I’m sure that a reference from a friend or family member is probably how you picked out which contractor to use. And while your kid’s substitute teacher’s second cousin’s brother-in-law’s social worker’s reference is “totes a trust worthy person!”; you need more than one reference to really make your decision. So how do you know what questions to ask a reference? And what things should you highlight for the next person if you are a reference? To get and give a really good reference you need to look beyond the simply answers of “he did the job well” and “he didn’t scam me”. Here is a list of six things that you should ask your contractor’s references to make the best decision to fix up your home:
Did he stick to the schedule?: This is the most simple and most telling way to gauge your contractor’s work. If he can be trusted to begin and end the job as he quoted, then it’s a really good indication of his dedication and professionalism to the job at hand. You shouldn’t hold out for a contractor that has absolutely-iron-clad-100% perfection (things happen ya know?) but like they say….showing up is half the battle.
How was the quality of work?: This should be a no-brainer question. Obviously you are going to want to know if the quality of work of your contractor matches what you are paying for. Quality of work should encompass things like if the job was fully completed, if he used proper and up-to-date materials for the job, and if the work was done efficiently and aesthetically passes the “eye test”.
Was the contractor the one who did the work? Or did he have a team do it?: When explaining what contractors were I mentioned that the contractor isn’t necessarily the one to do the work, sometimes he will hire subcontractors or handymen to do the work for him. If the contractor hires out people to come in and do the work make sure you ask about them. Were they a trustworthy bunch? Did they show up on time and get the job done right? Friendly? Worked hard (didn’t take a 3 hour lunch starting at 2)? Ask if the work crew was supervised while they were working, or if they were by themselves. Some of your BIG home improvement projects might require supervision, but a majority of your in-home projects will probably just have the guys come by themselves so I wouldn’t worry too much if they weren’t supervised.
Did he provide bank and credit references?: Depending in whether or not you have already met with the contractor you might have this question answered already, but in case you haven’t seen the guy yet be sure and ask this. One of the signs of a bad or potentially untrustworthy contractor is that he will either insist that you pay only in cash, or that you need to use his bank and his bank only. This could very well be a dummy account in a bank, or not even a bank at all and you’re just wiring him money for him to run off on you. A really good contractor will be able to provide credit and bank references to show that he isn’t going bankrupt, and that he pays his bills on time.
Did they leave your home exactly as it looked when they walked in?: Obviously the work they did was different, but aside from that did they put the furniture back in the right place? Did they leave sawdust or pieces of dry wall around? Were there paint splatters? Shoe prints? Food wrappers or soda cans laying around? A good contractor will clean up after himself when he is done with the job and do the best he can to make the house look the same as it did when he walked in. Nobody is perfect, so the occasional big of dust and debris, or a couch being a little off, or ladder marks in the carpet shouldn’t make or break the sale. But an eye for detail is what makes a good contractor great, and if he’s not aware enough to realize he left a can of Coke around, what else could he have missed?
What was the overall experience with the contractor? Would you hire him again?: If you want to monetize this with a 1-10 scale, or if you want a simple “yes” or “no”, this is probably the most important question to ask. All businesses are going to be different, even in the same category, and it’s no different with contractors. Some will just be better at certain things than others, and it’s your job to ask the references where exactly the contractor excelled in. Was he a little more expensive but was the nicest guy in the world and was super professional? Was he a little less personable but got the job done? Did he really know his stuff and explained all of his industry’s jargon in easy-to-understand normalspeak? This question is where you are going to get the little things that the contractor did well, or didn’t do well enough. The biggest question is here too in asking if that reference would hire him again. If someone who already worked with this guy wouldn’t ask him back, why would you?
These six questions are great to ask a reference when you’re shopping around for a contractor, but they’re also really handy if you are added to a contractor’s list of references. Having the most important questions known in advance would help future prospects from signing on to this contractor or not. I highly encourage you to be added to a contractors reference list. If this contractor was great and deserves more business, then wouldn’t you want to help him? If he was terrible and doesn’t deserve more clients, don’t you want to warn others? Referencing is an important part of the contractor/homeowner relationship and with these six questions you are going to be ready to give and receive references with the best of them.
Build safe out there!