I’m constantly hearing feedback from homeowners who have had a bad experience from a supposed home repair professional. It’s usually one of a few different scenarios we hear over and over. For example, “He told me he required full payment up front and I trusted him.” Or maybe. “Someone recommended him on Facebook so I thought they would do a good job for me”. All too often it’s, “They came out and did the work, but then we had issues with some of it. They said they would come back and now we can’t get ahold of them!” Hopefully this article will help you and your family avoid a similar situation.
Are they LICENSED AND INSURED?Or did they just tell you they were? This is one of the easiest steps to verify but yet so many do not. If you are dealing with an individual or a company for the first time you should not just take their word for it! When some major incident happens on your property, it is already too late. Think it won’t happen to you? Think again. Even the smallest home repairs can result in damage or injury.
For instance, say a guy is replacing a small piece of baseboard. Not a big repair right? Let’s say he puts a nail into a piece of pex plumbing hidden behind the wall and you don’t find out about it for three days. Now it has flooded your basement and you have $4000 in remediation costs. Too late now.
So how do you verify? First do a license check. This is as simple as Googling your state and “licensed contractors”. Most states have a website dedicated to verification, Tennessee’s is here (https://www.tn.gov/news/2012/3/5/verify-licenses-of-potential-home-contractors-at-verify.tn.gov.html) If you are having trouble reach out to someone from the business and ask them what name the license is under. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. TOO MANY shady contractors “say” they are licensed because they have a county “Business License”. This is NOT a license to perform home improvement work.
Second, verify insurance by asking for a Certificate of Insurance made out to you. This does a few things, as it verifies that the insurance is current and covers the date of your job (COI’s only come from the insurance company), it also verifies coverage amounts. Most importantly, it verifies what kind of insurance they have. Do they only have General Liability, or do they have Workers Comp? If a worker shoots himself with a nail gun or falls off the ladder while cleaning your gutters, and his employer does not carry Workers Compensation Insurance, this CAN come back on you.
If a company is willing to put you and your home at risk by not having the correct license and insurance in place, why trust them to do work on your most valuable asset?
Is the price reasonable?Reasonable does NOT mean cheap. Think about it this way, if someone listed a brand new Mercedes for $10,000, would you run out and buy it, or would you question it’s legitimacy. Most people would be skeptical and assume something must be wrong with the car, right? Everybody asks if they are charging too much, but are they charging enough? I know this seems counter intuative, you want the best price right? Chip and Jojo seem to get this stuff done for next to nothing!
Hardly. If it seems too good to be true than it is. Quality is not cheap. Skilled craftsman know their worth, and a legitimate business is not inexpensive to run. If a business is way cheaper than everyone else there is probably a reason – ASK. Do your due diligence. Will they stand by their work? How do you know? If you have an issue 2 months down the road with a repair they made will they answer the phone? If they are not charging enough for the services they provide it is only a matter of time before they will be shutting the doors.
Do they claim to be able to do everything?While some individuals are very talented, there are very few who can do everything and do it well. Most homeowners assume a handyman can replace their roof and remodel the bathroom. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the same guy that lays my shingles, laying my tile. A good handyman will typically have a variety of skills, but not everything. A good handyman business will employee craftsman with various skills to fill the gaps, and assign the one best suited to your job. Do your best to verify that they have someone skilled in the repair you are seeking. Don’t be a guinea pig…and don’t just take their word for it. Check references. Look at Google reviews. Go to their Facebook page and checkout their photos and recommendations. READ THE REVIEWS – do they sound legit?
Do they want payment up front?Haven’t you ever watched Holmes on Homes? This guy is always fixing the 50K half done jobs that were paid in full up front. Absolute horror stories. Let’s try not to be one…but how?
Let’s work through this. First, where did you find them? Is this some random person off Craigslist, or do they have a verifiable business and have you already checked out steps 1, 2 and 3? What does the job entail? It’s not uncommon in both repairs or renovations to require a substantial amount upfront where the material cost is significant, i.e. kitchen cabinets or anything involving a lot of lumber. Is this a repair job that’s more labor than materials? That should throw a giant red flag up. What do you do if it does involve a substantial amount upfront? First, see steps 1, 2 and 3. All that is good? Great, now get a contract in place. If the “contractor/handyman” doesn’t have a standard contract, let that be red flag #2. If they do, make sure there is a payment schedule accompanied by the work to be completed before each payment is issued. Make sure you save a final payment for after the work is complete. If you don’t have a contract, do not, I repeat DO NOT pay up front. Also, there is a certain amount of trusting your gut here. Do you feel uneasy with this person? It’s that simple. Let your gut be your guiding light.
Do your due diligence.Do a little research on the repair or remodel that you are wanting to have done. Look at some quality home repair websites such as fine home building (https://www.finehomebuilding.com/magazine). What methods and techniques are they using for this particular repair. Facebook has construction groups with industry professionals who would love to tell you all about the correct way to do whatever it is you are looking to have done. Once you have a base knowledge you will be better prepared to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions will help you weed through the bad ones. It may just end up saving you from having to fix what the guy you hired to fix things, broke.
This isn’t fool proof, but it’s also not rocket science. What this is is a good start at helping you find someone qualified and reliable. Construction isn’t perfect and sometimes followup visits or even warranty repairs are necessary…do your best to hire the company that will be there when those needs arise. Don’t take the easy way out. Always verify. It could be the difference between a masterpiece or an absolute disaster.