How To Find A Local Contractor That’s Honest and Inexpensive… Without Feeling Intimidated

I’ve used this exact method many times to find a local contractor. Off the top of my head I have used it to find a good contractor for the following home improvement projects:

A handyman that I hired off of Angie's List

  • kitchen countertops
  • complete bathroom remodel
  • fencing installation
  • hardwood floor refinishing
  • dump runs
  • landscaping
  • patio pavers
  • front step replacement

I know that just the thought of letting a complete stranger come into your house to do home improvement is very scary. They’re going to come into your house, spend anywhere from an hour to a month to do their work, and then leave with your money. I want to help you to make sure you get your monies worth and to remain in total control throughout your remodeling project.

The First Step To Finding The Perfect Contractor

Do you have any friends or relatives that have had work done on their homes lately? Were they happy with the work? Your friends and family are going to be your best resource for collecting the names of a few good contractors.

You’ll need at least three solid referrals though. If you can’t get three or more from friends and family this website is going to be your next best bet. Only consider contractors with an overall grade of B or better, and that have glowing reviews written about them by at least 3 members of the community. The more the better.

Getting Quotes

There is only one thing you need to know about getting price quotes from these guys. You have to give every one of them the exact same information. If one quotes your new kitchen with not so modern kitchen countertops, and the other quotes you with stainless steel laminate countertops, the contractor using less expensive material will instantly be $500 cheaper. Make sure that they are both quoting you with Cambria or whatever the specific details of your job may be.

Cheaper is definitely not better when it comes to home improvements. An inexpensive quote almost always translates to shoddy work using cheap materials. Make sure that each handyman quotes you with the same brands, sizes, finishes, etc. Don’t compare quotes that are based upon apples to oranges principles. Once you have your contractor you can always make changes and be confident that he is giving you good price.

You Need 3 Quotes, Minimum

The more quotes that you get the better. Just getting one or two will leave you open to being taken advantage of. You don’t need ten but please get at least three. Four or five is better and will help you to get a better handle on exactly what your project should really cost.

When you get your quotes back from the contractors one is almost always much higher or much lower than the rest. Immediately toss any out that are not inline with the rest. If you have given them all of them the same information to create a price from, then they should all be about the same.

As part of getting quotes back make sure that they include their license numbers to that you can check to make sure they are valid and that they don’t have a laundry list of complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

How Much To Pay Up Front

You are going to have to give some sort of retainer up front. Just enough to that they can buy some raw materials and be confident that they will be able to continue to pay their employees for the work they do until you give them another milestone payment.

A couple of the handymen that I found on the site didn’t want any money up front. They operated on a handshake and only wanted to be paid in full when the job was done. This is not something that’s reflected in the reviews but something that you learn about them during the interview process. It’s refreshing and builds trust.

For small jobs look to pay about half up front and the other half when the job is completely done. Don’t give the second half of the payment out until you are completely satisfied. If they insist on getting paid, that’s fine, but hold back 10% or so until you are totally satisfied. Once you give them all of the money it’s very hard to get them to return.

If the job is larger, like a complete bathroom overhaul, break the payments up into a few milestone payments. Four should be enough, but three is ok too. Milestones should be set something like this: 30% when the bathroom is demolition and rough trades are completed, 30% when the tub, sheet rock, and tile are complete, and 30% when all the fixtures are in. And then you can release the final 10% when they are completely done.

You’re Ready To Find A Contractor Now

Contractor with a positive outlook doing a check on my cabinets.

You’ve got the basics down and mastering these basics will put you light years ahead of most homeowners. Your chances of getting screwed over are now about slim to none.

It’s time to take the first step and find out what local contractors you can trust. Reach out to your friends first and see if they can help you find a local contractor. After you’ve exhausted that resource you can roll the dice and pick some names out of the phone book, or cut to the chase and find contractors on Angie’s List that have a track record of quality work at competitive prices.

If you don’t like the idea of calling contractors there is another solution that makes them come to you. Online, there are a lot of websites that allow you to send them basic information about your project.

They then take that information and match you up to contractors that would be a good fit for you. They call you instead of you having to hunt them down. The form below is one of those services. Just add your the basic information about what you need done in your home and you’ll be on your way.

Updated: December 15, 2013