When you want to know how to hire a contractor, but might not know for sure where to start. Relax! You’ve come to the right place, now. Before you hire a contractor, you know you’ll want to do your own homework to protect yourself from people parading themselves as professionals, but are actually high-pressure salesmen without proper experience or licensing. Don’t fall victim to a scam. Protect yourself and your investments by doing your research to know how to hire a contractor. Here’s a great video explanation of what to look for when you’re specifically looking to hire a contractor to replace your heating and cooling unit

 

How to find a quality local contractor to hire in Johnson City, TN:

  1. Ask for references on social media
  2. Browse Better Business Bureau, Yelp and Angie’s List (Ask the contractor for references or if you can show up to a current job site)
  3. Make sure they’re licensed, bonded, and insured
  4. Get estimates from three different companies, make sure they have experience with your system (whether it’s high tech or old school)
  5. Find out if there are tax credits or rebates
  6. Service contracts and payment schedule

Use social media

Today, the first thing a lot people do when they want to buy a product or hire a contractor is to ask their friends on social media, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. It’s typical to see a post on your news feed that says something along the lines of, “Have any of you tried __insert business name__…” Your friends give you real time referrals for products and services, and the experience they’ve had with the companies. You’ll trust your friends before you would ever trust an ad or a salesman.  After friends make a referral, ask them if they’ve used the person in their own home. Often times, well-meaning friends refer someone they know that has a wrench, but not the knowledge or skills to correctly fix the problem. Then, you’ll have to hire another contractor to fix and clean the mess the first guy made, which causes you to spend more money than necessary. Pick a reputable contractor the first time.

 

Creating a conversation:

A contractor who’s actively marketing the area and wishes to create a conversation with their customers should take advantage of today’s world in social media. Searchable pages allow customers to check out reviews and testimonials from other social media users. For a contractor to be active in social media shows customers that word-of-the-mouth referrals are important to them and they encourage it. A contractor who takes advantage of their customers wouldn’t want their potential customers seeing the things their previous customers have to say.

 

Negative reviews:

Notice how the company responds to negative reviews on social media. Ask yourself if that’s how you want to be treated if you were to have a negative opinion after working with the contractor. Was the person made to feel valued or totally discounted with a dramatic response? There may be a discrepancy or difference of opinion, but the contractor should always respond in a way that is respectful and empathetic. Just because a company has a negative review doesn’t mean they should be written off completely, just be aware of how they respond and if they’re actively trying to fix the problem.

Reviews for local contractors

This is part two of a 6 part series on how to hire a contractor to do work in your home. You want the best contractor to do business with, and we want to help.

Don’t fall prey to contractors who bet you won’t first look them up online through credible sources. Be proactive and informed by searching review sites for contractors before letting them into your home.

 

Here are a few websites you can search for potential contractors:

Google:

According to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance a contractor can list a local business street address, but that doesn’t mean they’ll remain until the work is completed. Fraudulent contractors set up a short term business location with a month-to-month lease using their building management’s telephone services and street address. Be smart by also gathering their license plate number and research their contact information online.

Better Business Bureau:

The Better Business Bureau of East Tennessee is available to help you find and review businesses you can trust. If you were overwhelmed after asking your friends for a recommendation or if you don’t know where to start, this is a trustworthy place to go. You can search on the BBB website using the name, phone number, or email address to find out their score (graded on a A+ to F scale) and read reviews from customers. The BBB encourages business to adopt certain customer service protocols and accredits those who pay for membership.

Angie’s List:

Angie’s List is a website where you can search for a contractor and browse their lists of reviewed contractors to see who you want to hire. The reviews are anonymously posted, but are screened to ensure it’s legitimate reviews and not simply business owners giving their own company praise through a certified data collection process. When businesses pay Angie’s List for advertisement, they’re bumped up in the search list than they naturally would have been had they not paid. Consumers who pay for Angie’s List subscription receive discounts from highly rated service companies.

Yelp:

Yelp defines itself as a review site that connects people to great local businesses. You don’t need to pay to read reviews or post your own reviews. Business owners can create a free account to post photos and private message their customers, which is good for the business since they can resolve any issues a customer post about. However, if that customer then feels satisfied with how the business is handling the complaint, then they may delete the negative review. Once you show up on the site, you never see the negative review.

Visit a current work site:

Visit a current work site that your contractor is on. Ask the homeowner what their experience has been. Were the workers on time and do they clean up after themselves? If there are ever problems, do they fix it?

Licensed, bonded, and insured contractor in Johnson City, TN

Here’s some information that you might not have considered when hiring a contractor.

Licensed contractor:

A contractor requires a license when the cost of the project exceeds $25,000 in labor and materials as well as any project that requires a building permit. For a contractor to acquire a license means the state and/or city checked the contractor’s background to see if they have met the minimum education requirements, written exams, and on-the-job experience. Ask the contractor to provide documentation of the license to ensure they have the right type to perform the work you need done and that the name on the license is the contractor’s name. Ask for their name and license number to check for yourself at http://verify.tn.gov/ or call Tennessee’s Department of Commerce and Insurance at 1-800-544-7693. You want to check out the license to ensure it is active, not revoked or forged, as well as the right type of license for your project.

Bonded contractor:

Contractors who are bonded are providing insurance for their customers. If a contractor who is bonded doesn’t perform to state rules, they can be fined and penalized. However, note that unless a bond is issued for your project at the local level (as part of the permit), a bond may not have been obtained for you. Some city governments require contractors to be bonded in the city in which they’re working. For example, if the contractor has a bond for Johnson City and you live in Kingsport, then you’re not covered.

Insured contractor:

When someone gets hurt at your house, you can be held financially responsible, even when it’s someone you’ve hired to do work on your home. A license does not absolutely mean the contractor is covered by Workers Compensation, because there are exemptions. Check the Department of Labor’s website at WC Insurance Verification Search to see if their insurance coverage is active.

Why hire a Leinbach Services contractor?

Leinbach Services technicians have met and exceeded all educational requirements, written exams, and on-the-job experience. Our technicians are licensed, bonded, and insured with workers compensation and general liability insurance. Additionally, they’re background checked and drug tested. You can receive a picture and biography of your technician via email before your service, so you will recognize them when they arrive in a marked van, wearing a uniform, and a picture id. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Get estimates from three different companies   

Once you’ve narrowed your search to a handful of potential contractors, you want to get written quotes and detailed estimates from at least three. This is a time-consuming process, and it requires extra effort upfront, but it ends with your home having high-quality renovations and equipment for the fairest price.

Why you need three estimates:

Three estimates helps you realize the scope of the project and just how detailed and time-consuming it’ll be so you know what you’re getting yourself into before the work even begins. The estimates should contain the overall scope of the project with completion dates clearly documented.

Itemized estimates:

Ask for a written itemized estimate so you get the full picture of the total cost. Just because one contractor hands you a cheap estimate, doesn’t mean the actual bill will still be cheap. The cheap contractor may be using sub-par materials that won’t be worth the money, time, and effort you invest in your home. If you really like one contractor but their prices are higher than the others, ask them why their price is higher and if they would be willing to meet the less expensive price. They may have priced you better work or more expense equipment. Often times a really low price today will cost you more by the end of the project because short cuts were taken.

Questions to ask:

Call the city you live in to describe your project and ask if you’ll need any permits. That way, you’re armed with the correct information. Then you can ask your three potential contractors if you’ll need permits to get a feel of how knowledgeable and trustworthy they are. Ask about their licensing and insurance. Ask for a list of the subcontractors that will be used in your project and for their licensing information as well.

Communication with contractors:

By asking potential contractors for estimates, you’re beginning a conversation with them. Use this as an opportunity to check for red flags. How does the contractor communicate? Are the exchanges open, honest, and quickly attended? If it’s hard to get in contact or hear back from them in the beginning, save yourself the headache. If they’re rude or unpleasant to work with now, forget them. Move to the next contractor.

Red Flags:

Anyone using high pressure sales techniques, only accepts cash, or doesn’t want to use a written contract. Also, never get any permit for a contractor, because if they mess up the person whose name is on the permit is held responsible. That takes all the responsibility off of the contractors and onto you.

When you hire Leinbach Services, you can call us anytime, day or night, even holidays, for excellent customer service. We offer special financing with approved credit.

Tax credits and rebates

Depending on your project and what systems you’re upgrading and installing, you may qualify for federal or state tax credits or rebates. Here are ways to find money you don’t want to miss out on:

Contractor:

The contractor in this sense is a middleman in terms of being knowledgeable about tax breaks and rebates from companies. If the contractor isn’t up-to-date with this year’s tax laws and which brands are offering rebates and when they’re offered, then he can either find out for you or offer you suggestions on how to find the information yourself.

 

If you don’t want to rely on the contractor’s knowledge of law and brand-specific offerings, then go directly to the source yourself.

 

Brand:

Conman Contractors might pocket your rebate. Small-sized contractors won’t even bother to look into rebates for you. Client appeasing contractors not only offer you manufacturer’s rebates, they’ll also add in-house rebates as well. Different manufacturers offer different rebates at various times of the year. You have to check with each brand to find out what’s available to you.

Tax professional:

While renovations aren’t usually considered tax write-offs, sometimes you can decrease the amount of taxes you owe. Talk to a tax professional about what you can do to earn tax credits with ENERGY STAR, a program that helps save money and protect our climate through superior energy efficiency. ENERGY STAR encourages and aids homeowners to have an energy efficient home with improvements concerning insulation, air sealing, thermostat replacement, hot water conservation measures, and cost-effective appliance and lighting upgrades. A certified energy auditor comes to your home to assess its current energy rating and lets you know what you can do to improve it. The government offers tax credits to those who install qualified energy generating systems. Learn more at http://www.energystar.gov/

Leinbach Services gladly offers their clients savings when they’re available, and can help you decide what technologies will improve your energy efficiency. Let us know what you’re interested in installing in your home, and we will check to see if you have any rebates or specials you can use.

Service contracts and payment schedule

By now, we hope you have chosen a contractor with an additional qualified back-up contractor in mind in case your first choice fails the final pre-hiring test. The last thing you need to consider before shaking hands with a contractor is to have a written service contract and payment schedule.

 

The answers to all of the questions you’ve been asking and all of the promises the contractor has been making must be in writing in the form of a contract in order to avoid conflict. Contracts gently remind everyone involved what’s been established in case there’s a misunderstanding. Save your finances and your home with a contract that purposefully protects you at the same time as being fair to the contractor.

 

Here are key points you need to have in the contract:

 

Contact information:

Get as much contact information you can: physical address (not just a PO Box), license plate number, etc. Ask if you can drop off the initial payment to the physical address the contractor provides. If the contractor only gives a PO Box or gives reasons why you can’t do this, this is a red flag. If it’s difficult to contact the contractor while things are going well, how much more difficult will it be if a project goes bad? Inquire on the warranty of the project and the equipment in the contract to be rest assured you should be able to find them if the time ever comes.

Contractor’s qualifications:

You’ve already done the work to ensure the contractor is qualified to do the work, now get it in writing. In the contract, document the contractor’s licenses, insurance, and bond. Write out the scope of the project and how long it’ll take till completion. All the information you asked about before you hired the contractor now needs to be in writing, along with any exclusion the contractor may have to add.

Payment schedule:

This should always be agreeable to both you as the homeowner and the contractor. Depending on the scope of your project, you may have different payment options. Instead of a blanket schedule for every client, contractors should work with their clients (you!) to determine the best plan. You might even be able to work off a line of credit that’s tied to the equity of your home.

Leinbach Services has been in business in the Tri-Cities since 1994. You can call us anytime, day or night, at 423.239.3147. Or, stop by our main office location during business hours Monday through Friday 8 am to 5 pm. We’ll be happy to show our credentials, create a contract, and set-up a payment schedule with you.

Keeping your family comfortable and safe in your home is a high priority to Leinbach Services.

 

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