We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, “Life’s too short to make all of the mistakes yourself, so learn from those others have made.” One area this mentality especially holds true is when hiring a contractor. Any one of us can put on an angelic face for a short period of time. (Ever tried to talk your way out of a speeding ticket?) But you can’t truly know the type of company you’re working with until you do a little bit of detective work. The best way to know who you’re signing with is to request references from previous customers. Mind you, no contractor will willingly provide you anything except glowing reviews. However, there are a few things you can do to verify that the references they provide you are from legitimate, previous customers and not something they cooked up on to have you sign on the dotted line.
Speed Counts: Every contractor expects to be asked for a list of references. It shouldn’t take days to produce…unless they’re writing it themselves. In most cases, they will have them available upon request at your initial meeting. Exercise extreme caution with anyone that does not.
Type of Reference: While it’s all fine and dandy that the contractor you’re interviewing has installed hundreds of windows since their company’s inception, if they can only provide window references and you’re looking for a gutter installation, it may be best to look elsewhere. Construction is a very broad field and you’ll have the best results working with someone that regularly performs the type of work you are requesting. You’ll also likely get better pricing since suppliers often offer volume discounts to contractors they frequently work with.
Age of Reference: It’s nice to hear from customers who just had jobs installed. They can provide an accurate picture of how your job will go which definitely can offer peace of mind. It can be tempting to ignore older references due to age. DON’T! Homeowners from jobs installed a few years back can shed light on how the installed products are holding up as issues may not be immediately evident. They can also testify to the company’s responses to any issues that occurred after installation. We recommend following up with a combination of new installations and older ones to ensure you’re getting the full story.
Type of Relationship: Be sure to confirm the reference actually had work performed by the contractor and isn’t just a friend or family member vouching for them. Just because someone is a “good guy” doesn’t mean that they’re the right person for the job.