How to Hire a Contractor | The Ultimate Checklist

How to Hire a Contractor

Ready to hire a contractor to build a new home on your land property? This is one investment you’ll want to make sure you get right.


Building a home is a task that requires plenty of preparation and a healthy financial investment. When you’re preparing to hire a contractor to build your home, it is very important that you are mindful of important criteria. Making a mistake when picking a contractor can not only cost you a lot of money, but also lead to various legal issues. Here is your ultimate checklist to hiring a homebuilder.



Interview Prospective Contractors


The best way to dive in to your research is to interview prospective contractors, and then follow up with their clients.


1. Experience and Company Capabilities:

Above all else, you’ll want to make sure that your contractor has the experience and capabilities to complete the specific type of project you have for them. Ask about their portfolio, which may have details about the previous properties that were built by them.


Cheryl Reed, Director of External Communications at Angie’s List, states this is an essential requirement. “In terms of looking for a builder, it’s important to look for someone who has a great and long local reputation. You want someone who has a history of homes that you can go visit to see how they hold up over time.”


Basic questions in your conversations may include:


How many jobs like this one have you completed?


What makes your company unique?


Are you able to accommodate specific requests?This may include clean energy modifications or specific designs you would like to incorporate into your home. 


2. On-site Work Process:

You will be building your new home hand-in-hand with the contractor and living in it for years to come, so you’ll want to make sure they have a strong, rigorous process.

Who will supervise the on-site construction? This will give you an indication of how hands-on the contractor is in completion of the process.


Who will I work with day-to-day?


How can I check in on quality/get updates throughout the process? It’s important to understand how your project is progressing, and have transparency from the contractor about the ongoing status.


What is your process for working with direct employees and subcontractors? This will help you find out how work is divided amongst their team and how quality control is assured.


How do you prefer to work: competitive bid, cost-plus, negotiated price, or something other? Your preferred financial payment may dictate the contractor you ultimately choose?


What are the plans for installation of windows and doors? This is an essential part of your home, says Brian Gow, President of Scheel Window and Door.


“Vinyl windows and steel or fiberglass door options are usually your best bet in terms of return on value. They will provide quality, durable protection from the elements as well as energy-efficiency, preventing heat or cool air loss from inside the home. However, a quality product that has faulty installation is no longer going to provide quality level protection. Unfortunately, many general contractors and building teams install windows incorrectly, which can lead to leaks behind the walls and development of mold if left untreated for a prolonged period of time.”


What are plans to seal and insulate the ductwork? Jeff Paquet, Owner/Operator of Gas Man, says “many people do not realize that sealing and insulating your air ducts can improve the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems by up to 20% or more.”


Asking the questions now can help you in the long run. “Establishing this extra step early in the process is much easier than trying to revisit the problem once all the walls are closed up, and will save you a substantial amount of money on your energy costs in the long run.”



3. Clients:

The best way to get a feel for a contractor’s past performance is to learn about their client work; consider reaching out directly to clients to learn more, and ask questions such as:


What type of project did the contractor complete? This is a great way to see the size and scope of the project, and get a feel for the contractor’s capabilities.


Did the contractor provide project details? This is an essential question. You should hire a contractor who is going to provide you with all the important details about your project. Building materials, graphic representation, project deadlines, and how to deal with unexpected challenges/issues during the process.


Did the contractor obtain working permits easily or were there any complications with this process? A positive answer will ensure that the homebuilder has the required license for the project he is hired for, and understands the regulatory landscape in the area.


What was the communication like? You want to work with someone who is easy to communicate with and is going to respect what you have to say. Avoid hiring people who are careless in communication and those who are rude— it’s not worth your time.


Was the client satisfied with the end result? The answer to this question is going to show you whether the contractor has respected the wishes of the client and whether he/she is capable of achieving the desired results. Try to get a variety of opinions, so you are not relying on the word of only one customer.

Hire a Contractor How To


Documentation and Coverage

There are several documents and types of insurance coverage that you should make sure that the contractor has, which will keep you safe from additional expenses and avoid any legal issues that might come up during the homebuilding process. Consider these the mandatories before finalizing your decision, and note that subcontractors will need this insurance coverage and licenses as well.


Does the contractor have the necessary licenses? You can use online sources to check these claims.


Does the contractor have personal liability insurance, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage? This ensures that whatever damage occurs in the building process is the responsibility of the contractor. If the contractor does not have worker’s compensation for his or her employees, you may be liable for anything that goes wrong on your property.



Does the contractor have all the necessary working permits? Ask if your project will require a permit. This ensures that all the building and safety regulations are followed, which will prevent any legal issues during the building process, not to mention all the hazardous situations that might occur when permits are not pulled.



Get a written contact. In all cases, you will want to make sure you have a thorough written contract with all the details of the project, including requirements, standards, project dates, payment schedule, cancellation policy, change policy, etc. Keep all records of correspondence, receipts, etc. during the process.



Getting a homebuilding project kicked off is an exciting process; just make sure you have all your questions answered before you dive in. Be sure to interview several contractors to get a range of opinions. For a sizeable investment like a home, you’ll want to make sure you do all your homework.




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Photo Credit: Pexels, Public Use


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