not be considered as meeting code by state inspectors.
You could be forced to have the work redone, and you will likely run into major headaches if you decide to sell your house. If the work fails and results in you filing a claim with your homeowners’ insurance provider, your insurance company could deny the claim and cancel your policy.
Always do your due diligence by requesting proof of active insurance coverage, licensure, and certification. Reputable contractors will be happy to provide you with this information; move on from any contractor who balks at this request.
4. Ask for a list of references
Good contractors will have a list of clients that you can contact for more information about how the firm works. Some companies will volunteer this list, but don’t hesitate to request it if one isn’t included in your bid package.
Call a few people included on the list and ask them about their experience. Here are a few useful questions to get the conversation started:
- Are you happy with the work the company performed?
- Did the job follow the expected timeline?
- Did you have any issues with the company? If so, how were those issues resolved?
- Was communication with the company easy and straightforward?
5. Read reviews
Search for reviews of the company online, but read them with a skeptical eye. Pay attention to the reviewer’s name, the date the review was written, and whether the company posted a response. Companies should respond to reviews of their business, even if the feedback is negative. Take the company’s responses into account, too—snide or aggressive responses are a red flag, as is a complete lack of responses.
4 Air Duct Cleaning & Home Repair Scam Red Flags
It’s hard to have a conversation about finding reputable contractors without also talking about home repair scams. While most contractors are hardworking and honest, home repair and improvement scams do exist, and knowing how to recognize the red flags is important.
Keep these important warning signs in mind as you narrow your list of potential contractors:
1. The company uses scare tactics or gives you the hard sell
Home repairs are sometimes very time sensitive, but there’s a big difference between a contractor who explains the urgency of the situation and one who tries to convince you that your house is on the verge of collapse. A reputable contractor will encourage you to review their bid and even seek other opinions to help you make the decision that’s right for you.
In particular, be wary of air duct cleaning contractors who do a cursory inspection or a very quick “cleaning” of your ductwork and immediately declare that they’ve found mold in the ducts. This claim is likely false and just an attempt to get you to agree to unnecessary (and probably expensive) extra services.
2. The contractor doesn’t use written contracts or refuses to update an existing contract when project details change
Written, up-to-date contracts are vital when you have work done on your home. Don’t hire a contractor who insists that a handshake is just as good as a contract—handshakes don’t stand up in court if the project goes south.
3. The company goes door-to-door through your neighborhood, soliciting business
Reputable contractors have plenty of business—often, so much business that you may have to wait for an opening in their schedule. This is a good sign. Be wary of companies that wander through neighborhoods trying to drum up business, especially if they do so after a major storm or other weather events.
4. The contractor requests full payment up front or before the work is finished
For large projects, most companies request an initial payment to reserve your spot on their calendar and start the job. This is completely normal. You should never pay the entire amount either before work begins or before you’re completely happy with the finished product.
Also, be wary of contractors who request very large initial payments, such as an amount that is more than about one-third of the total cost of the job. To protect yourself, consider charging a down payment to a credit card—it’s safer than cash, and the paper trail can be useful if anything goes wrong.
The Bottom Line
Finding good contractors can be difficult, especially if you’re new to the area or a first-time homeowner. That’s why it’s important to know the resources that are at your disposal and how to take advantage of them. Being cautious when hiring a home service contractor may extend your project’s timeline, but the peace of mind that comes with feeling confident that your contractor is certified, trustworthy, and will take care of your home is absolutely worth the wait.
Julia Clem is part of the marketing team at Best Pick Reports. Best Pick Reports utilizes consumer satisfaction research to evaluate the performance of home service providers, such as plumbers, roofers, and painters, in metro areas across the US. After compiling surveys from thousands of homeowners who have had direct experience with local service companies, Best Pick Reports connects top-rated companies with their ideal customers by promoting them in its annual publication, website, and mobile app.