Q: When I contact contractor references, what should I ask?
Wesley R., Portland, Ore.
A: This is a great question because even though I’m the first to rave about the benefits of trustworthy consumer review sites, I still recommend taking time to contact past customers before you hire a company.
I suggest you ask references all or some of the following questions, which fall under five general categories:
What did you hire the company to do? What was your overall goal? How involved was the job?
•Contract and communication:
Did the company’s contract have sufficient written detail, including specifics about who would perform the work, what materials would be used, when the project would start and end, and how change orders would be handled? Did the contract include a provision that the contractor would provide a lien waiver so that you wouldn’t be responsible for payments to subcontractors or material suppliers?
Did the contractor or designated representative stay in contact during the project or when changes were required? Were you regularly informed of the project’s status?
•Following the rules:
Did your project require permits from a local building department or code enforcement agency? Did the contractor have any trouble obtaining them?
Was the contractor appropriately licensed? Did he or she provide proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance, as well as proof of bonding?
How often did the contractor or crew come to your home? What hours did they work? Did they clean up at the end of the day?
Was the contractor or designated contact person pleasant and easy to work with?
If the job featured subcontractors, were you pleased with their work?
•The bottom line:
Did the project turn out as planned? Did the contractor fulfill all contract obligations? Was the work completed on time and within budget? Did the work pass code inspection?
And last but not least, the question that is perhaps the ultimate to ask a reference: Would you be willing to hire the contractor again?
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