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Finding a Contractor: 17 Questions that stop you from getting scammed

What questions should you ask when finding a contractor?  Before starting work on your building/remodeling project asking these 17 questions will stop you from getting scammed.

Where to find contractors

Although word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied customers are the most reliable method of finding quality contractors, it’s not always possible, especially if you are new to the city. Luckily, online referral platforms make the job of finding qualified contractors easier. Here are a few.

Home Stars is an online contractor referral service platform that lists numerous trades specializing in multiple niches. Customers leave comments and ratings of contractors. This is a good tool to find contractors with the highest ratings. From the platform you can message contractors directly. is an online referral platform that takes you one step farther than Home Stars. After submitting your requirements online, the platform chooses three vetted contractors in your area and sends you quotes.

HeyBryan – is a new soon-to-be-in-existence online platform that promises to operate like Upwork or Fiverr, but for trades/renovation contractors. Customers have access to vetted contractors and are required to fill in the payment information on the platform. This enables contractors to be paid once the project is completed.


When meeting contractors, take note of their punctuality, appearance, and the tidiness of their vehicle. Typically, a clean car means clean tenants. The same rule of thumb can be applied to contractors. A tidy, clean, organized truck usually means a tidy, clean, organized contractor.

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What to ask

When meeting with your potential contractor, keep these suggestions in mind.

  1. Have at least three estimates and ask for suggestions. Three ballpark estimates will show you the price range of your project. Asking for suggestions will give you ideas on what can be improved or reduced to get more bang for your buck.
  2. Check licensing. Are they licensed? If not, they will not be able to pull the legal permits, which prevents your project from passing inspection and building code requirements.
  3. Can they supply references? If you’d like an added level of reassurance, you can ask contractors for references/client testimonials. You can also ask to visit a current project. References can provide important information about the quality of work, punctuality, reliability, communication, and trustworthiness.
  4. Can they provide written warranties? Warranties protect both the homeowner and the contractor while ensuring the contractor is being held to a high standard.
  5. Do they have a good reputation? The Better Business Bureau and social media are good sources for checking your contractor’s reputation.
  6. When and how do they want to be paid? Many contractors ask for an initial payment of up to 1/3rd of the fee upfront to cover the costs of materials. Whatever you agree to, make sure you agree in advance and put it in writing. Contractors shouldn’t ask for the entire payment before starting the project. If you pay for the project and they disappear, you’re left in the lurch.
  7. Are they a solopreneur, do they have multiple staff, or do they sub-contract?  Ideally, it’s best if the contractor and their team do the project themselves. If they sub-contract, will you have to chase after them to get your job done? Understanding their business structure will give you an insight into who you’re dealing with and how they operate.
  8. How long have they been in business? Their answer will give you a good idea of their level of experience.
  9. Have they done projects like yours before? Do contractors have prior experience with similar projects? If so, how many and when were they completed?
  10. Can they walk you through the steps of how they would complete your project? This will give you a good understanding of how they would approach your project and if you are confident they can accomplish the goals.
  11. Are they insured with WCB or liability insurance? If not, you could run the risk of liability when a worker is injured on your property.
  12. Have they operated under a different name? If they answer yes, you may want to do a little digging to check the reputation of the former business.
  13. Have they ever been sued? If so, you’ll want to find out why and how they dealt with it.
  14. What is their response time for communication? When you’re shelling out significant dollars for a building/renovation project, you want to know how the project is progressing. Do they send daily/weekly emails, texts, calls, or pictures? It’s important to ask.
  15. How do they clean the job site? If so, how often, and what specifically do they clean?
  16. How many projects are they running now?  If they are juggling multiple projects, what is the likelihood they will be able to complete yours by your deadline?
  17. Will they supply a work contract? Many individual contractors do business with a handshake, but it’s a good business practice to put things in writing that is signed and dated.

Asking 17 questions may feel a little arduous, but in the end, it’s worth your time to identify honest and realistic expectations while setting the stage for positive ongoing communication between you and your contractor. On the flip side, contractors rely on repeat business from happy customers to stay in business. It’s in their best interests to answer your questions thoroughly and honestly so that you can refer them to other clients.

Do you have contractor tips you’d like to share with me? I’d love to hear about them [email protected]

To take advantage of helpful tips, tools, and educational resources for DIY landlords, sign up for a membership for Landlord Fundamentals 101. To save even more time and money, combine Landlord Fundamentals 101 with one-on-one coaching to qualify for the Canada Alberta Job Grant. Contact me today to find out how [email protected]

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