Determining which contractor to choose can be toughest decision of any project. Trying to decide among the the recommended “get three quotes” often feels like a crap shoot. So where do you start. Well, let’s take this step by step. First, you would want to make sure that each of these companies has met the guidelines published by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Public Safety. I discussed this in my previous post, “Information on Selecting a Contractor According to the Mass DPS“. The steps they outline are critical – don’t skip any and ask for documentation. Get actual copies of the licenses and insurance certificates before any contract is signed.
OK, so you perform your due diligence. You find that all of the three pass muster – they all do good work according to their references, and you actually viewed a completed project or two. I believe that the choice now comes down to the relationship that you have or will develop with the contractor. Basically, you will be spending a lot of time with this person and their team over the next few weeks or months, and communications and trust will be most important during this time.
Communications is an issue that you should work out before hand – ask the contractor how you will be kept informed of their progress, and how they will respond to your questions or concerns that may arise. Personally, I have found the best way is to keep a daily log of the progress in a notebook that is kept at the job site. Each morning, I check out the log book to first see if my client has entered any notes, questions or requests for changes, and I respond to these in writing in the notebook. Then I note what the upcoming tasks are planned for the day, and contact the the homeowner directly if needed. Although this type of documented communication might seem to be a bother, it is in the best interest of both the contractor and the homeowner in the long run. If a contending contractor is unwilling or balks at utilizing this or a similar plan of written communications, this should send up a red flag in the selection process.
The other, and more difficult issue to predetermine, is trust. Let’s face it – you are paying a lot of money to someone you may have never met before who will be coming into your home an a daily basis. It is perfectly natural that you might feel somewhat vulnerable. It is said that trust is earned, but unfortunately, it is impossible to earn it before a relationship is formed over time. This is a real “catch-22” situation. My advise is to listen to the references from the contractor’s past clients. Ask them specifically if they felt comfortable with the contractor and the entire team, and if there were any concerns of trustworthiness. Check to see if the contractor belongs to any local building or remodeling organizations, and follow up with these groups to check with their peers for any past issues. And don’t confuse trust with personality – these two qualities are not related!
So, in summary, communications and trust are both important considerations when selecting a contractor. These two factors will determine the type of relationship that is formed between the homeowner and the contractor, and if both are present, will lead to a successful and pleasant experience. And once you find a good, trustworthy contractor who communicates well with their clients, future projects will be far less stressful!