Recognize Con Artist Landscapers - 9 Tips On Hiring A Pro
While there are many projects that you can DIY if you have to or want to, there are some that should be left to the pros. If you’re having your entire patio, or backyard remodeled you will probably need to hire a landscaper.
Here are ten tips on finding a great professional landscaper for your home improvement project:
- 1. Have a plan for what you want
Undoubtedly, your contractor will ask you questions and make suggestions, but you don’t want to go in without an idea of what you are looking for. If you are having your patio re-done, for example, have some photos to show potential contractors. You can also make a drawing or write down all of your needs and desires. You want to be sure that you’re on exactly the same page as your contractor from the get-go!
Heres a Couple Resources to help you out with that.
- 2. Ask your family and friends.
Chances are, you know someone who has had similar work done in their homes. Your nearest and dearest will tell you like it is, so encourage them to be honest. Ask if they’d recommend the contractors who worked on their homes, and if they say yes, ask if there were any issues or problems at all. You want to have the full picture, not just a flippant, “sure, they were fine.”
- 3. Check all possibilities with the Better Business Bureau. The BBB is a non-biased holder of information pertaining to all types of businesses. You’ll be able to see if the landscaper you’re considering is a member, and also whether there have been complaints. One caveat: Don’t necessarily write off someone who has complaints logged on their BBB file. What you want to look for is whether those issues have been resolved.
- 4.Connect with your phone
Once you have a few possibilities in place, you’ll want to give them a call. Find out whether they work on projects similar to what you have in mind, ask what the general timeframe is from first consultation to complete installation, and inquire as to whether they will give you a list of previous customers to call. Once you have this information, go ahead and call those former clients. Your potential contractor is not going to offer up the names of people who were dissatisfied, so expect good reviews, but ask pointed questions about whether the job was completed on time, whether the workers showed up when they said they would, how clean the area was left afterward, etc. The article from PatioEnclosures.com can help you think of good questions.
- 5. Schedule a consultation
You don’t want to take a price quote over the phone, and you should be wary of any contractor who suggests it. Your project may entail more or less time than is typical, and your professional needs to see exactly what you want, in person. Many landscapers offer a free consultation appointment; if yours does, then take advantage of it! Even if you have to pay, consider it an investment in getting what you want out of your home improvement project.
- 6. Gather information on dollars and cents Now that you have your choices narrowed to two or three possibilities, it’s time to start comparing contractor prices. Gather bids, and cross off of your list anyone who is lowballing you; this is an indication that the company is not doing well financially, for whatever reason! Also, find out the payment policies. This can vary by industry, but a good rule of thumb is that you should expect to pay a percentage (up to 30%) at the time that you sign the contract, then you would make regularly scheduled payments as the project was being completed, with the final installment due after the installation is done. For a project that will take only a few hours, you may pay it all in two payments; one would be at the time of signing, and the other would be due when the project is completed. Either way, find out what’s expected.
- 7. Verify insurance coverage
Once you choose someone, take a look at your landscapers’s license and certificate of insurance. The company should have workers’ compensation insurance as well as liability coverage. Remember, your landscaper will be working in your home, where he or she could sustain an injury or break one of your possessions. You should not be held responsible for any incidents, so be sure not to skip this step. You can read more information about what types of coverage your contractor should have.
- 8. Go beyond a handshake
In days of old, a man’s handshake was worth the same as his signature. Those days are over. Anything that you agree upon must be in writing if you want it to stand up in a court of law. Check over your contract carefully, and question anything that you don’t understand. If you are making a large investment, having an attorney glance over the contract wouldn’t be a bad idea. If it's not a big deal then check out rocketlawyer.com for some templates.
- 9. Insist upon necessary permits.
There are some legal issues that could come up if your landscaper tries to cut corners by ignoring the need for permits in your area. If your home improvement contractor normally works in a different town, he or she might not be aware of your municipality’s specific laws. Be sure to double check whether the work requires a permit, and make sure it is posted in a prominent location, if needed. If you are doubting the need for proper permitting, consider this article on DIY Life about some of the common pitfalls pertaining to a lack of permitting.
- 10. Finally, trust your gut.
As with anything, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Very low prices; a landscaper who shows up in a beat-up, unmarked vehicle; a shoddy, unprofessional-looking contract.... These are all signs that you should look elsewhere.
Remember, your home improvement project is likely to be a large investment. It will pay off in the short- and long term to put some effort into finding the perfect pro for the job. Good luck!