8 Steps to Selecting and Hiring Contractors
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
We’re frequently asked by homeowners to recommend vendors or for the names of vendors we use. While we are not able to recommend any particular vendors to homeowners, here are the steps we go through when selecting vendors and how they can be applied to projects at your home.
Step 1 – Ask for Recommendations Internally, we maintain a vendor list where each manager can share their experiences about vendors they have used. For projects at your home, you can start by asking family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations based on their experiences. If you are a member of any neighborhood social media platforms, such as Nextdoor, this may be a good source for feedback from your neighbors.
Step 2 – Interview Candidates Before requesting a proposal, we talk, either over the phone or in person, to make sure the contractor is a match for the project at hand. We ask about their qualifications including any applicable licenses or certifications they hold, as well as designations from any professional associations. We ask about their experience and about projects they have completed similar to ours. Depending on the size and type of project, you may need to ask what work will be done by subcontractors. This may not apply to singular focus jobs such as exterior painting but would be important to know for larger jobs such as a full kitchen remodel.
Step 3 – Check Licenses, Reviews, and References Licenses issued by governmental bodies and designations from professional organizations can typically be verified online and most websites will include any disciplinary actions taken against the licensee/designee.
Online reviews on sites such as the Better Business Bureau, Google, and Yelp can also be helpful. A single bad review isn’t necessarily a deal breaker but a series of negative reviews over a long period of time could be considered a warning. Any responses posted by the contractor may provide valuable insight as to the type of treatment you would receive if you chose to work with this contractor.
When contacting references, some questions we like to ask are:
Step 4 – Get Multiple Estimates
- What type of project did the contractor complete for you?
- How did the final cost compare to the estimated cost?
- Was the project completed according to schedule?
- Was the end result what you expected?
- Did you have any disputes with the contractor during the project? If so, how were they resolved?
- Would you hire the contractor again for your next project?
Our general guideline is to get at least three written estimates. When comparing the estimates, it’s important they are “apples to apples”. This is fairly simple for smaller projects like replacing a fence but can become quite complicated for larger projects like a bathroom renovation where specific fixture or material selections haven’t yet taken place. The bids should be detailed enough that you can isolate the differences between them and know whether revisions are needed. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarifications or modifications from the bidders.
Step 5 – Contractor Selection
While price is always an important factor, contractor selection should encompass more than price alone. Was it easy working with the contractor during the bidding process? Did they communicate well and timely? Did they answer your questions rather than talk around them?
Step 6 – Sign a Contract
A project should never begin until a signed contract is in place. The contract should clearly specify the scope of work including all materials to be used, deadlines, price, and payment terms. Make sure both parties sign the contract and have a copy of it.
Step 7 - Verify Insurance
We recommend our clients require the contractor to list the Association as an additional insured on the insurance policy. This provides increased benefits from the insurance company in the event that the contractor causes damages. It’s easy to verify coverage is still in place with a quick call to the carrier listed on the certificate of insurance the contractor provides.
Step 8 – Get Permits
Depending on which city or county the project is taking place, permits may be required. This would also apply to projects at your home, in addition to HOA approval. We highly suggest you not rely solely on a contractor to determine whether approvals and permits are required. Do your own research and ensure you abide by all HOA rules and regulations, city and county ordinances and permitting.
Being diligent during the bidding and selection process may seem daunting but the payoff of using a qualified and vetted contractor will make the extra time and effort worth it. By Crest Management Company policy, employees are not permitted to use Association vendors for their personal use. That means they get extra practice using this process since they have to perform it all over again for their home projects as well.