How to Find the Best Contractor for Your Home Renovation

Whether you’re looking into a home renovation to flip an investment property, make some energy-saving upgrades, or give your home a much-needed facelift, you want to be sure to find a quality contractor for the job.

There are many reasons why it’s important to do your homework before hiring a contractor for your home renovation. An experienced, professional contractor will get the job done right, on time, and hopefully within your budgetary goals.

Making sure the contractor you hire is licensed is critical to ensure quality work and a safe job site. A licensed contractor will also have insurance to cover any injuries that could occur on the job — something you could otherwise be liable for.

And of course, any poorly done plumbing, electric or other work that may not be noticed by the average Joe is sure to be spotted by a home inspector when you’re trying to sell in the future.

Hiring an inexperienced or unlicensed contractor could be a very expensive mistake. Fortunately, vetting a reliable, professional contractor isn’t that hard. All you have to do is follow some simple guidelines.

From getting recommendations to asking the right questions, soliciting bids to checking material costs, references, and more, here are 11 tips for finding a quality home contractor in Palm Springs and beyond.

1. Know the Exact Work You Want Done

Before you start shopping contractors, create a detailed outline of the work that needs to be done.

For example, if you’re adding an extension to your house, write out the dimensions of the new room, what kind of flooring and windows you’d like, if you need water lines and electric, ideal lighting and outlets, etc.

Your outline will help guide the type of contractors you’re looking for, so you can ask for accurate recommendations.

2. Get Recommendations

When putting together a list of potential contractors for your home renovation, a smart starting point is to ask for recommendations.

Ask your neighbors, friends, family, and your real estate agent for contractors they’ve hired on similar types of jobs.

You can also post on NextDoor or Facebook to ask for recommendations.

Warning: You shouldn’t work with door-to-door solicitors or contractors who only accept cash. This is a red flag! A professional contractor shouldn’t need to be knocking on doors to find work.

And only accepting cash is a sign of someone who wants to avoid the IRS come tax season, or credit card complaints when work is left incomplete. It’s difficult to get your money back when that contractor leaves town without a trace.

3. Check for Licensing and Insurance

If you only take away one thing from this article, it’s to never hire a contractor who isn’t licensed.

A valid home contracting license means that the contractor has the minimum insurance required by the law, so you’ll be protected in case there’s an accident or damage to your property during the course of work. Furthermore, contractors generally need a license in order to obtain permits to do various kinds of work. That means a contractor without a license probably doesn’t have insurance or the necessary permits to work on your home!

If you’re looking for a contractor for home renovation work in the Palm Springs area, that means they need to be licensed in the state of California.

A licensed contractor will have liability insurance to cover any workplace injuries that occur on the project. If you hire a contractor without this insurance and someone is hurt, you would likely be held responsible.

You can verify contractor licenses for the state of California with the Department of Consumer Affairs at ca.gov.

It’s also a good idea to check the contractors’ status with the Better Business Bureau. Checking licensing, insurance, and for any BBB red flags is a good way to cross any bad eggs off your list of recommended contractors.

4. Ask Questions

Once you have the list of contractors you want to contact, put together a list of important questions to ask to get a feel for their job experience, communication style, and more:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • When did you first get your contractor license?
  • What is your business’ permanent address?
  • How do you deal with warranty claims?
  • Have you done similar projects before?
  • What happens if I have a complaint about your work or any of your employees?
  • Can you provide references from previous clients?
  • Can you provide contacts for your suppliers and subcontractors?
  • How long have you worked with your subcontractors?

If a contractor can’t answer these questions confidently, they probably aren’t the kind of professional you want working on your home renovation. Ideally, you’re looking for a contractor with a physical office/headquarters (not someone’s residence) that has been in business for several years, and has been licensed throughout the entirety of the business.

A high-quality contractor will also have long-standing relationships with their subcontractors and a healthy list of references. They should also provide detailed plans for how they process warranty issues, complaints, payment, etc.

5. Look for Timely and Clear Communication from the Get-Go

If a contractor isn’t timely with clear responses to your requests for information, quotes, and other communications, why would you expect them to be timely in getting your renovation done?

Of course, contractors are busy with other projects and their personal lives, so don’t expect immediate responses or for them to drop everything to take your call. But communication is important during a home renovation. If they say they’ll get a quote to you by Thursday and it doesn’t come until the following Tuesday, consider taking them off your shortlist.

6. Solicit Bids

Now that you’ve narrowed down your list of potential contractors, it’s time to solicit bids. Angie’s List recommends you get bids from at least 3 different contractors to be sure you’re getting a good deal.

You shouldn’t necessarily go with whatever quote comes in the cheapest. If one quote is substantially lower than the rest of them, that’s probably a red flag. The contractor could be sourcing cheap, low-quality materials, or plans to do the work quickly rather than properly.

A super cheap quote might also mean the contractor is desperate for your business, which means no one else is hiring them, which means they probably aren’t that great!

7. Check their Quotes vs. Supplier Costs

Now that you’ve gotten estimates from your short list, do your homework to make sure their prices aren’t overly-inflated.

If you all asked all the right questions we outlined earlier in Step #4, then you should’ve gotten the names and contact info of each contractor’s suppliers, so go ahead and contact the suppliers to check on the cost of materials.

A contractor needs to make money, but they shouldn’t be marking up the building materials way over the cost. Generally, you can expect material costs to make up about 40% of an overall home renovation quote.

If any of your quotes have a wildly high mark-up compared to the others, toss it into the trash.

8. Follow Up with References

By now, your list of potential contractors will be pretty streamlined. Now it’s time to contact some of the client references provided by each option, and make sure the contractor did quality work in a timely and professional manner.

If you don’t hear rave reviews, then that’s another contractor off your list.

9. Meet in Person

If you’ve made it this far, it means you’ve ideally found a professional contractor with a reasonable cost estimate and a long list of happy clients from previous jobs. Congratulations!

Now it’s time to meet the contractor in person. A face-to-face meeting is important before hiring. This person is going to be spending a lot of time in your house — you want to make sure they’re someone you get along with.

A good way to do a face-to-face meeting is to visit one of the job sites that the contractor is currently working on. This will give you a chance to see them in action and make sure that everything looks relatively clean, organized, and safe, and that the workers are polite and respectful of the property.

10. Settle on a Payment Schedule

Once you’ve chosen a contractor, it’s time to agree upon a payment schedule. This will include how much will be paid up front, when further payments will be made, and how much each payment will be.

Never pay the full cost of a home renovation job up front — holding portions of payment until milestones are met is a good way to make sure work is done on time.

A common payment schedule for contractors is 10% up front and 3 payments of 25% spaced out evenly over the project timeline. The remaining 15% should be paid upon project completion.

11. Sign the Contract

You’ve found the perfect contractor and settled on a price and payment schedule. Now it’s time to put it into writing and sign a contract to protect yourself from any unexpected hiccups.

A contract for a home renovation project should include:

  • Statement of work
  • Project timeline with start and end dates
  • Cost and payment schedule
  • List of materials that will be used
  • Proof of insurance
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Lien release to protect you in the case that contractor does not pay the suppliers or subcontractors

Flip Palm Springs Real Estate with Your IRA

Finding a quality contractor might seem like a lot of work, but it’ll be worth it when your beautiful home renovation has been done professionally, on time, and on budget.

If you’re interested in putting your self-directed IRA to use to invest in real estate in Palm Springs, you’ll likely soon be needing an independent contractor — IRS rules prohibit you or any beneficiaries of your IRA to do the work yourself.

Learn more about how to invest in property with a self-directed IRA »