Owning & Renting Property

Hiring a Contractor? Watch for These 6 Red Flags

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Getting ready to build that dream deck out back? Or turn the downstairs laundry room into the ultimate man cave? Chances are your home is your most valued investment. That’s why it’s important to do your homework and pick a reputable, dependable contractor to complete any home improvement, renovation or remodeling project.

Finding the right home contractor takes a little legwork but could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by avoiding delays, substandard building materials or shoddy workmanship, according to Jessie Kokemiller.

As the owner of a home construction and remodeling company for more than 20 years, Kokemiller knows that quality work and a solid reputation is a proven way to keep clients happy — and be successful.

Look for the red flags

When it comes to your home improvement project, you may be swayed by an appealing price or a promise to get the work done quickly. Kokemiller says those could be red flags, and also says to proceed with caution if a contractor:

  1. Won’t provide references. Word of mouth is a strong selling point for contractors to get repeat business, and reputable ones are glad to provide names of satisfied customers and examples of excellent work.
  2. Demands that all (or most) of the payment for the job be done up front. Never be pressured into making rush decisions or making “cash-only” payments to someone.
  3. Won’t provide a bid in writing — or one that outlines the cost of labor and materials, timelines, payment terms and a detailed description of work to be done.
  4. Is not licensed and registered to do business in your state. Licensing qualifications vary by state and local area, so to learn more about specific licensing requirements, check with your local building department.
  5. Does not carry proof of current insurance. Contractors (regardless of specialty) should carry personal liability and property damage insurance.
  6. Won’t elaborate on who is going to actually be doing the work – themselves or sub-contractors. Many times contractors rely on sub-contractors who specialize in certain areas.

Choosing a contractor that fits

To find a reputable contractor you can trust and will provide quality work at a fair price, the best place to start is by asking family, friends and co-workers for referrals. If you can’t think of anyone to ask, check with local homebuilder associations or building supply stores. You can also do an Internet search or look in the phonebook.

Kokemiller adds that you want to work with someone who seems knowledgeable and easy to work with.


“A lot of it is just going with your gut and considering, ‘Do I have a good feeling about this person?’ and ‘Do I think we’ll get along well?’ Because as you work together, you want to be able to communicate openly with each other about ideas or potential problems that may come up.”

Real estate is a big investment – make sure yours is protected with legal help from ARAG. Our attorney network is available to all Legal Now members whose employer doesn’t offer legal insurance, for matters ranging from buying and selling property to foreclosure and contractor disputes. 

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