This discussion about referrals will have two different but related elements. The first part will talk about asking your contractor for referrals and the second part will talk about asking acquaintances for referrals to help you find a professional contractor.
One of the most widely used and trusted practices in checking out a contractor is talking to past customers. These are people who have had first-hand experience with the contractor you are considering. It is always important to ask for and check out referrals from past customers. These referrals should be current and should be for a job similar to the one you are considering. The referral should be willing to answer all questions openly and honestly. Ask your prospective contractor to give you references of similar past jobs they have completed.
When you contact another homeowner, ask them questions about the contractor and their satisfaction with the job. Would you hire this company again? Did the company maintain a reasonably neat and safe jobsite and haul away debris? Did the company keep labor and material delays to a minimum so that the job could be started and completed on time and within budget?
One of the best ways to find a reputable contractor is to hear about him from someone who has had a working experience with him. Seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors, coworkers and others who have had remodeling work done. Contractors love to be referred to future business. Many have systems in place to encourage referrals. Having a referral gives the contractor a “leg up” on all of the other contractors you might be considering. Ask a lot of questions. Was the work done on time? Were any delays for good reason? Did the crews conduct themselves properly? Were the lines of communication open and clear? Were the materials and workmanship as specified? Did all work pass the first inspection? Did the firm make timely callbacks? Have you had any unexpected problems since the completion of the work? How were warranty issues handled? Was the job completed within the original estimate? Would the customer use the firm again?
Most firms are consistent. If others with similar tastes and budgets were happy or unhappy with the services provided by a contractor, most likely you will receive the same results.
Unacceptable: The contractor can’t or is unwilling to give you referrals. He pooh-poohs your requests for them, or says he will get you some and then forgets.
Good: The contractor has referrals and is willing to share them upon request.
Better: The contractor has a list of recent referrals for your type of job and provides names, addresses, phone numbers and/or email addresses so it is easy to check out the references.
Best: The contractor has testimonials from recent past customers for your type of job. The contractor has a history of completing successful projects on time, on budget and meeting all customer and code requirements.