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Four Steps to Finding the Right Contractor for Your Remodel

DEC 7, 2012 12:33pm ET

Maybe you've had plans to remodel your home for awhile but just realized the project is too big to take on yourself. Perhaps you hastily promised your spouse the project would be done in time for a holiday celebration or other family function. Or maybe you did hire a contractor, but they've since abandoned the project. No matter the reason for your panic, you need to find a reliable contractor, and you need to do it fast.

Choosing a contractor can be frustrating for anybody, and doing so in a time crunch can push homeowners to the edge of their sanity. Don't worry, though, because these four steps will help you manage your stress as you search for a contractor on short notice.

1) Ask your friends and family for recommendations.

Searching for contractors online can be helpful for finding a virtually limitless number of options, but reviewing the credentials of professionals you don't have a connection to requires a significant amount of time. To get efficient and accurate feedback about contractors, reach out to friends and family members who have recently hired contractors for their projects.

If your contacts have recently worked with a top-notch contractor, they'll gladly share a recommendation. Conversely, they won't hold anything back if they had a bad experience, and you'll know who not to waste your time on. Another advantage of finding a contractor through family and friends is that you'll be taking advice from those you already trust rather than biased, self-promotional advertisements.

2) Verify all candidates are properly licensed and bonded.

It's no secret that some construction professionals choose to operate their businesses in ways that skirt the law. They like to work off the books and take cash payments, which they will probably market as a way for you to save money. Although this strategy might convince you that you're saving money now, you could lose money if the contractor leaves the job unfinished.

Before you ask for a bid, verify that every contractor you're considering has the proper surety bond and licensing in place. If you choose to hire a contractor who's not bonded and licensed properly, they have no legal accountability to you. This will make it very difficult for you to recover losses if the unfortunate need should arise in the future. Don't be in such a rush to get your project started that you sacrifice your legal and financial security as a consumer.

3) Be honest about your project goals.

When you're speaking with potential contractors, lay everything on the table. Tell them exactly what you expect from them performance-wise, and be straightforward about date by which you expect the project to be completed. Encourage them to be equally honest with you regarding their ability. Make it clear that you don't have a lot of time to waste because you need the job to be finished as soon as possible. Depending on the scale of the project, it might be best to draft a contract that outlines your mutual expectations.

4) Take a few minutes to consider cost effectiveness.

You already know that getting multiple bids ensures you pay a fair price for your project. Even though you're in a rush, you still don't want to pay too much for a project. However, choosing the lowest bid might not be the best decision when you're in a time crunch.

Being short on time doesn't mean you shouldn't expect quality service. Consider the contractor's reputation for completing projects on time, and ask about guarantees. Realize, though, that similar to other industries, expedited services usually cost more. If you want good work done on short notice, you should expect to pay more than you usually would. Either way, be prepared to get what you pay for.