After almost 22 years in my home, I’m being personally reminded of many of the things I’ve discussed with so many clients over the past twelve years as a realtor and this is happening because I’m now in the process of selling my house and buying a new one!

Let me say quickly—I’m Staying in OAC! (No way would I leave such a fabulous neighborhood). But I am moving from 6670 Olde Atlanta Parkway to 6630 Callanwalde Court.  And guess what? It’s hard work. Dealing with all the aspects of it, especially repairing and updating a home where it’s needed and getting it ready for the market is a difficult task. And it’s not always clear how to hire the right people to do the work for you. Take a look at these statistics…

The Better Business Bureau last year recorded 24,900 complaints from U.S. homeowners about general contractors, remodeling and repair specialists, roofing contractors, painters and plumbers. The Bureau received an additional 12,500 complaints associated with landscape professionals, pest control businesses, appliance repair companies, air-conditioning contractors and pool service companies. Grievances ranged from quality of work provided to contract issues, and inferior repairs to unfinished work. That’s a lot of complaints! And nothing could be worse than trying to move and having the work held up or poorly done by those you’ve hired for some necessary job.

So here are five tips I’d offer you to save time and energy if and when you need to check a service person’s credentials.

1. Do your homework up front

Ask potential service providers for copies of their license, insurance and bonding capacity, then make sure the information is current. Ensure the company is licensed to perform the type of work you need and that it meets the bonding requirements of your town, county and state. Ask for references — and call them.

2. Be wary of bargain bids

Yes, we always want to save dollars where we can. But bids that come in way lower than the competition aren’t necessarily the best deals. There may be an explanation for the bargain-basement pricing; perhaps the low bid doesn’t account for the same installation, materials and features. Or, it could be that the low bid is a sign that you’re going to receive a lower level of service. Conversely, don’t be fooled into thinking a very high bid indicates higher standards of service. You may simply be working with a contractor who is so busy he’s not looking for more work. Any time you get a bid price that’s a lot higher or lower than all the others, ask the service provider if there’s a reason for the difference. 

3. Communication is key    

You’re trusting your service pro with the most expensive thing you own – your home. That’s why it’s so important that you hire someone with whom you feel comfortable talking. Do the companies you’re considering respond to your questions in a timely and effective manner? If they don’t respond when they’re trying to land your business, do you think that will change once you’re in the middle of a remodel? If the contractor doesn’t ask pertinent questions how can he know what you expect from him? Once you verbally agree on the work that needs to be done, ask for a contract and read it. Make sure the contract includes the start date and expected completion date.

4. Minimize upfront payments

Be careful if your installer, landscaper or repair person wants to be paid in full upfront. In some cases, a contractor may need a down payment to cover materials, but the bulk of the money should not be due until the work is completed and you are satisfied with the results.

5. Say ‘no’ to most door-knockers

Not every roofer, contractor or landscaper who comes to your front door looking for work is a scam artist, but they could be. Be leery of the drop-by contractor who offers a “free roof project” around the corner. These gimmicks and promotions could signal a con. If you have a good feeling about a door-knocking service provider, ask for a business card and check the company out online or with the Better Business Bureau.

Remember that a well-designed website and a glossy business card aren’t proof that a contractor does quality work. Regardless of the size of the job you need completed, it’s crucial to invest the time to find the professional who best suits your needs, timeline and budget.

Learning by Doing

There’s an old saying that we learn more by doing than by hearing. Well, I’m discovering that in this process. Hopefully, my experience will continue to make me a better realtor. One thing I know for sure—it’s making me even more aware of what to Do and Not Do when buying and selling a home!