Hiring a contractor is always a bit risky. Sure you’ve asked for referrals and looked for online reviews, but in the end, you’ll have to trust your gut, and hopefully choose someone who is professional, reliable, and who you’re comfortable having in your home.

The Problem With Referrals

Think about the last time you went for a job interview and they asked for referrals. Did you give them any where the person might say something bad about you? Of course not. No one gives referrals from clients who were unhappy. You give them from clients you’ve had forever, who are always happy with you and will overlook any issues or mistakes you’ve made.

Now, if someone pulls out a list of 50 people and says “call anyone on this list” then you can be pretty sure they have a good record, but just a few select contacts should raise some red flags.

The Problem With Online Reviews

You should always be skeptical about online reviews. While some sites make you verify your name and address before letting you review, others let anyone open an account and post whatever they want. In general look for the not-five-star and not-one-star reviews. Glowing non-critical reviews MAY be true, but they may be friends and family trying to help the contractor out.

But 2-4 star reviews might be more realistic. Someone who was generally happy but had a small issue will give real feedback that could be more helpful.

The Problem With People

If you’re looking at a longer job (say a week or more), the fact is that this person will be in your home day-in and day-out, and their personality will definitely alter the environment in your home.

Are they quiet but professional? Chatty but hard-working? Or lazy and using you for a distraction from working?

Unlike the actual details of the job, it’s hard to address these issues ahead of time, and the last thing anyone wants is an angry contractor in your home performing potentially destructive jobs on the structure of your home.

That’s why, when you DO call references, it’s important to ask questions about these ‘soft skills’. Everyone will have a prepared answer for their skills. You should expect to hear that they were on-budget, did a great job, and were on time.

Ask about their personality. Did they get to work as soon as they arrived, or did they have an immediate coffee break? How many hours a day did they work? Did they get a lot of phone calls?

That last one is important. A contractor who spends all day getting calls from his wife and kids about problems at home is not going to have their head on the task at hand.

Similarly, a contractor who is so swamped with sales calls that he spends all day negotiating their next deal isn’t an idea situation (although hard to fault someone for accepting new business).

In The End

In the end, you want someone in your home you’re comfortable with. Be diligent while they’re working and address any issues (whether work-related or personality-related) as soon as possible.