8 Questions to Ask Your Contractor

Jack Meyers June 21, 2018

Finding, interviewing, and selecting a contractor to complete repairs, installation, or remodeling projects in your home can be daunting -- especially if you're looking at a significant investment of time or money.

Recently, friends of mine -- clients who'd lived in their home a couple of years -- came home to find a large crack in their living room picture window. This window happened to be the largest in their home, and the most likely culprit was the cat, who appeared to have knocked a TV antenna over, which hit the window, and the crack quickly grew. #badkitty
Within a few weeks, the window was foggy, filled with a colony of tiny bugs, and an eyesore from the street. Not a pleasant addition to their curb appeal!
These folks called no less than 6 glass companies for estimates, and the results varied significantly. The lowest bid came in at $350, the highest at about $650, and without a working knowledge of window pricing or installation, my friends weren't sure why there was such a spread in pricing for a single window.
They received a follow-up call from just one contractor -- the gentleman with the highest bid, as it turned out. They let him know they'd received a bid for $300 less, and he gave them a thorough explanation of installation (which would require two workmen, per his bid), the type and very specific glazing on the existing glass in the window, and the likely ways in which the other companies on the list would be cutting costs (or corners) to offer such low pricing.
The reality is, when you reach out to a repair company, an electrician, a plumber, a carpet cleaner almost any kind of home service provider if you aren't knowledgeable within that trade, you are somewhat at the mercy of the business or individual you choose to work with. Most tradesmen are honest, and will work hard to ensure you are satisfied with the job -- they have a reputation to protect, after all. The tricky part is pricing, and if you don't understand what you are paying for (or not paying for) and why, what your options are, and how you might be able to save on the work you need to be done, you could overpay.

Here are 8 questions to ask your next service provider or the list of contractors giving you a bid:

  1. Can I get that in writing?
  2. Can you provide me with an itemized estimate?
  3. Are there any reasonable ways to save on the cost of the job, and if so, what impact will they have on the quality/appearance/longevity of the final product?
  4. Are there any risks associated with doing the project this way?
  5. If you were completing this project in your own home, what choice(s) would you make?
  6. Where do you fall on the pricing spectrum compared to your competitors?
  7. We've received multiple bids for this project, and yours is (more than, or less than) some of the others. Can you help me understand why?
  8. If we wanted to go a different direction with this project (repair vs. replacement, other alternatives), what other options can you recommend?
Home repairs, maintenance, and upgrades can be spendy, but if you do your homework, choose a reputable contractor, and ask thoughtful questions -- you can write that check with confidence, and expect results you'll be pleased with.
Do you need a referral for contractors, tradesmen, or service providers in Metro Denver? Drop me a line! I've been helping Real Estate Buyers, Sellers, and Investors for over 25 years, and I'd be happy to connect you with my list of trusted resources.

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