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Finding and Choosing Contractors
As any experienced property investor will tell you, finding a crew of reliable, expert home-improvement professionals to help you keep your property in good condition is crucial to your success as a landlord. In fact, many people choose to use property managers because they typically have longstanding relationships with a variety of contractors, and are often able to negotiate the best prices for their services.
Whether you're looking to hire a general contractor for a major construction project, or just putting together a basic maintenance crew to keep your rental's systems in top shape, here are some tips you can use along the way:
Finding a Good Contractor
When looking for a home improvement professional with a solid reputation and extensive list of references, one of the best ways to start your search is by asking your family, friends, colleagues, and other service professionals you like and trust for recommendations. Ironically, some of the best contractors are often some of the hardest to find, because they often get so much business through word of mouth that they don't need to advertise. In fact, according to Money Magazine's Josh Garskof, contractors who solicit business door-to-door or send flyers in the mail are contractors you should be skeptical about hiring.
If your word-of-mouth search comes up empty, your next best bet is to look online. Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and other website comments can be a good source of information and feedback that will help you find and evaluate potential contractors. In addition, depending on what kind of project you're hiring for, some contractors may have online portfolios displaying photos of some of their completed projects.
Choosing the Right Contractor for Your Job
Once you've done your research and made a list of the potential contractors you think might be right for your home-improvement or maintenance project, taking the following steps will help ensure you get the best results for the best price:
- Provide a clear description of your project: The more detailed your description, the more accurate your potential contractors can be in giving you an estimate of the time it will take to complete the work, and of how much it will cost.
- Get multiple bids: The common rule of thumb is to get estimates from at least three contractors before making a decision about who to hire. Not only does this give you a range of choices, it encourages the contractors you interview to lower their prices to beat their competition.
- Check references: You'd be surprised at how many people don't bother to actually call this list of references provided by a potential contractor. While it's true that most of these contacts will have mostly good things to say (otherwise, why would they be included on the list?), you can still learn a lot about a contractor's general approach to a project by conducting reference checks.
- Watch out for red flags: The FTC suggests steering clear of contractors who aren't listed anywhere, ask you to pay for an entire project up-front, accept cash only, and/or ask you to obtain any needed permits for the work.
Closing the Deal with a Contractor
Once you've identified the perfect contractor for your job, it's time to draw up the contract. This document should include start and finish dates, the payment schedule, a description of the materials to be used, and instructions for handling any changes to the project plan. It should also specify who is responsible for things like securing permits and handling clean-up tasks.
With a good selection process in place and a solid contract in hand, you'll stand an excellent chance of ending up happy with your contractor and with how your project turns out.