You should suggest second meetings with your preferred candidates to discuss your project in greater detail. Second meetings provide an important chance to ask those questions you overlooked in your first meeting, plus the key questions that will enable you to identify the remodeler you’ll move forward with.
As you’re planning these second meetings, I recommend employing former President Ronald Reagan’s philosophy of “trust but verify.” Trust the representations your favorites make, but verify them. Your due diligence may protect you from confusing an itinerant contractor with an established professional remodeler.
Follow the steps listed below to objectively verify your candidates’ business representations. Among them are several items you should address during your second meetings if you didn’t during your first.
· The business should be licensed, bonded, or registered, when the law requires it. Call the building department in your local jurisdiction to find out the exact city, county, and state requirements and verify the appropriate licensing of your candidates.
· Obtain proof of insurance. The remodeler should supply you with a Certificate of Insurance indicating the company has sufficient general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Additionally, the remodeler should have coverage against theft of any materials delivered to the jobsite but not yet installed.
· Confirm the remodeler’s business address. He or she may have an office, but remodelers commonly work out of their homes. Ask for a visit just to confirm your candidate isn’t working out of the back of a truck. What you’re trying to determine is your candidate’s permanence.
· Ask if you may run a credit report on your candidates. Honest businesspeople won’t have a problem with your request. (You can actually request credit reports from your local banker or Realtor®. You will need to obtain the remodeler’s permission, perhaps in writing, his or her full name, address and social security number to secure a report.)
· Ask the remodeler for a list of the suppliers and trade contractors he or she works with regularly. Contact a sample from this list to confirm the remodeler manages his or her business responsibly, paying trade contractors and suppliers on time, and that the business has a good reputation in the building community. This line of inquiry is particularly important because it may prevent you from having a construction lien placed on your property by an unpaid trade contractor or supplier.
· Call the Better Business Bureau and your local consumer affairs office to check the company for consumer complaints. Better Business Bureaus (BBBs) are nonprofit organizations supported primarily by local businesses. They encourage honest advertising and selling practices and keep records of consumer complaints. Check your candidates’ records, but remember that just as unreliable remodelers exist, unreasonable homeowners also exist. Even an excellent remodeler can receive a complaint. If a favorite candidate has a complaint, ask for information about its resolution. If the remodeler addressed it quickly and to the client’s satisfaction, that action is a sign of professionalism.
City, county, and state consumer protection offices may provide consumers with additional information. Consumer protection offices often receive complaints from dissatisfied homeowners regarding poor construction work. These offices investigate those complaints and if necessary prosecute offenders.