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- Be sure that any contractor you consider is licensed, bonded, and insured. Especially after major storms many con artists and come out of the woodwork. Even on the regular, you never want to be in the position to pay for unforeseen damage on the worksite, theft by the contractor or his employees, or accidents on the job. Make sure the contractor has the appropriate credentials.
- Ask to see a portfolio of their previous work. Different contractors have different specialties. You want to make sure they have experience in the type of projects you need done.
- If you have suffered from a disaster like fire, flood, storm damage, or other problem that involves the insurance company, try to find a contractor who is able to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. It will save you a lot of headaches, and, in the case of a reputable contractor, can get legal help and state agencies on your side.
- Your realtor may have a contractor or two who specialize in home inspections and other work who he or she can recommend. Start with your realtor and any friends or contacts in town who have had work done to find contractors who have been vetted by people you trust.
- When you interview the contractor, inquire about their team. Is the entire team dedicated, or are some tasks subcontracted? Are the subcontractors regular employees or loosely affiliated temps? Just like you want to know your contractor, you want to know his or her team as well.
- Ask the contractor about how they estimate the amount the job will cost. Labor and materials costs fluctuate with the market, and you want to be sure they have a fair and accurate estimation system, especially if you are dealing with an insurance company. You want to know the contractor's estimation system is in line with those used by other companies and insurance agencies.
- Don't always go with the lowest estimate when choosing between contractors. Contracting your home is one thing you don't want to skip on. At the same time, the highest price may not be the highest quality. Use the interview process to gauge the true value of your dollar in the balance between quality and affordability.