How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Design Build

When planning a home remodeling project, homeowners face a long list of worries and concerns. How much will it cost? Will it take too long? Is this really the right move? But there is one question that homeowners could benefit from asking more often: how do I hire the right contractor?

According to the CFA (Consumer Federation of America) and NACAA (National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators), contracting is the top complaint among homeowners doing home improvement. Another survey found that almost half (48%) of all respondents would not hire their contractor for a future project.

Too many homeowners are spending thousands of dollars on home improvement projects, only to be left disappointed in the quality of the work done. Even worse, they might have to spend more money covering up and repairing the deficiencies of the initial contractor.

Rank Contractors Using Our Proven Method

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Services

Being homeowners ourselves, we understand the pain of spending hard earned money on substandard work. That’s why we created a highly effective method for weeding out the bad contractors until you find the right one.

This method consists of 5 essential P’s: People, Process, Portfolio, Price and Past Clients. Based on these, you can create a 0–50 ranking system that drastically reduces the risk of ending up with the wrong contractor and throwing your money down the drain. The first step is to narrow down your choices of contractors to a manageable number. 3-5 is ideal. These final contenders can be found by asking friends and family for referrals and selecting those in your local area.

The next step is to assess each contractor based on the above five components and rank them accordingly.

1. People (0-10 score)

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Design Build

It is important to remember that you are hiring people with whom you are going to spend quite a lot of time with. You will frequently talk to them, discussing various options. You will work together trying to make decisions on various issues. The project period is sort of a marriage. If you do not connect with your contractor, the whole thing may end up in shambles with you suffering the most.

Research the contractor and their staff. Check online to see whether they have been mentioned by a past customer in a negative light. When you interact with prospective contractors, try to examine their social skills. Imagine it is a first date and you are trying to find out whether someone would make for a good partner. After all, you are going to be actual partners in the remodeling project.

Ask plenty of questions and see how they respond. How easy is it to talk to them? Are they friendly when answering questions and providing explanations or do they seem impatient? Do they come across as overly forceful, pushing you to make a certain decision even if you do not want to?

As you talk to contractors, your gut will automatically tell you which one is the easiest to deal with. Rate each of them on a scale from 0 to 10. The goal here is to find someone that is easy to work with.

Related: Pros and Cons: Assessing the 3 Types of Remodeling Contractors.

2. Process (0-10 score)

Get a rough run-through of their work process before you hire any contractor. Not only will this give you an idea of what to expect when the actual project starts, it will also show you how well they work. To rank a contractor properly in this area, you need to ask lots of questions. Here are some essential ones.

  • Do you have a system or process for projects like these? (Having a system helps save time & reduces costs)
  • Will you help with ideas and design?
  • Who is responsible for any permits required?
  • Who is the main contact person during the project?
  • What is your dispute resolution process?
  • What is your work schedule? (In other words, what hours will you be working on the project?)

Asking all these questions and any other you deem necessary will ensure that you go in prepared and knowing what to expect. By comparing answers given by different contractors, you can rank them on how efficient and customer-friendly their processes are.

For example, it is a problem if a contractor lacks a dispute resolution process. It is also a sign of trouble if there is no defined contact person. That could result in a whole lot of communication problems if you decide to hire the contractor.

Related: An Easy Step by Step Guide to Building Permits.

3. Portfolio (0-10 score)

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Services

One of the best ways to evaluate a prospective contractor is through the work they have done in the past. It can help you determine the quality. Most importantly, it can give you peace of mind if they have done projects similar to yours.

Most contractors will be very willing to provide a varied portfolio of their work. This will mostly be in form of pictures and videos. Many will have a portfolio section on their website where you can browse through different projects and get a feel of the kind of challenges the contractor faces and how they solve them. Feel free to request a visit to one of their job sites if you want a more up-close look at their work.

When ranking the contractor’s portfolio, choose a number between 0 to 10, take into account factors like:

  • The number of projects in their portfolio.
  • The quality of past projects.
  • Their actual willingness to share their project portfolio.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Look for contractors who have done a number of similar projects, like the one you have planned. Their experience in that specific area, i.e. hardwood flooring, basement remodeling, etc. could prove invaluable to the success of your home renovation.

4. Past Clients (0-10 score)

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Services

Past clients can provide a valuable source of information on a particular contractor. With review websites in plenty now, it is easy to find out what customers say about a contractor. Most clients will be candid in their reviews, detailing what areas the contractor excelled at and where they failed. You can find out how good the contractor is in communication, how well they handle unexpected emergencies and the overall customer experience.

If you cannot find a particular contractor on review sites, try searching Google for their company name with the word “reviews” or “complaints” attached. For example, ‘XYZ Remodeling Reviews’. You just might find customers complaining or praising them on a certain platform.

An alternative to online reviews is contacting past customers directly. An email or a polite call is an ideal way to ask about the quality of services offered by a specific contractor. Be sure to ask about important issues like communication, work quality, and pricing. If the customer is willing, you can even schedule a visit to see the contractor’s work in person.

To arrive at the right score, take into account:

  • The number of reviews a contractor has.
  • The proportion of customers who are happy with the contractor.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A contractor with 20-30 mostly positive reviews should score higher than a contractor with only 3 reviews even if they are all positive.

5. Price (0-10 score)

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Services

This is where many homeowners typically stumble in their contractor-finding mission. It is very common for homeowners to choose a contractor based solely on how cheap they are.

You may save some money by choosing the lowest bid, but the risk of poor workmanship is too high to be worth it. The most important thing when evaluating a contractor based on price estimates is to balance between cost and value. How is the value of their services relative to the price they are charging?

You need to be especially careful about questionable contractors charging rock bottom prices. Ask why their estimates are that low. It could be that there are other hidden costs you are not aware of or that the contractor is planning to leave out of the project altogether.

Generally, don’t let the price issue influence your decision too much. Focus on other P’s first – people, process, portfolio and past clients – before getting to price. If the contractor is someone you can work with, they have a comprehensive and well defined working process/system, they have an extensive project portfolio and past clients say positive things about them, then it is highly likely they won’t be the cheapest.

To determine the price score for a specific contractor, compare the services they will provide with what they are charging. There are several online resources you can use to find specific remodeling estimates for your area. Use these estimates to check whether the contractor is overcharging or undercharging you.

Related: What is Overhead for a Home Remodeling Contractor.

Adding up the Scores

How to Systematically Choose the Right Contractor - Sebring Services

Our ranking system starts from 0 (very poor) to 50 (excellent). To get the final score, add up the individual score you have awarded them in every P above. Compare the sum against the following scoring categories to see how each contractor has done.

  • 50-40 Excellent – Ideally, your final choice of contractor should be in this range. The contractor is friendly, efficient, has vast experience, has many positive reviews and charges fairly based on the type of project.
  • 39-30 Good – The contractor is friendly but may have fewer reviews and a smaller portfolio, most likely because they are relatively new in the market. But they have proven themselves in the short time they have been around and the prices are not too bad.
  • 29-20 Moderate – The contractor may have several unhappy past clients or they may not be experienced in your specific kind of project. You may also feel that they are charging a bit too much. If you decide to go with a contractor in this range, be sure to ask lots of questions in the areas that you are concerned about.
  • 19-0 Fail – they perform poorly in most if not all the P’s. Avoid at all cost.

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About the Author:

" We are very passionate about educating homeowners.From design ideas to hiring a contractor, we hope this bloghelps you in the process of remodeling your home. "~ Bryan Sebring

24 Comments

  1. Derrick Perkins March 11, 2017 at 7:03 am

    Great post!!

  2. Annika Larson March 24, 2017 at 4:42 pm

    We are looking at remodeling our home and having some wood work done. It’s definitely important that we find a contractor that is able to capture our vision and make it a reality. Your suggestion to rank contractors using the different “P’s” you discussed sounds like a great idea. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Jade Brunet March 24, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    It is good to know that one should take into account the proportion of customers who are happy with provided work when it comes to choosing a construction contractor. I also liked what was said about noticing the number of reviews a contractor has. Another thing to consider would be to find a professional who has worked with projects similar to yours before for increased success.

  4. Burton Davis April 10, 2017 at 4:09 am

    Very good article and thank to information, we liked it.

  5. Gloria Durst November 20, 2017 at 10:12 pm

    I agree that you want to find out how active a contractor will be in the home design process. It would be good to find someone who is active and will help you with professional tips. My sister is looking to design a larger home for her family of 7, so she’ll have to find someone who is active in their home design process.

  6. Derek Dewitt February 27, 2018 at 9:09 am

    My wife and I are wanting to build a home one day, so thanks for the tips on choosing a contractor. I like your point about looking for reviews online to see what contractors are the best in the community. This sounds like a good way to hear about past projects and if they were successful or not.

  7. Riley Smith March 7, 2018 at 4:58 pm

    I like that you suggested choosing a contractor that is really easy to talk to. My wife and I have been looking for someone to help us remodel our bathroom. It would be nice to choose someone easy to talk to because they could help us shape our plans.

  8. Latoya Anderson March 8, 2018 at 6:04 pm

    I like that you suggested contacting the past clients of the contractor that you’re interested in so you can ask them about the quality of the work of the contractor that they hired. My husband and I are interested in installing a suspended ceiling, and we want it to be done with the highest quality of workmanship. It will surely be wise for us to make an informed decision with who to hire by knowing what others have to say about the ceiling contractor that we will consider hiring. Thanks!

  9. Bobby Saint March 14, 2018 at 12:49 am

    I totally agree with tip # 4 about talking with recent clients as one way to find the right contractor for your needs. It is recommended that you ask the contractor for a list of their most recent clients whom you could contact to gather some feedback. Their comments and remarks would give you an idea if the said contractor is indeed reliable and trustworthy. If I were to look for a basement finishing contractor, I would make sure to keep this in mind. Thanks.

  10. Bobby Saint March 14, 2018 at 7:05 pm

    I totally agree with tip # 4 about talking to recent clients as one way to find the right remodeling contractor for your home. It is recommended that you ask the contractor for a list of their most recent clients whom you could contact to gather some feedback. You may want to ask for the quality of work done and the overall professionalism exhibited by the contractor. If I were to look for a remodeling contractor myself, I would make sure to take this into account. Thanks.

  11. Moira Blythe March 15, 2018 at 8:46 am

    My husband and I just bought a new home, and it needs help in the kitchen. We’d like to hire a contractor, but we’ve never done that before. I appreciate your help in understanding that we should look for contractors who have a portfolio full of things similar to the work we need done. This will be very helpful in the selection process!

  12. Joy Butler March 29, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    I just moved into a new place and what I did prior to getting my contractor is to gather information from his previous or past clients. This helped me decide on choosing the right contractor and he did not fail me, as he provided the right services as expected.

  13. Ava Murphy April 4, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    It was really nice to know that reputable contractors should be more than willing to share their project portfolio with you in a form of pictures and videos. My husband decided to install a swimming pool in our yard, so we’re hoping to find a reliable excavation contractor. We want a quality job, and it’s important for us to find an excavation contractor that’s confident to show their portfolio to us so they can prove that they can provide us an excellent job. Thanks for sharing this!

  14. Deborah Adams April 19, 2018 at 9:31 pm

    I like that you talked about how easy it is to find out what others have to say about the contractor that you’re looking to hire by checking review sites. My plan is to find a general contractor for my house’s construction. This is a big investment for me, so it will be ideal for me to find a general contractor that’s highly recommended by their past clients. Thanks!

  15. Ellen April 23, 2018 at 4:34 am

    There are a number of questions which you must ask a contractor before you hire them for a job. These include:
    – How many jobs like these have they completed previously?
    – What is the average square foot cost of a job like this?
    – Do they have any experience of energy-efficient construction processes?
    – Who will be the person supervising the construction on-site?

  16. Aleshire Mueller May 2, 2018 at 1:02 am

    It sure was nice when you pointed out that one of the best ways to find a good contractor is to check their portfolio and see the projects that they have done in the past. I guess I can do that since that will also give me more idea about the right color that will suit the house. Thank you. This will surely go to the list of things to do when I start looking for a painting contractor.

  17. Heidi Bookenstock May 17, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    My husband and I have been wanting to remodel our house for a while now, and we are finally taking the first steps. We were told that the first thing we’ll want to do is hire a contractor, so we’re trying to figure out the best way to go about doing that. I love that this article has a point system, I also appreciate the article telling me to look at the quality of past projects.

  18. Duncan Lance June 18, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    There are a ton of factors that you can take into consideration when choosing a contractor and I love that your article goes over several of them. I think it is especially helpful for homeowners that you go over the portfolio in so much detail. After all, you want to make sure that the contractor you choose has plenty of skill and experience before you end up hiring them.

  19. Tiffany Locke July 10, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Your advice to look online in order to research the home remodeling contractor and their staff is a good idea. Once you’ve done this and narrowed down the options, it could help to call or meet with the contractor. Doing this would give you the chance to ask questions and discuss your home remodeling project so that you can get their input and figure out whether you’ll be able to work comfortably together.

  20. Lucy Tuazon August 17, 2018 at 8:04 pm

    I totally agree that one of the best things to spot the right contractor is to check their portfolio to see the quality of their work. Yes, it’s better if we would choose a contractor that has done a project similar to your case. Cheers!

  21. Rhianna Hawk August 27, 2018 at 2:14 pm

    I haven’t started contractor shopping yet, but I’m planning on getting a well installed into my yard and wanted to know what I should be looking for in a contractor. I’ll be sure to use your calculator in the process, though now I know what to look for, like checking for number of reviews on websites and looking at their portfolios for the quality of past projects. My intended project is pretty basic for well installation, so it shouldn’t be hard to find someone with experience and particular needs, but I’ll be doing a thorough check and quote comparisons nonetheless.

  22. Malia Davis August 28, 2018 at 11:12 am

    Thanks for giving a great way to rank contractors so that you can find the best one. I’m glad you stressed the importance of asking the contractor about permits. You definitely want to get someone who has the right permits for whatever job you need done. My brother is looking for a builder, and I don’t think he really knows what to look for since he’s never done this before. I’ll pass along the info that he needs to ask about permits before hiring.

  23. Easton Memmott December 10, 2018 at 2:55 pm

    I like the tip that you gave to consider the pricing of a contractor before you decide to hire them. My wife and I are needing to find an affordable contractor to test for and remove asbestos. When we do find a contractor for it, I will be sure to check their pricing to see if they match our budget.

  24. Jocelyn McDonald January 28, 2019 at 8:29 am

    My husband and I want to remodel our kitchen, and your article had some great tips for choosing a contractor to help us with this. I liked how you said to check the reviews from past clients for a potential hire, and to note how many reviews there are and the proportion of satisfied customers. Thanks; we’ll keep this in mind when hiring a home remodeling contractor.

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