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There are many ways to find a contractor to do work around your house. There is the church flyer, the newspaper ads, the postcards in the mail and even your Aunt Edna’s handyman. But if you really want to find a quality person you have to do some digging of your own. I found the most reliable plumber, masonry and HVAC installation using these tips.

  1. I start with Angie’s List and look over the reviews. handymanYou don’t have an account? Depending on your area, it can be as little as $10 a year to get on this list. If you don’t want to spend the money, ask your neighbors and friends for their recommendations.
  2. I pick 5-7 contractors based on the reviews and start calling.
  3. You can tell very quickly if they have good customer service over the phone. If you find the person answering the phone is not knowledgeable about their product or service hours, how does the rest of the company fare? You should be able to tell them what you need and ask some general questions such as service hours, scheduling an appointment and fees over the phone. If you don’t get these simple things, chances are you won’t get far.
  4. I schedule a few contractors within a few days of each other or 2 in one day to get an estimate for the project. This takes a lot of effort on your part but it is well worth it. This helps me meet the contractor, learn how they plan on completing the project, compare apples to apples and decide if I can work with them.
  5. After meeting 5 to 7 of them, I narrow it down based on customer service and timeliness. Notice I didn’t say price. While that will play a large factor in your decision, it really comes down to how they treat you as a customer. Is the contractor willing to talk to you and spend time answering your questions? Or are they talking down to you and making you feel stupid? Believe it or not that happened to me and I immediately took them off my list. They may be a skilled worker, but if they are not willing to listen and explain things, you may not be completely satisfied with the end result. Do they call you to tell you they are running late or just forget the appointment? Your time is valuable too and you probably took off work to be at home to meet them. That is a big factor in my book. If they can’t make an initial appointment, do you really think the project will run on schedule?
  6. If you narrowed it down to two companies, you can then pit them against each other. You can tell them you narrowed it down and see what kind of wiggle room they have in their estimate. Maybe they will throw in an extra shutoff valve or they will match the price of the other company. I contacted a tree service company and got along very well with the arborist, but their price was higher than the other company. I told that to the arborist and he matched the other company’s price which was a $200 reduction! Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it doesn’t hurt to try and negotiate for the contractor you want to work with.

In the end, you have to be happy with the final product. I was very happy with the results of the plumbing company I used and asked if the owner recommended an HVAC person. He gave me a great referral and the guy was fantastic. While I didn’t go through and interview 7 companies for the HVAC system, I knew if I got along with the plumber he wouldn’t steer me wrong because his reputation is on the line too.

Of course since my friends know that I do the homework, they don’t bother doing these steps which is fine. Everyone is busy and they trust my recommendation since I have done a number of projects in my own home. They come back every time and say, “You were right! They were very friendly, timely and answered all my questions. I hired them and am very pleased with their work.” This makes me happy because I know there are good contractors out there and they will gain more customers by word of mouth. Which gets me to thinking, maybe I should create my own “Angie’s List”.