How To Find A Good Contractor

Real Estate Technology with Rentec Direct

Have you ever hired someone to work on your property and been horribly disappointed?  Possibly have to hire a second person to clean up the mess the first one made?  Having been a property manager, landlord, general contractor and now consulting for online property management software,  I can tell you I’ve encountered a slew of unprofessional, undependable,  over-paid, irresponsible, unethical and down-right skill-less people who claim to be “professionals.”  


There are some basics you should always employ when hiring a vendor.  If you are a property owner, or work in the property management/real estate biz, I recommend you develop a list of trusted contractors right away, even if you do not have a project on the horizon.  And don’t just find one… find three.   Scrambling to find a trusted vendor that’s available when pipes are busting, the home is being devoured by carpenter ants or the roof is falling is going to cause you nothing but grief.  Trust me on this one.  You will save heaps of time and money establishing a relationship with a vendor BEFORE you actually need them.


I recommend you create a list that includes professionals who handle the following services:  cleaning, plumbing, electrical, flooring installation, general repairs, carpentry, drywall, landscaping, pest control, excavation, septic /sewer, hazardous waste removal, roofing and general contracting.


Here are some basic considerations/guidelines I’ve used over the years to create my list of vendors:


KEEP ‘EM LOCAL:  the further away they are, the longer it takes for them to respond, the more they will charge you for travel time & fuel and less likely they will be familiar with city/county regulations.


PHONE:  Must be able to reach them by phone or get a call back within the same day of calling. Must have an emergency contact number available.  Consider how professional they are when you first call them?  If they are short with you, slack or difficult to reach, imagine how they will be when there’s an emergency or dispute.


BUSINESS HOURS:  Be sure to be clear on what hours of operation they keep, if they respond to emergencies and if they are always ”booked out”.  I recommend you always have someone in your pocket who you can call 24/7 for emergencies, and then also one of those super-amazing contractors everyone is vying for in case you have a specialty project.


HISTORY:  How long have they been in business?  Be cautious of anyone in business for less than 1 year.  I personally don’t think it's wise to be part of the learning curve.


REFERENCES:  Get at least two references.  I like to get one from a customer who they worked for at least a year prior and then another one from a current customer.  Ask questions such as would they re-hire? Were they on time?  What was the quality of workmanship? Any problems?


MEET IN PERSON:  Ask if you can drop by a current job-site to meet them as seeing how someone maneuvers on the job will tell you a lot about if you want them working on your property.  Sometimes this is not prudent (hazardous zone, picky owner, etc.) so be reasonable.  In any case, how do they present themselves?  Are they/the job site organized/safe?  In the meeting, do they volunteer their policies/procedures or do you have to “dig” for details?


LEGAL END:  If they do not volunteer, ask for a copy of their current business license and insurance certificates.  Confirm if they have employees and then review local and state registries/boards for any documented complaints, grievances or inconsistencies.


BILLING, PAYMENT  & CONTRACT TERMS:  What is their general labor rate? Do they have a minimum contract price?  Do they charge additional for emergencies/after-hours work? Do they provide a written contract & estimate prior to work commencing?  Will it include all permits, materials, labor?  What are the payment terms?  Do they offer a warranty on their work?


Once you feel  confident with your contractor list, keep all of their details documented and easily accessible.  Some programs for landlords and PM's include vendor management.  If you haven't already found a program, I recommend choosing an online property management software so you'll always be able to access your information, even if you're away from the office/home.   






Rentec Direct Property Management Software

Janell is a member of Rentec Direct, a web-based property management software program designed to help streamline tenant criminal and credit checks and the day-to-day operations of landlords and property managers.  You'll find many other useful articles like this on the Rentec Direct Blog.


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Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Good tips for finding a building contractor, or any professional for that matter!

Mar 21, 2012 10:32 AM #1
Chris Eckert
Keller Williams Realty - San Mateo, CA
Your Mid-Peninsula Realtor

This is great since so many people come to us for referrals (which is always a risky bet). Thanks for sending some guidelines so we can all send better qualified people to our clients!

Mar 22, 2012 04:40 AM #2
Janell Kittleson
Rentec Direct - Grants Pass, OR
Rentec Direct

Chris & Georgina - I can imagine as realtors/brokers, you are asked over and over again  "who should I call to get this place ready to sell?"  or "do you think this place is worth buying?"  A good contractor means money in everyone's pocket. 

Mar 22, 2012 04:49 AM #3
Alex Shekhtman
A&A Design Build Remodeling, Inc. - Chevy Chase, DC
Design Build Remodeling, Washington DC, Bethesda, Chevy Chase

I agree with Chris Eckert and Janell. Referring someone is always a risky bet. So it is a good practice to have a group of trusted professionals you can refer without hesitation.

Mar 24, 2012 05:26 PM #4
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

If some does me write I will certainly refer them isn't that what we want others to do.

Mar 26, 2012 11:37 AM #6
Charles Stallions Property Manager
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services - Pace, FL
Pensacola, Pace & Gulf Breeze Property Management

We have at least three in all areas of expertise for the most part to cover weekdays and weekends.

Apr 23, 2012 12:34 PM #7
Janell Kittleson
Rentec Direct - Grants Pass, OR
Rentec Direct

Great job, Charles!  Sounds like you are prepared!  I'm sure you have created that system for a good reason - no one wants to be stuck with a problem and no one in sight to help.

May 01, 2012 07:07 AM #8
roof will be protected duirng removal and new shingle installation.* Warranty on shingles from manufacturer Warranty on labor from roofing contractor.* If tear off watch for damage to guttering and black scrape marks on house due to wind blown old shingle.* Certificate of Insurance with coverage period ending much later than your job is scheduled for. I sometimes do random checks to make sure they are still in force.* Ask how much to replace bad sections of roof decking if they come across some. Usually they quote this by a 4 x8 sheet of plywood or o.s.b.* Don't ask how much cheaper it would be if you furnished the materials, I don't like that & your roof contractor won't either. It won't be cheaper because he needs to make money on your job or he won't do it.* Ask for a start date & a clause in proposal that stated if roof is not started by this date, you are not obligate to pay for any materials/ labor, and the contract is void. This may be several weeks from contract date, but no more than 4-6 weeks. If storms have hit your area lately requiring lots of houses be re-roofed you may be awhile waiting.Good Luck ! You don't have to be stern with your contractor , be pleasant and fair, and if your satisfied pay him promptly.
May 26, 2012 04:15 AM #9
Sheila Anderson
Referral Group Incorporated - East Brunswick, NJ
The Real Estate Whisperer Who Listens 732-715-1133

Hi Jennel. Thanks for telling me about this. There is excellent information here and you write really well.

Jun 12, 2012 11:18 AM #10
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Janell Kittleson

Rentec Direct
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