Checking Contractors References and Credentials

A good homeowner respects the value of the investment they have made in their home by insisting on only doing business with reliable contractors. The difficult part is trying to determine which contractors are reliable and which ones are not. Every homeowner should learn how to properly check the references and credentials of a contractor before allowing that contractor to work on their home.

What Are A Contractor's Credentials?

We can break the discussion of credentials down into two main categories; certifications and affiliations. In most parts of the country, a contractor must be certified before they can begin working. That could mean taking a simple class and applying for a contractor's license, or it could be a much more involved process.

You can contact your local government licensing office to get the details on what you should look for in a properly licensed contractor. You can also ask if there is a way to confirm if a contractor's license is valid or not. When you talk to contractors, always ask for a copy of their certification and then follow the proper channels to confirm whether or not that certification is valid.

Some contractors will indicate that they belong to a professional organization that has a set of standards each contractor must follow. In most cases, it is not mandatory that a contractor have a professional affiliation to work in a particular area. But if a contractor indicates that they belong to a national group and it turns out that they do not, then that should be a warning flag for you to consider.

Confirming whether or not a contractor is part of a national group should be as simple as going to the group's website and checking for the contractor's name. If the contractor is affiliated with the group, then read over the standards the group follows to get a better idea as to how the contractor does business. If the contractor has falsified their affiliation, then move on to another contractor.

Checking References

Every reputable contractor has a list of references they can provide that is made up of past or current customers. You should take this list and contact each reference to find out the quality of the contractor's work, and get an idea as to the professionalism of the organization. If a reference is within driving distance, then it would be worth your time to drive by the address to try and get a look at any exterior work the company has done.

Making Your Own References

One of the drawbacks of relying solely on contractor references is that you will be handed a list of the people who have the highest possible regard for that particular contractor. In other words, the references are usually skewed heavily in favor of the contractor. To help get a more balanced idea of the quality of work a contractor offers, you can create your own references and get a slightly more honest representation of the work that was done.

Pre-Vetted Contractors

Some groups and associations pre-vet contractors, approving only those that have the legally required credentials and insurance for the projects they offer. The contractors are only allowed to remain a member of the association or group so long as they maintain their legally required credentials, insurance and so on. You will still want to obtain references but using groups and associations to begin the process of narrow down your list can save a lot of time.

Work In Progress

As you consider which contractors to hire, keep an eye out for any current jobs each contractor has going on in your area. By watching the contractor in action, you can see how they do business and how they treat the customer's property. You can choose to introduce yourself to the crew manager as someone who is considering hiring the company, or observe the work from a distance.

Online Referrals

You have to be careful with online referrals because not every website offers genuine reviews. But if you do an Internet search for the contractors you are considering, you should find past customers who have taken the time to post good and bad reviews on various Internet message boards. Keep in mind that it is more common for an angry customer to post a bad review than a happy customer to post something positive, but you can still use this as a source of information in your search.

It is extremely important to thoroughly check the credentials and references of each contractor before deciding which company you would like to hire. Checking on this type of information allows you to get a much clearer picture of the way each company does business and helps you to make the right decision for your situation.