Check References When Choosing A Contractor

Check References When Choosing A Contractor


It is one of the easiest things to do, but it is also one of the most overlooked steps in choosing a home contractor: verifying references. All of the good contractors readily offer them — local people who have used their services previously. Granted, the names on their list likely include only satisfied customers, but you can’t know that for sure unless you check their references.

Be Thorough With Reference Checking

home contractorChecking references can reveal much about a company including how long they were on the job and whether everything went according to plan. When checking references the following is a good rule of thumb to help you determine if a home contractor is someone you want to use or not:

Contact At Least Three Customers — If you’re given a short list of customers, then your home contractor may not have built up enough local clients for you to contact. Regardless, contact at least three of these people in order to get a clearer idea of what he has to offer you. If he cannot offer a minimal number of clients, do you really want to have him working in your home?

What To Ask — Your best bet is to have a phone conversation with the client instead of exchanging emails or leaving messages.  Ask each reference what work they had done, whether they were satisfied with the work, if the final costs were close to what was estimated and whether they’d use the contractor again.  You can also ask if they were on time for their appointments, communicated with the homeowner, if there were problems with the work and whether they cleaned up after themselves.

Consider A Drive By — Recently, we contacted several references for a window contractor and were impressed by the positive feedback received. Though we didn’t use the company – too expensive — we learned a lot about the way that they work. Importantly, because we were dealing with windows, we were offered the opportunity to drive by several homes to see the project as completed. This can be more difficult when you’re discussing an interior renovation, but you may find that some people are all too glad to show up a contractor’s work to a complete stranger.

Use Spreadsheets With Bigger Jobs

The larger the job, i.e. — If I’m doing a complete home renovation between having new windows put in, the more thorough I am about obtaining references.  This means that I’ll not only have conversations with three, four or five or more people, but I’ll also make sure that I get a lot of detailed information from each. You can scribble all of that information down on paper or you can create spreadsheets to track what people had to say too. Either way, the more information you have the better you’ll do when it comes to finding a qualified contractor.

Lastly, check with your local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce to learn if the company is properly licensed as stated. You’ll want to deal with someone who is licensed, has their own insurance and gets all of the permits from the town to complete your project.

Adv. — Visit to find pre-screened home contractors too. Check out our free online planning sheets, helpful tools which will enable you to get the job done.


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About Author

Matthew C. Keegan

Matt Keegan is a freelance writer and editor as well as publisher of "Matt's Musings", his personal blog. Matt covers campus, consumer, business and financial topics on various websites and blogs, and has been published in the "Houston Chronicle", "Sam's Club Magazine" and "Wisconsin Golfer".