April 17, 2013

So you’re not BFFs with any contractors out there and you’ve heard a lot of stories from people who reportedly had terrible remodeling experiences. You’ve googled, attended home shows, seen ads on tv, and, while feeling nostalgic, even looked in the phone book. Now you’ve got a small list of businesses that seem to do the kind of work you need done, but how do you know you can trust them with your home and your money?

While there is no guarantee, there are many ways to check out a company – and the people behind that company – before you invite them into your home to do work. Here are just a few ways we suggest homeowners begin their due diligence (in no particular order).

  1. Contractor Registration – In Iowa, Iowa Workforce Development maintains a database of all registered contractors in the state. Simply go to Iowa Workforce Development and search for any contractor to determine if the company is registered with the state. Why care if your contractor is registered? Registration is easy, and costs just $50/year. If a contractor isn’t willing to play by the state’s rules, what other rules is he/she willing to break? Some contractors may claim they do not know about the registry, but others try to fly under the radar to avoid carrying insurance and paying taxes. You likely carry insurance and pay taxes, why shouldn’t your remodeler? (The site shows if a contractor has claimed exemption from worker’s compensation insurance. If so, and you hire the contractor, make sure the people doing the work carry their own insurance.)
  2. Iowa Courts Online – See what kind of mischief the people involved with the company have been involved with. Again, in Iowa, you can go to Iowa Courts Online and research any individual. You’ll also be able to see if they’ve had any judgements made against them for not paying suppliers and if they’ve filed liens against any customers. (Not to sound paranoid, but you can also do online searches for prison records and your local sex offender registry. We see a lot of resumes and yes, we’ve found applicants on both of these lists. While these individuals aren’t working for us, they might be working for another contractor or for themselves.)
  3. Better Business Bureau – See what the BBB has to say about your potential contractors. You’ll see if any complaints have been filed against the company and can see how long the company has been in business.
  4. Angie’s List – Memberships for Angie’s List are typically less than $10 for a year. Treat yourself to one and see what people are saying about the remodelers you’re considering.
  5. Search Engines – See what type of information comes up when you google the remodeler (both the company and any people involved). Check their web site and make sure they provide a physical address and phone number where they can be reached.
  6. References – I’m always surprised by how few people ask us for references. Ask any remodeler if they are willing to provide you with three references for projects similar to yours. For example, if you want someone to remodel your kitchen, ask for kitchen references. Why? Because kitchens and baths tend to be the most complex rooms to remodel, so you want someone with experience designing and building kitchens and baths. Building an addition? You probably don’t want someone whose core business is roofing and siding, even though both are part of an addition.
  7. Local and National Organizations – Check the Remodelers Council of Greater Des Moines and see if the remodeler is a member. Many reputable contractors are involved with this organization as well as local chambers of commerce. National trade organizations like the National Kitchen and Bath Association and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry provide value to the remodelers who choose to take advantage of membership. Has the remodeler earned any professional certifications or designations from these organizations?
  8. Social Media – Many remodelers share their business and project photos on various social media sites like Facebook, Houzz, Pinterest, YouTube, HomeTalk, etc. These sites offer another great way to see what kind of work the company does and how involved they are with the industry. It’s perfectly acceptable to Facebook stalk your remodeler!

When it comes to your home and your money, not to mention your family, you can’t be too careful. Do your research to make sure you’re working with someone trustworthy, and make sure to inquire about any subcontractors that will be in your home as well. Our rule: if we wouldn’t let them in our home, we wouldn’t send them to yours.

To schedule an appointment to discuss your remodeling project, click here. And of course, you can check us out everywhere we mentioned above.

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