Even if you’re well-versed and well-practiced in home repair, sometimes a job requires a professional. “My general rule is that if I have to watch more than 40 minutes of a YouTube video before I can start a project, it’s best to call a pro,” says homeowner David Leapheart.
Whenever you hire someone, you of course want to make sure that person is going to do quality work. After all, “your home is ordinarily your most important asset,” says Michigan real estate agent David Schoolcraft. To make sure you’re bringing the right person on board, read through the sneaky questions you should ask before you make a hire.
A work warranty covers the cost of any repairs that may be needed after a project is complete. “A quality contractor ought to offer some warranty. If not, that’s a red flag,” Schoolcraft says.
Warranties vary by project and contractor. “When I replaced the carpet throughout my house, I asked what the warranty was for both the carpet itself and installation,” says homeowner Kayla Pike. “I wanted to know what I could do if the carpet started to peel up or discolor soon after installation.”
“It’s important to verify that your pro is licensed in your area for the work you’re hiring them to do,” says Bailey Carson, a home care expert at Angi. However, she notes that licenses are location- and project-specific and are not required for all projects. You can use a search tool like Angi License Check to see what licenses are required for your repair.
Unfortunately, accidents can happen when doing home repair work. “You must make sure that who you’re hiring to work on [your home] is legit and that you won’t be exposed to liability because of their work on your home,” says Schoolcraft. “Do not be afraid to ask to see the proof of insurance.”
According to Carson, the two types of insurance that home repair pros should have are general liability and workers’ compensation. “Liability insurance covers any accidental damage that occurs during the project. On the other hand, if a worker injures themself on the job, the workers’ compensation policy will protect the homeowner (you) from being held liable,” Carson says.
“An established contractor will know the competition and will know their area of specialty well enough to specifically distinguish themselves. An inexperienced contractor won’t,” Schoolcraft says.
Leapheart says you might even save some money by mentioning different businesses. “I always ask this [question] just to show I’m price shopping. It will almost always knock $20 to $50 (or more) off the price,” he says.
Both Leapheart and Pike have used online reviews and recommendations from friends to find pros and confirm the quality of their work. “I tend to find that pros who get most business through word of mouth and review-based websites tend to do the best job because they rely on their reputations,” says Leapheart.
If you’re not getting a reference directly from a friend — and even if you are — consider asking the pro for former clients you can reach out to. “Asking for references is a great way to verify the pro’s work experience,” says Carson. “When a pro has verified references, it means people were happy enough with their work to vouch for them. In some cases, references also allow you to look at the type of work a pro has done in the past, so you can make sure it aligns with your needs.” She suggests calling references, asking about their experiences with the pro, and specifically inquiring about timeliness and accuracy of their timeline and cost estimates.
Determining — and sticking to — an estimated timeline is always important for home repair work. But current supply chain delays have made this even more challenging. “Ask your pro to walk you through a clear timeline for your specific project and find out if there is anything that could derail that timeline,” Carson says.
Additionally, she recommends discussing the specific days and hours during which the pro and their team will be in your house. “You have a life outside of the project, and you need to know how this work will impact it,” Carson says.
Pike says that, when she got her house painted, she saved money by purchasing her own paint, rather than purchasing it through her contractor. According to Pike, some home repair pros require customers to purchase the supplies they will use for the project from them or their vendors. “I am a discount shopper, so it is important to me to have the ability to purchase the supplies myself,” Pike says.
Schoolcraft also thinks it’s a good idea to purchase the supplies independently. “In general, until you get to the point where you really trust this contractor, you want to avoid giving them a big chunk of the money before the project is started,” Schoolcraft says.
Often the person you’re talking to about the project isn’t the person who will do the actual work. Leapheart has had this experience several times. “The person who showed up to give an estimate of the project was rarely the person who showed up to actually do the project,” he says. “For example, when we wanted our home painted, the business owner came to assess the time and cost of the job. But the actual painters were all workers that the owner contracted.”
A company knowing who is working on the project is a sign of experience, says Schoolcraft. “The experienced contractor will know the number and names; the inexperienced contractor may have no idea who they’ll get to work on the project until after you’ve hired them.”