Finding (and Keeping) a Decent Contractor

One of the greatest trials of home ownership and maintenance is getting a good contractor. Whether you need someone to repaint your house, rewire a room or add a new bathroom, it’s always a trial to find someone reliable, reasonably priced and available for work. 

Online Reviews

Obviously, in the digital age it makes sense to start with online reviews. Whether you’re looking for Fox Valley plumbing or Short Hill electricians, you can likely find the closest and most convenient option, along with some helpful reviews. However, online reviews, especially if there are not very many of them, rarely tell the whole story. It’s easy to manipulate an online rating system, either in favor or against a certain contractor. On top of that, online reviews don’t always answer the questions that are most important to you and your specific job, so it’s important to get a second opinion.

Ask Locals

The best place to start is with your neighbors and other locals. They can tell you more information. Who has a reputation for being a little slow, but does good work at a fraction of the price? What companies used to have a bad reputation but recently got new management? This is the kind of information that’s frequently easier to get from your neighbors than from an online review site. 

Ask Professionals

Wherever possible, don’t just ask any old neighbor; ask professionals. If you find a good carpenter, for example, you might ask him for recommendations on electricians he likes to work with. Ask at the hardware store or the lumberyard, they talk to the other pros and they might have an idea of who is worth talking to and who is overpriced when it comes to contractors in your area. 

Know Your Priorities

By far the most important thing to know is your own priorities. You want a job done well, quickly and cheaply, but if you had to pick only one, which would it be? If you need an inexpensive contractor, then you will likely have to choose between getting the job done quickly and getting the job done well. The truth is that oftentimes the reason that it’s hard to find good contractors is because the best contractors are also the most expensive contractors.

Finding a good contractor is like hitting the jackpot, so once you have someone on file, make sure you don’t lose their number. Value decent contractors the way you value good friends; they are both few and far between.