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Checking contractor references

We are looking to hire a contractor to do some work in our home. We asked the contractor for references since we essentially found him in the yellow pages. He seemed very professional and very on top of things when discussing the project. So both my wife and I were feeling very good about him.

When checking the references one of the numbers was not working. So we checked it on google. Someone with the same last name in the same town was in the construction business. When we googled the other references the same thing. They seemed like they might be related to some other contractor? Should this raise a red flag? Do contractors use one another for references normally? Any thoughts would be helpful.

Re: Checking contractor references

While it's entirely possible that your contractor has done work for the other contractors, as a sub-contractor, I'd ask him for more references, this time from private parties.

And when you get them, politely call each one of them and don't hesitate to ask questions.

Re: Checking contractor references

It does sound fishy to me. Get more numbers, and GO to their homes if at all possible. A pretty surface can hide a multitude of mistakes. You want a contractor who does a thorough job. Ask the references about warranty work and any guarantees.

Re: Checking contractor references

Indeed, red flag has risen. The best way to get a reference check is to make use of review sites. But beware of these too because there are a lot of non credible sites out there that are only used for ranting. Trust a credible review site like Angie's list. There you will find real reviews from people who have had work done by a particular contractor. If they aren't on Angie's list, that's another big red flag. good luck!

A. Spruce
Re: Checking contractor references
SammyJo wrote:

If they aren't on Angie's list, that's another big red flag. good luck!

Seriously? Please! :rolleyes:

Re: Checking contractor references

agrred sprucey

your best way of seeing their work is to simply ask addresses of jobs the've done and drive by the house. see how their work looks 2-5 years later.. shoddy workmanship shows up pretty quick..

we simply tell our perspective clients to drive through a specific neighborhood where we've done a ton of remodels, 25 homes in a small neighborhood to be exact in a 8 year time frame, including another 9 ive done outside of the company either with another contractor or small jobs on my own.. that sells us right there. the next closest number of jobs a contractor has done compared to us is around 4 projects. not to brag but they want our quality and they want the look we present to a house

Re: Checking contractor references

In case of an exterior remodel job, a company like jkirk's is actually very proud of their work and quickly asks prospective customers to go and check their latest job.

But for an interior remodel job, a simple drive through is not enough, therefore you need to contact previous customers and ask them questions. This is the only way you can find out if the contractor is good or not. Just try to be not so invasive.

Sites like angie's list could be manipulated by the contractor.

It's amazing how the good contractors never have a problem finding new customers.

Re: Checking contractor references

I agree with SammyJo

After first feeling skeptical about a site like Angie's List about 6 months ago when I was looking for a contractor to remodel a 1st floor apt., I was at a loss as to even know how to go about finding a reliable contractor.

I had until recently been able to do much of the work on a diy basis, but medical problems & an inability to handle a large remodeling job forced me to find an alternative to diy.

My original idea that I could get someone immediately from the Yellow Pages, or asking friends & relatives, or networking at work, the barber shop, my wife's hairdresser, etc., soon evaporated in frustration----I was getting nowhere fast.

In searching the internet under "home repair contractor referral services" I found a dozen or so agencies (some listed below); some that are free of charge like the Better Business Bureau, and others like Angie's List that charge $8/month or $25/yr---at the time I contacted Angie's they had a special offer of $15/yr subscription fee; so, still skeptical, I joined.

I was greatly impressed!

They seem to have an endless list of local contractors who have been recently hired by homeowners---the homeowners then write in an evaluation of the experiences they had with the contractor---excellent, good, bad or indifferent----it was the first time I have seen an internet website give a number of negative reports on some contractors; the negative reports were mostly in the minority---most contractors get a good or at least mediocre report from the paying homeowner; but clearly, no homeowner is going to hire a contractor who gets a number of negative reports.

I did have a brief experience with the Better Business Bureau, which is also a national service & does basically the same thing free of charge as Angie's List, but doesn't allow the reporting homeowner to explain a negative or positive report; there is no feedback from the homeowner, and the reports are not reviewable (just a number/letter rating) for a given part of the country.

I have not had any experience with the other contractor referral services listed below, perhaps others can comment on them.

Angie's List gives several guidelines to homeowners when hiring a contractor, among which are, as noted above, checking references; if possible, physically looking at the recent work previously done by the contractor in your area; checking with your local State Dept. of Business Regulation to see if any complaints, sanctions, license suspensions, etc. have been lodged against the prospective contractor.

For a long-term project, like remodeling an apt. or remodeling a house, which involves thousands of $$$ & involves different work phases of floor covering, wall sheetrock, ceilings, lighting, electrical work, windows, etc., ALWAYS GET A WRITTEN CONTRACT, before the work is started, drawn up between you & the contractor, specifying what & how each phase of each project segment will be done, when the work will start/finish/ the cost of each phase, & the payment of each of the phase segments upon mutual approval of the work done, and the right to cancel any future segments if the initial phases are unsatisfactory, or to modify any segments that can be done in a more economic way.

Even in short-term jobs like a plumbing repair or getting a furnace working again, it's important to get a "verbal estimate" before allowing the work to continue.

In both above cases, a lot of hard feelings & disappointment can be avoided by getting everything in mutually agreed-upon written statements.

I would not ignore or discard the "networking" method of contacting friends, relatives, work associates, your barber/hairdresser, a local real estate agent (especially one who owns rental property) or the counterman at the local diner---if you have a friendly relationship with any of these people, they can be a big help in locating a good contractor; since the prospective contractor is being referred by someone respected in the community, they usually have a sense of responsibility in treating a friend's referral as coming from someone they don't want to disappoint.


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