Tips for Hiring Home Maintenance Contractors

Since we bought a foreclosure, we have to do more than the typical amount of maintenance a new homeowner is responsible for. Although the bank did the termite work (apparently a rarity with foreclosures), we have to trim trees, repair the roof, and fix a few other things that turned up in the inspection. While scheduling the work, I’ve learned a few things about hiring contractors.

Get Referrals, Search Yelp, and Read Your Mail
In addition to referrals for roofers, handymen, etc. that we received from our real estate agent, I’ve also relied on Yelp and ads mailed to our home to find our contractors. Some of these ads had coupons, some didn’t. I pulled all the ads and then looked at their websites.

Check the Better Business Bureau and the State Licensing Board
Once I’ve checked their Yelp reviews (some don’t), I look up each company at the Better Business Bureau. Not all companies are there, but most are. I also look up their license number at the state licensing board’s website. The license number should be in the ad or on their website. If it’s not, they may not be licensed, but you can ask them for the number to verify. I generally looked for companies rated A or B by the BBB.

Schedule Three Estimates
With our floors, I actually only scheduled two estimates because of the tight timing, but otherwise I’ve scheduled three. With the tree trimming estimates, only two showed up. With the roof estimates, three showed up, but only two actually provided me with estimates. Make sure that the same person meets all the estimators so you can compare demeanor and gut feelings. So far, that person has been me.

Don’t Rush Into a Decision
My husband and I reviewed each estimate and discussed it. With the tree trimmer, we didn’t actually receive a written estimate from the guy we chose. He gave me his card and told me a figure. However, he’s also a gardener and we needed sprinkler work and other advice. We chose him in hopes that we could use him for multiple jobs at a better price, and indeed we did.

Don’t Always Go with the Lowball
For our floors, we actually went with the higher price per square foot. We just felt better about the estimate and it was better for our schedule. For the tree-trimming, we did go with the lower price, but for the reasons stated above. We’ll probably also go with the lower bid for the roof repair, but he was the roofer recommended by our real estate agent. The other bid was $1200 higher and involved way more work than the inspector told us was necessary for the job.

Never Commission Work without an Estimate
Even for jobs we have our handyman do, we ask for an estimate first. That way we can budget for the cost and figure out how soon we can schedule the work. You don’t want to call someone out, have them do the work, and then find out the price.

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