Hiring a Contractor for Home Updates

If you own a home, then chances are at some point you will need to hire someone to do repair work on your home.  At Jankowski Agency, Inc., we know that hiring a contractor or handyman to perform work on your home often comes with risks. Below are nine things for you to consider before you hire a contractor.

Get Recommendations

Ask your friends, family and neighbors if they have recently used a contractor, handyman, plumber, heating/air company, or an electrician and, if so, would they use that person or company again.  Ask your friends and family whether their project was completed on time and within their budget.  Find out whether the contractor’s estimates were accurate.   Good recommendations are the most important step.

Consult the Internet

Internet reviews from satisfied, or unsatisfied, customers can tell you a great deal about a potential contractor.  Review several websites that rate contractors and see what others have said about contractors you are considering.   

Ask for References

Request the names and phone numbers of some recent clients for whom your contractor has completed a similar job.  Ask the references if they were happy with the finished product.  Ask whether anything has come up since the job was completed and if the contractor addressed the issue.  Find out whether the final cost was reflective of the contractor’s estimate and whether the job was completed on time.

choosing a home contractor

Make Sure Your Contractor is Insured AND Have Them Name You as an Additional Insured

Seems simple but you would be surprised at how many “fully insured” contractors actually don’t have insurance at all.  You want the contractor to be insured for General Liability, Business Automobile, and Workers Compensation. Get a copy of a “certificate of insurance” that names you as an additional insured. After you get it if you need help interpreting what it says, call us! We are here to help.     

Get Multiple Estimates

Get three to four estimates from different contractors.  Remember the old adage; you get what you pay for.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to hire the most expensive contractor, but if one estimate is significantly less than all of the other estimates, that is a red flag.  That contractor may plan to use less quality materials or cut corners.  The contractor may have also intentionally underbid the job in an attempt to obtain your business, only to increase the price later.  

Get It In Writing

Never pay a contractor before you have a written contract outlining everything the contractor is going to do to your home.  The more specifically the work is identified, the better.  The contract should also specify the cost of all materials that will be used and provide start and completion dates.  Find out whether the contract price is an estimate, which may change during the course of the project, or a total cost for completion.  If the contract price is an estimate, then make sure the contract specifies that the job cannot exceed a specific amount.  Additionally, specify in the contract that no changes can be made, except in writing.  You will also want to specify whether the contractor is responsible for clean-up and disposal of all construction materials at the conclusion of the project.  

Set a Payment Schedule in the Contract

You never want to pay a contractor more than 50% up front.  Depending on the size of the job, your initial payment is ideally going to be no more than roughly 30% of the total cost of the project.  The contract should specify that each subsequent payment is only due after certain phases of the project have been completed and set out a time frame for each such phase to be completed.  If the time comes for your next payment, or your contractor demands a subsequent payment from you, but the previous phase has not been completed, then you have the right to refuse payment until the contractor completes the phase for which you have already paid.  Always pay your contractor in a way that is traceable, i.e., with a check, credit card, or debit card.  Do not make the final payment to your contractor until you have verified that all work has been completed and is acceptable.  


 Be aware that when you ask for upgrades or additional work, you are going to have to pay for that additional work.  Often, once a project gets started, it is tempting to ask for upgraded materials or some extra work to be done.  If your contractor agrees, then you should find out how much the extra work or material is going to cost and get it in writing before the work is done.

Maintain Good Records

Keep a copy of your contract, all payments you have made, any additions or edits to the contract, and all correspondence with your contractor.  Even if you have had a conversation in person or over the phone, make sure you document that conversation with an email or letter to you.

Hiring the Right Home Contractor

Hiring the right contractor will ensure that your project is completed successfully, as well as on time and on budget. All-together, this process can seem daunting. However, the time you spend searching and the detail you put into your contract will be reflected in the final product. It would be a headache to work with someone you can’t rely on. You could find yourself with an unfinished remodel or a maxed-out budget. Allow yourself the time to do your research and ask the necessary questions.

Protect Your Investment

Once you have the updates to your home complete, please let us know so we can update your insurance as well.  You can reach us at (518) 883-3415 or online at jankowskiinsurance.com.


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