Get at least 3 contractor bids before making a hire

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Whether you are starting a home improvement project with your kitchen, bathroom or your roof, it is important to be thoroughly educated before making your hiring decision.  Some of these projects can cost in the thousands and you don't want to get stuck with a team with whom you can't get along.

Getting three bids is an uphill battle. How do I know? Because 30 percent of respondents to a recent Angie's List poll admitted that they didn't fully read their contract before they hired their contractor. If you're not reading the contract, chances are you're not doing the preliminary work either – and both are incredibly important to getting your project done well, done on time and at a fair price.

Angie's List tips on why you should get three or more bids:

  • Feel comfortable: Depending on the type of project, contractors could be in and out of your house quite often – you need to feel comfortable with them.
  • Communication is key: You need to be able to communicate with your contractor easily. If something isn't going right, speak up early in the project. If you're dealing with problems early on and don't address them, you're probably not going to be happy with the finished product. If your contractor isn't responsive to your wishes, it's easier to cut ties early. The longer you wait, the more difficult it could be to move on.
  • Are you on the same page? You should choose a contractor that collaborates with you throughout your project. You have to live with this, so make sure it's something you like as well.
  • Keeping in touch: Many members complained that after the initial estimate they could not get ahold of the contractor by phone or email in order to get further information or to even talk about doing the job.
  • Weed out the bad: If you find one bid is a lot lower than the others, it could be an indicator of an outlier and the quality of that contractor's work might not be up to your standards. That's another reason it's important to get three bids.

Many homeowners tell us their search for a contractor ends if they think the bid is too high. But a recent Angie's List poll showed that more than 80 percent of contractors are willing to negotiate with homeowners to get jobs. So don't let sticker shock keep you from making a good hire. If you have three bids to compare, you have leverage to potentially talk down that high bidder. There might be a good reason the bid is higher than you expected but you'll never know if you don't have an apples-to-apples comparison.

What should be in a bid?

  • Payment terms
  • Start and completion dates
  • Materials being used and how much (spelled out line by line)
  • Cost of permits (if any need to be pulled)
  • Cost of final payment

When getting ready for a big project, you want to get as much information from the contractor that you choose. You are basically conducting an interview with the company. That contractor will be the one responsible for how your project turns out. If you see red flags from the beginning, end the relationship then. Trust your instincts.

Questions to ask while deciding:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Can I see examples of previous work?
  • Are you licensed, insured and bonded?
  • What certifications do you have?
  • Who will be assigned to my project if I have any questions?

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