Reasons and How-to Hire the Right Contractor for Your Home Project
Ted Cligrow, President/Owner
Carolina Home Exteriors
Making the decision to invest in your home through room additions, renovation and general maintenance is a very important one. Irresponsible actions of a contractor can be a huge liability to a homeowner. It is unfortunate that we all know of others who have experienced poor workmanship, lack of professionalism, higher than expected costs and legal consequences due to unethical business practices. Regrettably, these issues occur due to homeowners not knowing how to hire the right contractor.
According to the Small Business Administration, over half of all new businesses fail within three years. In addition, the Better Business Bureau, ranks Home Improvement as #1 in customer complaints. The BBB cites three main reasons for such complaints:
1) Homeowners select contractors based on price alone.
2) Homeowners don’t get all of the details written into the contract prior to contract signing.
3) Homeowners get deceived by contractors that make promises that they don’t keep.
It is vital to have the facts and know the people who will be working on your home. Being prepared will insure the safety and security of your home. Knowing the details of the company you hire will provide a pleasant experience, on-time completion, quality workmanship and no unexpected surprises.
A declined economy has negatively affected many individuals in the workforce, causing some contractors to cut corners. Any “average Joe” with some tools and transportation can market himself as a contractor and more of that is occurring as a result of unemployment and a downturn in the new construction industry.
When hiring the right contractor for you, make sure you know the important questions to ask and do research to verify that your potential contractor is qualified, ethical and fair.
Here are some things to consider:
- Are they licensed?
If the contractor does not have a proper license, they will not be able to permit a job legally. In this scenario, you as the homeowner could be responsible for fines as well as legal actions from the municipalities in which you reside. A homeowner can look-up and verify if a contractor is licensed on the SC Labor, Licensing and Regulations website (http://tinyurl.com/SCLLRLicenseLookup).
- Does the contractor have insurance and are they bonded?
If the contractor is not properly insured or bonded, damage to your home caused by the contractor could come out of your pocket. Unfortunately, many contractors are not financially stable and are unable to carry proper coverage to protect you against the losses. It is recommended the contractor carry a two-million dollar minimum general liability coverage policy.
- Does the contractor apply for all required permits as regulated by the customer’s township, county and state and do they adhere to all codes and regulations?
Looking at the Better Business Bureau’s website or talking to previous customers could help you discover if the contractor has ever had any violations for not adhering to all codes. A homeowner can contact their local municipality building office and confirm a building permit has been pulled for their construction project. (http://tinyurl.com/HorryCountyBBB).
- Does the contractor have civil and/or criminal records?
There are a lot of unethical and “fly by night” contractors out there. Today, it is easy to do background check. While it may cost a few dollars upfront, it’s a worthily investment not to get taken in the long run. There are several websites where you can verify if a contractor has a criminal or civil record, for about $30-$35. Your personal safety and security of your family can depend upon this. You may also search Horry County Summary Court public records by business or contractor name for free (http://tinyurl.com/HorryCountyPublicRecords).
- Does the contractor show they have the resources and financial stability to complete your job by providing you a professional establishment?
It’s recommended to verify that they actually have an investment in a showroom, warehouse and company vehicles. Stop by their location, a visit will demonstrate their long-term commitment and financial sustainability.
- Can the contractor provide you with a list of customers to call to hear about their experience in dealing with the contractor?
Word of mouth is not just the best form of advertising, but it’s the most credible. Ask for a list of customer references similar to your job. Get the customers’ perspective on all aspects of their projects. Use this information in making your decision. If the contractor can’t provide you with numerous satisfied clients, there is a reason for it and it’s probably not a good one.
- Has the contractor provided you with a formal, written estimate and contract for his work? And does the contract guarantee his work?
If not, this is a red flag. You have invested a lot of money and want to make sure that you are receiving what you paid for. Unfortunately, customers trust a contractor’s verbal promises without getting these promises in writing. This can lead to costly legal fees to fight your word against theirs. Make sure all change orders are in writing.
- Can the contractor provide you with proof of jobs that he has completed?
More importantly can he provide pictures from the same customers that have provided testimonials? Unethical contractors may show pictures of work that he has not actually completed, such as stock photos or pictures from other contractors. It is also wise to ask, who else works for the organization. Are there pictures of their team on their website? Do they have a website?
- Is the contractor financially stable and credible? Ask the contractor for reference letters from their bank and suppliers to prove this.
You are trusting them with your money. They shouldn’t have a problem with providing this information to you.
- Is the contractor a member of the Better Business Bureau or do they have any complaints against them with the Better Business Bureau?
It’s very easy to visit the BBB website and learn this. In addition, has the organization made the investment to be a member of other industry-related associations, such as Horry Georgetown Home Builders Association or Coastal Carolina Association of Realtors? This will indicate that they hold themselves to higher industry ethical standards. (http://tinyurl.com/HorryCountyBBB).
- Is the contractor a member of the various chambers of commerce organizations? Chamber memberships do not only prove commitment to one’s business but usually means that the contractor is involved with improving the community. A positive reputation amongst other businesses will prove their trustworthiness.
These are just a few tips for what to ask a contractor before hiring one. For a complete list of questions, visit www.CarolinaHomeExteriors.con and download a free checklist. Or call 843-651-6514 for a free consultation. Carolina Home Exteriors is proud to have been serving Horry, Brunswick and Georgetown Counties since 1980 with over 7,000 satisfied customers.
Remember, this is your home, your money and your future. Invest wisely and choose sensibly.
About Carolina Home Exteriors
Carolina Home Exteriors (CHE) has been serving the Carolinas since 1980 by providing quality custom designed home improvement products to over 7,000 customers. CHE maintains a progressive and responsive philosophy in fulfilling the demand for energy efficient windows, doors and other exterior products as needed in a community with potential violent coastal weather and strict building codes. CHE specializes in custom built sunrooms, screen rooms, room additions, patio enclosures, pool lanais, decks and fencing and roofing and flooring. In addition to products, CHE offers one-stop exterior design services to complement the “Outdoor Living…Indoor Lifestyle” by offering a full line of indoor/outdoor furniture, hot tubs/spas and outdoor kitchens. Visit our in-house design center or online gallery to customize your dream outdoor living area at www.carolinahomeexteriors.com. CHE is located at 11730 Bypass 17 in Murrells Inlet, SC. For more information or a complimentary consultation, call (843) 651-6514.