Hiring a contractor - asking for references

I'm new to this to the tune that I've never hired a contractor. But I've been thinking about it and doing some homework. I watched the BBB's video "Hiring a Home Contractor" a couple of times and they make the point that you should always get references and check them out. They also say you should get at least 3 bids before making a decision. There's a lot of other things they advise, including checking the the BBB and licensing agencies and trade organizations for feedback about specific contractors.
Well, I've called 3 contractors I have some reason to believe may be reliable, but I sure don't have any proof. They appeared in a Good Service Guide from a few years back and they are still in business. One was recommended by a friend. That contractor sent a guy by today who looked at my roof and took enough information to work up an estimate and he said I'd get a letter next week. I went to their website but couldn't find any references listed there. I went to the BBB's site, both nationally and locally and when I put in the company's name or address the search came up with nothing whatsoever - no company found.
I'm wondering how I should go about getting references from these people. Should I ask for references even before an estimator comes out - just call and ask the office person for references right off that bat? Should I ask the estimator? Or should I call the office after the estimator comes out and ask then?
Thanks for any guidance.
Dan
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
But ... any references you get would come from the contractor, and you can BET they're not gonna give you the job where they were 3 weeks late and laid the wrong color shingles ... so you're gonna get a rosy red picture from every one of them, and you'll be no further along than when you started.
You're doing the right thing in getting multiple bids. Unless this is an emergency, take your time and do some follow up. Use the internet to do some searches on the companies (if they're small local outfits you probably won't find much), and ask around to friends, relatives, co-workers etc for recommendations or horror stories. Those are your best sources of information. Ask to see jobs they've done - again, you'll probably get their best ones, but you can at least look at craftsmanship and such.
--
Scott McDaniel
InfoTrakker Software
  Click to see the full signature.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
says...

A good, busy contractor should be able to give you more than just a couple of references - I know some good contractors that keep a list of 15-20 satisfied customers, to be given out upon request.
Sure, it isn't a guarantee that the person will do a good job, but it's better than not bothering and ending up hiring the guy that has _never_ had a satisfied customer.

Isn't this basically the same thing as calling the references and asking if you can see the work done?
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I disagree. Checking a few recent references at least gives you some assurance that the contractor has had at least _some_ satisfied customers. If you don't check any references, then you could be dealing with a scam artist.
Even if you get a recommendation from somebody you know and trust, I'd want to make sure that the person making the recommendation has actually had work done by the contractor, and was happy with the result. A trusted friend can suggest the guy, but that doesn't mean your friend knows first-hand the quality of work that the contractor can do.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I'm not sure I'm the right person to answer a question like yours, however just like buyer markets and seller markets in real estate, you need to assess how busy and how available contractors are in your area. In Westchester county , NY where I live and work, you get recommendations from satisfied customers, friends, relatives, etc. call the contractor and pray he's willing to work for you. (sometime this year) All that text book" how to hire a contractor" stuff only works when there are to many contractors and not enough work

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
The best and only reference you'd need is "Payment on satisfactory completion". If he wants a retainer, he's the wrong guy. Any good contractor will do the job on the basis of not satisfied : don't pay.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
I'd wait till all the estimates are in and you're satisfied that none of the contractors are complete jerks. Then ask for references of the bidder(s) you'd like to go with.
Check with your state licensing board for complaints; for example in California http://www.cslb.ca.gov /
Dan_Musicant wrote:

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Ask for PROOF of liability and workmen's comp.they should give you this. And yes ask for references , go one more and see if you can see some of there completed jobs. but remember their not going to give you names of dissatisfied customers. But on there behave some people can't be satisfied no matter what and believe me calling there wife a bitch is a bad business practice.

Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Dan_Musicant wrote:

These suggestions are wonderful, but my experience with two houses starting in 1971 is that it is very difficult to get TWO quotes let alone three, so I have just given the job to the ONLY bidder and prayed.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
:Dan_Musicant wrote: :> I'm new to this to the tune that I've never hired a contractor. But I've :> been thinking about it and doing some homework. I watched the BBB's :> video "Hiring a Home Contractor" a couple of times and they make the :> point that you should always get references and check them out. They :> also say you should get at least 3 bids before making a decision. :> There's a lot of other things they advise, including checking the the :> BBB and licensing agencies and trade organizations for feedback about :> specific contractors. :> :> Well, I've called 3 contractors I have some reason to believe may be :> reliable, but I sure don't have any proof. They appeared in a Good :> Service Guide from a few years back and they are still in business. One :> was recommended by a friend. That contractor sent a guy by today who :> looked at my roof and took enough information to work up an estimate and :> he said I'd get a letter next week. I went to their website but couldn't :> find any references listed there. I went to the BBB's site, both :> nationally and locally and when I put in the company's name or address :> the search came up with nothing whatsoever - no company found. :> :> I'm wondering how I should go about getting references from these :> people. Should I ask for references even before an estimator comes out - :> just call and ask the office person for references right off that bat? :> Should I ask the estimator? Or should I call the office after the :> estimator comes out and ask then? :> :> Thanks for any guidance. :> :> Dan :> :> :These suggestions are wonderful, but my experience with two :houses starting in 1971 is that it is very difficult to get TWO :quotes let alone three, so I have just given the job to the ONLY :bidder and prayed. Gee, I hope I can do better than that. I will surely be praying - there's a lot that can go wrong and from the posts I've been reading some people who did due diligence in spades still got "creamed." Here's a really really good thread in this newsgroup from 1997 titled "finding reputable roofers." The sixth post (by LanceGecko) in particular is fantastic:
http://tinyurl.com/co3s7
Dan
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

I am a contractor, been in business over 20 years. I don't give references and I don't ask for references from my customers. I only take jobs by referral. With all the telemarketing etc. the last thing I would do is give out a customers name to be called on, at who knows what hours, by a stranger who wants to come over and look at their new kitchen? You stated you already called a contractor that was recommended by a friend. That is a good reference. That is how you will find a good contractor.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
On Fri, 19 Aug 2005 16:23:50 GMT, "calhoun"
:
: :> I'm new to this to the tune that I've never hired a contractor. But I've :> been thinking about it and doing some homework. I watched the BBB's :> video "Hiring a Home Contractor" a couple of times and they make the :> point that you should always get references and check them out. They :> also say you should get at least 3 bids before making a decision. :> There's a lot of other things they advise, including checking the the :> BBB and licensing agencies and trade organizations for feedback about :> specific contractors. :> :> Well, I've called 3 contractors I have some reason to believe may be :> reliable, but I sure don't have any proof. They appeared in a Good :> Service Guide from a few years back and they are still in business. One :> was recommended by a friend. That contractor sent a guy by today who :> looked at my roof and took enough information to work up an estimate and :> he said I'd get a letter next week. I went to their website but couldn't :> find any references listed there. I went to the BBB's site, both :> nationally and locally and when I put in the company's name or address :> the search came up with nothing whatsoever - no company found. :> :> I'm wondering how I should go about getting references from these :> people. Should I ask for references even before an estimator comes out - :> just call and ask the office person for references right off that bat? :> Should I ask the estimator? Or should I call the office after the :> estimator comes out and ask then? :> :> Thanks for any guidance. :> :> Dan :> :> : :I am a contractor, been in business over 20 years. I don't give references :and I don't ask for references from my customers. I only take jobs by :referral. With all the telemarketing etc. the last thing I would do is give :out a customers name to be called on, at who knows what hours, by a stranger :who wants to come over and look at their new kitchen? :You stated you already called a contractor that was recommended by a friend. :That is a good reference. That is how you will find a good contractor.
Well, I hope you're right and I see your point about your customers possibly not wanting to be bothered with your prospective customers' impositions. Like I say, I've never hired a contractor - done everything on my own, but I can't do my roof or my foundation, electricity (new services), etc. so I'm going to hire some contractors. I'm actually hoping to find a good general contractor to coordinate all these things. I had one but I didn't have the money then. Now I do and he's not as interested in being a GC. He'd rather do the things he specializes in - it's easier on him. Foundations are really tough, he tells me.
Well, that BBB video stressed that I should ask for references and that's what I'm going to do. I'll see what happens. Thanks, anyhow. I appreciate the feedback and I'll try to honor your viewpoint. I see the validity of it.
Dan
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
says...

Why not just ask your customers (who are presumably satisfied) if they would be willing to allow you to give out their name and number as a reference? If they say no, then thank them anyway. If they say yes, then they've explicitly allowed you to have future customers call them.
That said, right now there's so much work to be had for contractors and tradespeople that I suppose it isn't necessary to do much to get business. From a customer's point of view, though, it also means that a lot of the not-so-good contractors will come out of the woodwork, making it that much harder to find somebody good.

I've seen far too many people get burned saying "but my friend/coworker/family member said this guy was really good" to rely on that as the only way of checking out a contractor. It's a good start, but checking references, licensing, trade certifications, and other types of checks are invaluable. The other thing that's invaluable is time - if you aren't in a hurry to get the work done, then you have a chance to take your time and find a contractor you'll be comfortable with.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Every contractor I use was found that way. When they did a small job well, on time, within budget, they became our regular contractors. For big jobs I may need a budget figure, but for small stuff, they are just told "do it" and they do. We also pay them on time.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
Living in a somewhat rural place, I find it hard to get 3 bids sometimes as well, plus I don't like to keep calling and rejecting contractors that might be wanted for other projects later on.
The best contractor I have dealt with did't make me ask for references (which would all be rosy, as mentioned). On day one, he simply gave me a sheet of literally over a hundred names and addresses all over my area, without even being asked. Sure, he would have erased the problem jobs, but still it was an impressively long list for a small contractor, and all fairly recent jobs. He even went to the trouble of pointing out which of the references would be most similar to mine (down to house colors, trim details, style, etc.), and then also asked right up front if he minds if he puts our name on the list as well, and did so when the job was barely even started.
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload
wrote:

I'm a contractor. Well established. Still get some jobs through ads, but most are through referals.

There's an interesting psychology in giving advice. Most people and organizations tend to err on the "safe" side. If, for example, you asked me if a particular house or car or piano or whatever was a good buy, I'd duck the question ... saying something like you should be always be careful ... and it might be good to consult an expert ..or shop around some more ..... Even if I think it's a good deal, I don't want to take on the RESPONSIBILITY for advising you to go ahead.

See my point above.
It really depends on the size and attractiveness of your job. If you're looking to deal with larger contractors, you're competing with builders for their time . You can offer one job, a builder can offer a hundred. Maybe you can get three estimates, maytbe you can't.
If you're looking to a smaller contractor ... he may bid new jobs himself. In that case, you're competing with everyone for his time. And there are far too many "tire kickers".
I still advertise .. and I still get calls from people looking for estimates. Generally, I try to deal with it over the phone ... if I like the way they sound and we seem to get along, I'll hazard a guess on price and timing ... if they're still interested, I'll go over first chance I get.
I would guess I do a serious estimate for about one call in seven or eight ... and of those, I probably get one job in three.

Ah ha. So someone refered you... then, the contractor will likely take you seriously.

In my view, the BBB is useless. They function only to get money from businesses ...who want to use the BBB logo on their letterhead and business cards. That is their main purpose, they do just enough consumer advocacy -- like producing that video -- to have some some semblance of legitimacy. (If I were running a shoddy business or just a plain con, the first thing I'd do is join the BBB so I could plaster their logo everywhere. )
You have a referal from a friend. If you're still nervous. and would like more references ... tell the contractor. I seldom make people ask for references ... I offer them as soon as I get serious about wanting the job.
And don't worry about him hi-grading them. Since it's roofing ask for a couple three or four years old. Or ask for a couple where there were problems.
You'll probably find they liked his work .. recommended him to their friends and their friends wer e happy too.

Yes. He may refer you to the office. You might also ask him how he likes the company and why he joined them... you can tell when someone is telling the truth.

You'll get lots of that here. Just remember you have good judgement, a sense of people .. and your job is not rocket science. Also remember that there are a lot more good contractors than bad ones.
HTH
Ken
Add pictures here
<% if( /^image/.test(type) ){ %>
<% } %>
<%-name%>
Add image file
Upload

Site Timeline

Related Threads

    HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.