Questions to Ask Before You Hire a Contractor

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Relationships drive the real estate and property management industry. You cannot succeed without understanding the value of establishing a strong professional network of people you can rely upon when you’re looking for your next opportunity. Smart investors have a circle of real estate agents, brokers, property managers, lenders, insurance professionals, and attorneys.

Also essential is a great team of vendors and contractors who are ready to help you when work needs to be done to your investment property.

Contractors will help you when you’re making renovations or rehabbing a rental property you recently bought. They may be called to take care of repairs, replacements, and structural rebuilds after a fire or a flood. You’ll need a good contractor who can call in plumbers, roofers, electricians, and anyone else you need while you’re making repairs or upgrades to your rental property.

Do you have a contractor you can turn to?

If not, where do you find one?

We’re talking about where to find a good contractor, why it’s important to work with one, and how you can open the conversation about their work and experience.

Ask for Referrals

Wondering where to even begin your search for a good contractor? An ideal starting place is with referrals. Talk to other investors or even homeowners who have recently had work done. Once you have a robust list of referrals, spend some time doing a bit of online research. Look for testimonials on their website. Get an idea of what kind of work they do and where they do it. See if there’s a general price list on their website. Do they share valuable and informative content that you can use as you’re making important decisions about what your property needs?

Based on your research online, you should be able to narrow your list of prospects down, and then you’ll want to prepare yourself to interview them.

Start asking questions even before you meet the contractor. Ask the people who make referrals what they liked about their contractor. Find out if there’s anything they didn’t like. This will better prepare you for your own conversations.

Referrals are the best way to find a good contractor, and there are other methods available to you as well, especially if you have no idea where to start your search.

  • Use online resources and check for great online reputations and positive customer reviews. If you don’t want to go straight to the internet, you can also talk with your personal network and ask for referrals. If you notice another property in the neighborhood having work done, for example, check in with the homeowner and ask about the contractors.

  • Some of the owners we’ve talked to have found good contractors by asking around at their local hardware stores. Talk to real estate agents, property managers, and even brokers and other service providers. Your cleaning crew might know someone who does roofing, or your HVAC technician can probably put you in touch with a contractor they work with from time to time.

Don’t hold back when you’re asking questions. You’re about to invest a lot of money in your contractor. You need to be sure you’re choosing the right professional.

To effectively interview your potential contractors, you’ll need to have a prepared list of questions ready.

It’s not always easy to find contractors you can trust, especially if you’ve never worked with them before. That’s why a lot of questions and a direct conversation are so important. Here’s where you can start.

Ask about Licensure and Insurance

The first and most important question you can ask a potential contractor is: Are you licensed and insured?

Once that’s been checked off the list, ask about experience and qualifications. Ask for samples of previous work they’ve completed. If you’re lucky, that work is similar to the projects for which you need them.

We have some great starting questions for the potential contractors you may hire, but always start with the questions about licensing and insurance. These are non-negotiable.

Next, Ask Questions about Business Experience and Values

You’ll want to know how the contractor works and how much experience they have in their industry. Ask about details around how they approach a project. Understanding a contractor’s business values and operations will tell you if you’re aligned when it comes to scope of work, logistics, and planning. This is more important than you may realize; if a great contractor doesn’t understand your expectations and needs, it doesn’t matter how much experience they have. You will likely have conflict throughout the process.

What you’re really looking for here is some indication that you’ll work well together. You don’t want an adversarial relationship with the contractor you choose.

Here are some of the specific questions we recommend that you ask about experience, process, and professionalism:

  • How many years have you been in business?

  • How long have you been here in the East Valley?

  • Why did you become a contractor? What did you do before this?

  • What kind of training and education do you have?

  • How do you stay up to date on your area of specialization?

  • Do you work with subcontractors? How are they chosen? Will they be the same every day or are different people brought in throughout the project?

  • Do you offer warranties? How do you stand by your work?

  • What kind of insurance do you carry?

  • How do you dispose of garbage and waste?

  • What are your general working hours?

  • How do you handle it when work falls behind?

  • What will our communication be like?

These questions are important because you’re hiring a contractor for their skill and expertise and also because you’re likely to see them - onsite at your property - for many days. It’s important to understand if the same crew of people will show up every day or if there will be different workers coming and going.

Discuss Specifics: What Your East Valley Rental Property Needs

Next, you want to ask some questions about how they will handle the type of work that you will need at your property. The specific questions you ask will depend on the project you’re hiring a contractor to complete.

Here are some good starting questions:

  • What kind of projects have you done that are similar to this one?

  • Can you tell me about some specific examples of that work and share what went right and what was a bit of a challenge?

  • What do your quotes look like? Is it an estimate or a fixed price? Can I see an itemized breakdown of costs?

  • What is the realistic timeline for this project?

  • Can you apply for and obtain the appropriate permits?

  • How do you handle surprises or setbacks?

  • What type of payment arrangement can I expect? Am I paying upfront in full or after the work is complete?

These are important questions because they speak to the specific needs you have. You’ll have a way to understand what they can do for you in terms of the work you need at your rental property.

Good Contractors are Hard to Find

Finding the right contractor can be frustrating. They’re busy. They’re expensive.

But, the search is worth your time. Contractors deliver a lot of value to your property, and when you’re comparing different contractors to each other, don’t just compare the prices they’re quoting. Compare the services you’re receiving.

Here are some of the reasons that these questions matter so much:

  • Your property needs quality work so its condition and value are protected

When your property needs something fixed or replaced, you want the problem taken care of correctly the first time. This is why a licensed, experienced contractor is the best and safest way to go. An excellent contractor will lead you to a team of professional plumbers, electricians, painters, roofers, and other repair people who have the experience and the expertise required to complete all the work you need correctly.

  • You need to avoid risk and liability when renting out your property

Protect yourself by asking contractors to see their license and proof of insurance. If an unlicensed contractor falls and gets injured or a worker without insurance ends up missing weeks of work because of a fall, you’re likely going to be sued. Avoid that liability by thoroughly vetting your contractors.

  • Tenant retention is always a priority

Tenants renew their lease agreements when a property is well-maintained. By not responding immediately to maintenance and repair needs will result in frustrated tenants who do not trust you. When you send over a contractor who is disrespectful, messy, or rude to your tenants, you’ll likely lose those residents when the lease ends.

This is our best advice when it comes to hiring and interviewing contractors. We talked a lot about referrals early in this blog. Would you like a professional referral or some help managing the work you need done? We’re here for it. Please contact us at TCT Property Management Services. We manage homes in the East Valley, including Mesa, Gilbert, Chandler, Scottsdale, and Phoenix.