Undertaking a home improvement project of any size can feel overwhelming. You need to figure out a budget, stick to a schedule and find the perfect pro to make your vision come to life. There are a million reasons why you should hire a contractor or pro for your home improvement projects. Whether you’re a seasoned renovator or just starting your first project, everyone makes mistakes. Learn from others so your project goes off without any issues. Here are 5 mistakes to avoid when hiring a pro.
1. Not Doing Your Research
A recommendation from a trusted source is always a good starting off point, but that shouldn’t be where your search ends. It’s important you look into every company you are considering and do your research on HomeStars. Check out their website, look at photos of their work, browse their HomeStars profile and read their reviews. Looking at past work and reviews will give you a better idea of the quality of work the company does and give you insights into how they work with their clients. Pay attention to negative reviews and how the company responds to criticism.
Offers that seem too good to be true often are. Do not be tempted to go with a door to door company out of convenience. Even if the service they are selling does sound like something you need, ask them for a card and tell them you will call them back if interested. Do your research and if the company seems legitimate you can call them back and book their service.
It’s hard to find the best person for your next project. Thankfully reviews are the perfect place to understand who your neighbours are hiring, for how much, and to understand the quality of workmanship. Reviews are key to both supporting local businesses to finding your go-to pro.
2. Hiring Based on Cheapest Quote
Everyone wants a good deal, but when it comes to home renovation, you get what you pay for. This is why it’s important to get quotes from multiple companies and compare them. While the lowest quote might make your budget happy, the quality of work might not be up to your standards. By using the HomeStars’ cost guides, you can get a clear understanding of prices across Canada for your project. Ideally, you want to find a price that is in the middle of your highest and lowest quote.
In contrast, the company with the highest bid does not necessarily mean they provide the highest quality of work. Sometimes companies will give a higher bid as a way to deter you from hiring them if they are too busy. While you are researching companies, be sure to get multiple quotes and compare them to find the quote that’s right for you.
You should not let your budget completely dictate the company you hire. Ideally, you will hire the company you feel most comfortable working with. If that company happens to have the lowest quote, but still has great credentials and references, hire them. You should listen to your gut first and your budget second.
3. Not Signing a Valid Contract
Once you’ve decided on a company to go with, it’s very important that you get a formal contract signed by both parties. This contract should outline the scope of the work, timeline, costs and payment terms. Be sure to pay close attention to the fine print so you do not miss anything. If there is anything you do not understand, be sure to ask your pro to clarify. Keep asking questions until you understand exactly what you are agreeing to. Both you and the company should agree to the terms and sign on the dotted line before going ahead with the project.
The company should also provide you with a copy of the contract. If they refuse to do so, do not sign and do not move ahead with the work. If changes are made to the scope of work, be sure to have the contract updated. You want the contract to reflect exactly what was done, how long it took and how much it cost. This way if there are any discrepancies between you and the company, you will have written proof that clearly states what was agreed to.
Be sure to check your contract for terms that resemble or mention a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Some companies will add this to their contract or to a separate document in an effort to stop you from writing a negative review or speaking ill of the company. Some companies might even ask you to sign a “satisfaction document” at the end of the job that prevents you from reviewing your experience or making a complaint about their work because you have signed off that you are happy with the work. You do not have to sign these documents as they are not legally required.
4. Paying In Full and Not Obtaining a Receipt
This is a big mistake many homeowners make, especially when it comes to costly projects. You should never pay for an entire project in full before it is completed. This, unfortunately, happens to homeowners all the time, especially those who do not sign a contract. Do not be fooled by statements that there will be no tax if you pay upfront or that there will be a discount for doing so. A deposit is common, but this should be about a quarter of the overall price. A legitimate company will outline payment terms in their contract and provide you with a receipt. If the company you are dealing with does not provide these items, you should find a new company who will.
No matter how you pay the company, you need to get a receipt for your records. Having proof of payment is essential should anything happen afterwards and you need to prove you paid the company for their services. If you do pay the company in cash ensure you get a receipt or proof the money was accepted. An email confirming payment was exchanged for services is another good option. Keep in mind that a contract does not prove work was done, only proof of payment does.
Be wary of companies that offer a discount in exchange for a positive review. This is a red flag that the company is attempting to pay for reviews. Your review should be an honest representation of the work completed and how you felt about your experience. Do not write a false review in an attempt to save a few dollars.
5. Ignoring Credentials
One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when hiring is not looking into credentials. This step is often overlooked when taking a recommendation from a friend or family member. We assume everything is in order because a trusted source is recommending them. Looking into a company’s credentials is an essential step to ensure you are covered financially and legally.
The company you hire should be licensed, insured and bonded for all of the tasks they are intending to carry out in your home. All subcontractors the company brings in should also have the proper coverage in place as well. A fully licensed and insured company should have no issues with providing you with this information.
A company that does not have WSIB and general liability insurance could end up costing you more than just the renovation fees. If a worker is injured on your property and is not covered, you could end up paying the costs. Without proper insurance, your home insurance policy becomes the primary insurance used to cover all medical expenses and lost wages. If your insurance company finds out that you knowingly hired a company without insurance, they have the right to deny the claim. This means you will have to pay for everything out of your own pocket.
You can also look out for the Verified badge on certain HomeStars profiles. Seeing a Verified badge means that the company has passed our criminal and financial background check and has the proper professional licensing. If a company cannot provide you with these details, you will want to hire someone who can.
Mistakes are often made when we’re rushing to get tasks done. You should only take on a home improvement project when you have the proper amount of time to research and prepare for it. Learn from other homeowners mistakes and avoid making them yourself. Be sure to take our advice and hire with confidence. Good luck with your next home improvement project!
Article Updated June 2022