A great contractor provides quality ideas, expert advice and impeccable workmanship for your home improvement needs, but finding one isn’t necessarily easy. Hire the wrong business and you could be left with shoddy workmanship or major cost overruns, assuming they even show up to perform the work at all. Here are some tips for steering clear of shady contractors and selecting a professional who is worthy of your hard-earned money. 

Use references

It’s always best to work with a contractor that has references. Ask your friends, family or neighbors if they can recommend anyone, or pick promising contractors and ask them for their references. Conversely, be wary of contractors who find you via door to door sales, telemarketing calls or mail advertisements. Check the reviews and complaints businesses have received on services like Yelp, Google Maps, Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau. Be sure to verify each contractor’s business address, contractor’s license (if applicable in your area) and insurance.

Avoid deals that are too good to be true

Shopping for a fair quote is important when choosing a contractor, but quality work has its price. If one contractor’s bid is far below the others, you should be wary. A too-good-to-be-true deal may indicate that the contractor is inexperienced, cuts corners or intends to overrun their price.

Go with your gut

A good contractor should exude professionalism and instill confidence. If someone you’re considering doesn’t feel trustworthy, they probably aren’t. Avoid contractors who are more salesman than tradesman or otherwise make you feel pressured, rushed, intimidated or bullied.

Insist on a written agreement

Never hire a contractor for a job without a written agreement for the work and cost. Handshake trust is a noble ideal, but too many times, everything from honest misunderstandings to outright deception can leave customers burned. Make sure you get the scope of the job and the contractor’s responsibilities in writing as well as a fixed price for the work.

Get a second opinion

If you’re unsure about a contractor’s proposal, don’t be afraid to have another expert weigh in. It can be hard to know what to do when a contractor insists on charging more for what they claim are better materials, worthwhile add-ons, safer features or necessary repairs. If you’re ever in doubt, turn to another professional or the Internet to find an expert second opinion.

Be a smart customer

Your contractor is the expert, but it’s in your interest to learn about the products and services you need as well. The Internet is a great resource of researching ideas, materials, costs and more. A good contractor should be happy to answer your questions or tell if and why they disagree with one of your opinions. A bad contractor may become argumentative or simply be scared off when they realize you know too much to be easily scammed.

By following this advice, you’ll be more likely to find a great contractor who can give you peace of mind while performing quality work at a fair price.