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  • Writer's pictureJerry Ipsen, CFE, MBA

10 Questions to Ask a Prospective Contractor

In order to make a "good decision" here are questions that need to be asked. Keep in mind, your pool of candidates should be at least three. I say a minimum of three so smaller developers and homeowners when gathering information will be able to gather and compare the details of each quote against the other.

What's your business history? - Proof that he or she is currently licensed, membership with a reputable professional association, references, examples of finished work, ever declared bankruptcy or have been involved in a legal action, etc.

Who will be at the site and how will it be supervised? - Who are the subcontractors involved? Crew? Ask about Worker's Compensation insurance, bonds (in case of damages) and other required liability insurance.

Can you provide me with a timeline? - Have the contractor provide a written schedule of when work is expected to be completed.

What guarantees can you give me? - Ask about warranties, permits, lien releases, rework, touchups and the project sign-off.

What's the bottom line? - Have the contractor provide an itemized list of price estimates. See how they compare with the others. Are they too high or too low? This is a good time to inquire about a payment schedule.

What's your work routine like? - How will the contractor communicate with you? What time do they start work? Are they working on multiple projects at the same time? What is done with leftover or waste materials?

Can I get that in writing? - Once again, ask about fees, start and finish dates, permits, change orders, liability release and cleanup aka broom clause.

How much do I need to put down to get the project started? - Check with your Contractor State Licensing Board for recommendations. In most cases, the amount of a prepayment usually does not exceed 10%. In cases where special orders of materials are required, the prepayment amount can venture up to 30%.

Who do I need to make out the check to? - Contractors requesting payment by cash is not a good sign! It could mean they are not licensed and have no business license. Plus, cash payments are harder to track. Always write your check to the business.

What permits are required and when will they be pulled? - After awarding the contract, it doesn't hurt to double check to see if the required permits have been pulled. While this is important, it is even more important to your insurance company, should a claim ever be filed.

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