Finding a contractor while will perform quality work at a reasonable price can be a daunting task. When vetting a contractor, check with the Better Business Bureau and your state licensing bureau, then look for the following warning signs that can alert you to unscrupulous, inexperienced, or financially troubled contractors who may deliver broken promises rather than professional results.
How a contractor presents himself and maintains his vehicle, tools, and equipment are good indicators of how well he'll take care of you. A contractor should come across as professional. His equipment and vehicles should be in good standing.
Beware Low Bids:
Price is an important consideration when selecting a contractor, but don't let a low cost or a special deal blind you to a potential problem. A bid far more moderate than others may be cause for concern that the contractor doesn't know what the cost of the job at hand is. It may also be a red flag for a slew of additional charges tacked onto the project once the work as started.
Take Your Time:
Don't fall victim to the pressure of buzz-phrases like, "limited time offer." Hiring a contractor is not a split-second decision or something that should be done hastily; for this reason, many states give homeowners three days to cancel a home improvement contract -- without obligation -- after signing it. A prospective contractor shouldn't have a bid just readily available for you without first taking his time to carefully review the specifications of the job before determining the cost. If he doesn't take notes and measurements and make material and labor calculations, he may not be detail-oriented enough to do a good job.
Beware Materials Discount:
Materials that are offered at a discounted rate should raise a red flag as smaller contractors don't typically buy their materials in high enough volumes to garner big discounts that they can pass on to their customers. Discounted materials are usually seconds, ungraded, or below-grade goods.
Only 20% Up Front:
Be wary of paying too much up front. As a general rule of thumb, avoid contractors who ask for more than 20 percent up front to get the project started. While some projects do require a large initial payment to cover products like cabinets or special-order items, it doesn't apply to materials like roofing and lumber.
Beware Cash-Only Jobs:
You should always keep a paper trail. Paying with cash circumvents you from being able to prove any form of payment was given to the contractor for the work provided. Contractors that ask to be paid in cash should also raise a red flag about whether or not their operation is a legitimate business. If a contractor states that they are a cash-only operation, it's time to look elsewhere for a professional to perform the work.