Renting

How to Choose a Contractor for Rental Property Improvements

Story Highlights
  • 1. Look for recommendations
  • 2. Check the contractor’s work history
  • 3. Ask for a list of references
  • 4. Ask for licenses and insurance
  • 5. Get project estimates from potential contractors

Looking for opportunities for rental property improvement is one of the priorities of a property owner or manager.

And to do that, you need a team of reliable contractors and professionals who are experts in making repairs and identifying these opportunities for you.

But how do you go about hiring contractors you can trust to work on your rental property?

Here are some tips on choosing contractors for rental property improvements:

1. Look for recommendations

Word of mouth is one of the most reliable sources in the rental industry.

If you have business partners, family members, or friends who have experience working with contractors in your area, ask them for recommendations. They will be more likely to give reliable recommendations, and possibly give you the contact information of the contractor they hired.

Aside from personal recommendations, you may also check online reviews of contractors in your area. There are a lot of sites where reviews are aggregated per category and location that you can visit. It is a good practice to visit several sites when looking for a potential contractor.

The key to using online recommendations is to check the similarities across several reviews. If the contractor you are checking does consistently well, it will be reflected in these reviews. Similarly, if their work is unsatisfactory, you will also see the pattern. 

Keep in mind that online reviews and recommendations do not give the whole story. You need to be on the lookout for fake reviews. As with all things, always keep an open mind. 

2. Check the contractor’s work history

If you have a particular rental property improvement in mind, you should choose a contractor who has done a similar project before.

Compare contractors’ portfolios and assess their experience with the type of improvement you need. For instance, someone who specializes in bathroom renovation may not be the ideal candidate to work on improving bedrooms. 

A good portfolio should have several projects with detailed images showing a before and after comparison of the property. If there are sketches and blueprints added, it will give you an idea of how a particular contractor approaches a project.

If there are too few projects or hard-to-see images, it may indicate substandard work and you would be better off keeping them off your list.

3. Ask for a list of references

After narrowing them down to a shortlist of contractors, it is time to check references.

Ask for a list of references that includes the contact’s telephone numbers, the type of work done, and the date the project was started and completed.

When calling the contractor’s references, always keep notes of the details of the phone call. Ask if the contractor stayed on schedule and kept the workplace organized during the project.

In addition, you should ask if there were problems that occurred during the project and how the contractor addressed them. Finally, ask how the project holds up today and if the cost was reasonable. 

4. Ask for licenses and insurance

One of the ways to ensure the reliability of contractors is by asking for their license. A license indicates that the contractor has the necessary knowledge of techniques, as well as building codes, to work on your property. All contractors have a license number that you can authenticate. 

It is also important to check if the contractor has insurance. The insurance places a liability on the contractor in case they become injured on the job or cause damage to your property and other neighboring properties.

When you choose to work with licensed and insured contractors, their estimates are accurate, their work is properly invoiced, and there is less likelihood of unsatisfactory work. 

5. Get project estimates from potential contractors

The final step in choosing a contractor for your rental property improvements is to get bids from contractors.

This bid will include the estimated cost of the project as well as the type of materials used and the timeline for the project. You will select the final contractor based on these proposals.

It is important to note that the lowest bid price is not necessarily the best. There are several factors that you need to consider when choosing the bid to accept. Think about the goals of your rental property improvement and choose which proposal works best in your situation.  

About the author: Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.

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