In this ever so busy world we often wonder how am I going to get this fixed, and usually it was because we are unprepared for the thing that has happened. For me it was a storm passing through town that left me scrambling, and looking for a roofer due to hail damage. I did what I thought was right and randomly called five different roofers to give me quotes. After narrowing it down to a couple of roofers I was willing to use, I then looked online to see if any information was on there about them. I was shocked to find that one of them was a registered sex offender I just let into my home with my wife and three kids. I felt awful, and ashamed at not doing my homework, and knowing what to look for before, during, or after I had someone come out. Here are the 10 things you should know BEFORE hiring a contractor to do work at your home:
Are they reputable- A quick online search of the company name before calling them will give you reviews, public records, and their website. Most likely all of their employee’s will be listed there. This means you do end up in the boat I was in and possibly endangering the ones you love. You will also have the benefit of knowing what the person looks like that will be coming into your home.
Are they licensed- This protects you through a third party, and let’s you know that the person was tested in their field for your state and codes. You also have peace of mind that a contractor will not want to lose their license do to one mistake versus just fixing the problem.
Are they insured- You have two expenses to worry about if they are not insured. The first being that if any damage or accidents happen while on your property, then you are responsible for the expenses. This could include doctors bills if someone is injured. The second expense that could be incurred is that your homeowners insurance says you can only use licensed and insured contractors or they will drop you. If this happens you could lose your mortgage, house, or be unprotected against future troubles with a small chance of being insured again in the future.
Are they drug tested and background checked- This one seems to pass under most peoples radar, but the easiest work to find after getting out of jail is labor work. Leading up to 2012 the number one trade taught in prison was air conditioning repair. While that maybe okay for commercial settings, when letting people in your home and around your valuables you want to know you can trust them.
Are they in marked vehicles/uniforms- This makes it easy to identify who is there and why. You don’t want to be wondering if you should lock your door and hide, or to let the person in. Uniforms and marked vehicles gives you a quick reference and let’s you know they are serious about being here for a long time to come.
How long have they been in business- depending on the industry there are different averages for how long typical businesses stay open. For mine as an example, most HVAC companies do not make it past their second year, and in the food industry if you celebrate five years of being open, you are doing good. The years in business gives you an idea of how long you can expect the company to be there and back up what they claim they can do. 10 years of warranty means nothing if the company folds in 2 years.
Do they have a live operator- One of the things that can be frustrating is calling with an emergency and getting a voicemail that takes two minutes to listen to and informs you someone will call back in 24 hours or that we are on vacation. You want to make sure if your equipment, roof, floor, or plumbing has a major problem that these issues are addressed right away to prevent further damage.
Do they have an office staff- I know this one seems similar to the one above, but an office staff is the ones keeping track of the history and handling warranties. When it comes to warranty work, and knowing what was done before at a house people can be forgetful and miss filing for that $200 repair, or forget when they installed your roof. An office staff can get rid of those headaches for you, the customer, so that you can focus on better things like playing with the kids.
Do they have 24/7 service- You may ask, “Michael is that necessary?” Well no it is not, but let us think about when problems arise for a moment. Back in college I had lived in the same apartment for two years, had always paid on time, and never caused any problems. As a matter of fact the manager and I had a great relationship and talked often. One Friday I came home after work around 8pm and my apartment was burning hot because the a/c went out. In Florida in August it is still in the 80′s at night so I called everyone I could think of including the manager, and was told that nobody in a/c repair worked nights and weekends. I was miserable most of the weekend and at 2am on Saturday I rented a hotel for the rest of the weekend. So is it necessary? I will let you be the judge.
Are they using standard pricing guides- There are some contractors out there that look at you, your location, and how important it is for you to determine your price. I know this may come as a shock, but this kind of person will price based on where you live and how much they think they can get from you. Ask to see their standard price book before you agree to their price. You may find that it does not exist and they just guessed at what you would pay.
There are many things to consider even when you get into specific fields, and I hope you will take this and apply it to hiring your next contractor. If there is any burning questions you can just email me at Michael@coopersheatingandair.com. Have a happy 2014 and I will see you next Thursday when we cover ways to save money and keep the heat running.