Pre-screening a contractor

Hello Everyone,

I have some questions about pre-screening a contractor. I usually ask the following

  1. Have you completed a job similar to this before?
  2. Do you have a list of references that I can contact?
  3. When will you be able to start the job?
  4. When could we meet in person to further discuss this?
  5. Credentials of the Contractor.
  6. Status of his License.
  7. Liens, Judgments and Bankruptcies Check
  8. Any complaints filed against the Contractor
  9. 4 references
  10. Registered with BBB

Then I provide a scope of work and a list of material I put together my self.

My question is, am I missing anything else are there other questions I should be asking I haven’t gotten burned yet but I want to be pro active.


You might want to ask how much of their work do they sub-contract out to.

I am a contractor and here is what I would look for.

  1. Gut Feeling trust you instincts.

  2. Progress Payments, limit exposure anyone worth having will understand your reason and be ok anyone asking for more than 25% on a first time job needs the money to bad and is a risk. Just let them know the next payment amount and roughly what you expect to see done

  3. Start date agreement with fee assigned for each day past date.

  4. Completion date agreement with fee assigned for each day over. I would state up front if they are there every day working and run a few days over that is ok but leaving my site to go somewhere else for three days is not going to happen.

  5. What equipment do you OWN not what you can borrow.

      EXTERIOR: Ladders, Picks, Pump Jacks, Brake, etc.
      INTERIOR: Paint Sprayer, Cordless Kits, Miter Saw, etc

Anyone that does not have all the tools is not the right guy it will slow productivity and is a flag that they just have not been around long or are not responsible. All the stuff I listed is around $10-15K and we need it and it accumulates quickly over time.

  1. Can I stop by a job you are on? See for yourself if the site is clean and organized what his guys are doing how many people are there, etc.

  2. Anyone can give a reference go to one or two if you like. I don’t even check them You’ll never know if it’s family friend or what til to late. Refer to 6.

8.Insurance, the person you hire should have liability at a minimum and a workers comp rider. The comp rider is exspensive but needed. If they dont have it you open yourself up to fixing the guy that gets broke, remember you are the big rich investor cha-ching. HAVE THE AGENT SEND YOU THE COVERAGE PAGE SO YOU KNOW IT IS CURRENT AND WILL LIST YOUR PROPERTY. By the way I pay about $3500 per year for it.

  1. Check in frequently and unexpected it keeps us on our toes and will allow you to see what is really going on.

Good luck.


First off…Everyone of those questions can be answered with BS and you would never know it. References given by the guy your INTERVIEWING are USELESS. Have you ever gotten a bad reference on a tenant??? I haven’t…you either get a friend/relative, or another landlord who is just HAPPY to be rid of the idiot.

I’ve even seen proof of Insurance cards that were fakes.

The single BEST way to qualify ANY contractor is through one your aleady using!!

Case in point…

Want a REALLY GOOD plasterer??? Ask your PAINTER!! Think about it…who goes in right after the plasterer??? Yep, PAINTERS. They see the best and the worst. Ask THEM for a reference.

Need a good framer??? I always ask an electrician or a plumber. They’re fishing wires and piping through that framing. They see who takes the time to do it right and who cuts corners.

The bottom line here is if you already have some good Subs…Pick their brains. Good contractors DO NOT want to be associated with HACKS! ESPECIALLY, if they know your sending them regular work and their recommendation could effect that future business.

The guy’s you ALREADY have are a tremendous resource…USE IT!!!

Finally…NEVER…EVER…give ANY money to these guy’s up front. I buy ALL my materials and have them delivered to the site. My subs know they don’t get paid ANYTHING until the job is done. they also know if they don’t show up at the apppointed day and time, DON’T BOTHER COMING THE NEXT DAY, because someone else will be here doing YOUR job!! By buying alll materials I control costs, and control WHO does work for me. I tell all my subs this up front. I’m very nice about it. But also, very serious. This is MY MONEY at risk, I don;t screw around, be here on time, get the work done right, and I’ll be here the day you finish with payment in FULL for you. You only have to do this once. As soon as these guy’s know they can’t play any games with you, your fine. I’ve found they actually respect you more for being straight and tough.

Thanks fdjake and GRIDcorp,

That was very enlightening, I always use a indemnity clause and a lien waiver for any project I do. I list the payment schedule on the agreement with milestones for payment. I will be sure to use all the infomation you guys have given me. Especially buying the materials. I often do not have time to buy the stuff myself I usually make sure I get receipts for all material puchased and then pay that exact cost plus some misc. fee. After the job is done I keep the leftovers or the contractor agrees to buy for some fee. Thank you all for you help though.

I agree with you Jake and by the way respect your opinion based on your posts tremendously. By the way the stock thread was/is great. The countertop suggestion is very smart great idea.

However, my gut never BS’es me and I feel the more questions I ask the more chance I have hearing it get thick. On the insurance that is why I call the agent and get the dec. page faxed. Also finding a good contracter’s will lead to more good guys but finding the first decent guy can be a bit trying. Materials, purchasing does limit exposure but what I do is also get a gift card for Home Depot or Lowes and provide it for small stuff so I don’t have delays or extra trips. I get reciepts and anything that doesn’t add up comes off final payment.

Also our local grocery store Giant Eagle gives gas credit for purchases with their in store reward card. Every $2000 grand is a free tank. Not a retirement account funder but $80 in free gas is nice. I just buy the Home Depot Cards there and use them across the street.

I agree with you 100%.

Without exception…EVERY SINGLE TIME I have gone AGAINST my gut… I regretted it!!!

Never under estimate that gut feeling.

Great points!!!

Ask for an example of the contract he uses, know what is legally required in a contract within your state, are they in compliance.

Ask how they handle change orders, ask to see a copy of the change order form that they use, do they have one?

Ask if they have a standard release of lien, just because he signs yours, does not mean he is getting one from his subcontractors.

What is he offering for contact info? Just a cell phone and a PO Box (use caution), or a Cell phone, office phone, and a verifiable address, is he willing to give you his home phone and address?

Do you communicate well with the contractor, are there any language barriers or personality issues?

And as others have stated, trust your “gut”, when hiring a contractor, but also trust your gut when “not” hiring a contractor. If the price seems too low compared to the others, the proposal is vague, the contact information is unreliable, or the timetable seems unrealistic, there are some very good reasons to use caution.