Importance of Checking the Reliability of Your Contractor

How do you know if a contractor is reliable? Failing at this important step can mean the difference between getting work done on time and within budget and watching repair costs mount and completion dates stretch out incessantly.

Will our electrician burn down the property? Will our plumber leave us holding a bill that’s 75% over estimate? Following a few key steps can save a lot of time, headaches and of course money.

1. Check the Internet

Is this a no-brainer? After all, everyone knows how to use the internet to find reviews, don’t they? Not so fast.

While most people do know they should use the internet to check if their contractor is reliable, not everyone knows how. Of course you’ll start with the common review sites, but a thorough internet background search includes all of the following:

    • Yelp. This site has received some bad press in the past over accusations of taking money in exchange for positive reviews. That said, it’s still a good place to start. Be aware that most online consumer reviews tend to skew negative. A contractor with a few negative complaints will most often do better work than one with hundreds or thousands.
    • Angie’s List. Similar to Yelp. See if your contractor of choice has an Angie’s List profile and if so, whether it’s got serious black marks.
    • Consumer Checklist. This one’s limited to several big cities, but it provides good info on contractors in target areas.
    • BBB. The Better Business Bureau is a great way to find out if your contractor has a long list of complaints. Their A-F grading system can turn up serious red flags.
    • Court records. Does your “reliable” contractor have a history of getting sued? While not every state publishes litigation records online, most do. Here’s a great resource for looking up past lawsuits for contractors in your area.
    • Don’t forget Google. A google search of the contractor’s name (sometimes adding the word “sucks”) can often uncover skeletons in the closet.
    • Facebook. Putting a shout-out on Facebook can unearth horror stories (or love stories!) about contractors.

2. Ask the Pros

Another big “how to find out if a contractor is reliable” method is talking to other pros.

This might mean asking other contractors. Plumbers, electricians, framers, cabinet makers, door hangers and so on often work together. Word gets around fast in the construction and repairs world when a contractor isn’t necessarily one you can trust.

Don’t limit your background search just to contractors though. Realtors, private lenders, building supply companies, and home inspectors are all pros with excellent knowledge of the contractor market.

3. Ask for References

The third big way to find out if a contractor is reliable is to ask the contractor for references. A contractor who can’t or won’t provide this info stands a fair chance of not being a crowd favorite. Generally speaking, contractors whose customers fall in love with them are proud of these relationships and happy to provide a few references on request.

When you get the references, actually contact the people. Ask about the contractor’s work ethic, adherence to deadlines, faithfulness to estimates and other factors of concern.

4. Ask the Contractor

Asking a contractor if he or she is reliable may seem like wasted time. However, we can find out a lot about a contractor by asking some pointed questions. How will he or she perform the work? How will the contractor deal with specific job problems? Has he or she handled jobs like this before? What were the biggest frustrations? Is the contractor insured?

A conversation with a contractor can give us a real sense of who the person is and the level of competency and reliability. Face to face is best because it allows for non-verbal cues.