How to find the best contractor for your home project

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You’re ready to make home improvements. When looking for a trustworthy pro, it’s a good idea to get referrals, check references, get bids, and nail down your financing.


Let’s drill down to the details on how to find a good contractor for remodeling and what you need to ask as you move through the process.


Learn More: How to afford a down payment on your first home

Ask for Referrals

Often the easiest way to find a reputable contractor for your project is through word-of-mouth referrals, whether from a friend, neighbor, family member, or colleague.


Maybe you’ve watched your friend remodel the kitchen on social media; you may want to ask for the name of the contractor behind the job. Likewise, if you see a big construction project going up in your neighborhood, you can ask the homeowner for insight on the contractor behind it.


You might also want to ask owners of local lumber yards, where con­tractors do their bulk business, who’s reliable.

Search Online for the Top-Reviewed Contractors

Before hiring a contractor to renovate or remodel your home, it’s smart to do your due diligence and collect as many references as possible. But if you’re new to a town or neighborhood, for example, you may wonder how to find a contractor who works in your area.


This is where online reviews come in handy. There are many websites out there, including search engines like Google, that offer lists of licensed contractors with accompanying reviews.

Look at Credentials and Portfolio

As you begin speaking with each potential contractor, ask to see a copy of their contractor’s license and insurance policy, and ask about any specialty certifications or membership to any professional organizations like the National Association of Home Builders, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or the National Kitchen & Bath Association.


Be aware that some states require contractor licensing; others, certification or registration. Registration doesn’t guarantee expertise; it’s merely a written record of who is performing the work. Many but not all states have websites where you can verify your pro’s license number.


Most reputable builders or contractors should have a website or basic social media presence, but if you can’t find one, request an email link to the contractor’s portfolio to see examples of past projects, from countertop replacement to closet remodels, as well as before and after photos.

Interview Candidates

Once you have a list of potential contractors narrowed down to your three top picks, it’s a good move to interview each of them before you go a step further. Maybe you won’t jibe with one of them, or perhaps another won’t seem as knowledgeable about certain components of construction or remodeling as you’d like for your particular project.


Treat hiring any contractor or handyman just like you would hiring an employee for your work, and if you don’t get a good feeling about the candidate, trust your gut. Communication is key for any successful project, and if the communication feels lacking in the interview process, it’s likely you’ll get frustrated down the line when all the moving parts of a remodeling project are also thrown into the mix.

Check References

After you’ve compiled a list of contractors and interviewed your top candidates, you’ll want to check references. Professionals should be able to provide a list of contacts from past jobs, and if they can’t do so right on the spot, that’s probably a red flag.


When checking references, you might want to ask past customers if the contractor completed the job on time and within budget, if there were any problematic interactions, and how the work has held up since.

Review Cost Estimate

You could find the perfect contractor for the job, only to learn that the pro is far out of your budget.


It’s smart to get at least three competitive quotes from contractors before you move forward. A cost estimate should include labor, materials, change-order language, and a timeline, at minimum. Many contractors also have creative deposit schedules so that funding is streamlined.


One positive if you have second thoughts about the expense: While the cost to remodel a house may not be cheap, if you keep your property modern and up to date, it’s possible you’ll recoup those dollars in resale value down the line.

Consider the Red Flags

If it’s your first time hiring a contractor, you may not know what to look for — or what’s a red flag. To save yourself headaches down the road, if the contractor checks any of the below boxes, the person’s professionalism might be in question and it’s probably wise to move on to the next candidate.

  • No “before” remodeling pictures
  • No website, social media presence, or reviews
  • No license or certification
  • No references
  • Slow communication

The Takeaway

How to find a contractor for home renovations? Hiring a contractor is a process that you’d be smart to treat like a job interview. It’s a good idea to check references and credentials, get bids, look for red flags, and have financing lined up.

3 Home Loan Tips

  1. Traditionally, mortgage lenders like to see a 20% down payment. But some lenders allow mortgages with as little as 3% down for qualifying first-time homebuyers.
  2. If you don’t have the cash to renovate or remodel your home, one financing option is a personal or home improvement loan, which can be faster and easier to secure than a construction loan.
  3. Generally, the lower your debt-to-income ratio, the better loan terms you’ll be offered. One way to improve your ratio is to increase your income (hello, side hustle!). Another way is to consolidate your debt and lower your monthly debt payments.


Before you sign on the dotted line for your remodeling job, there are some things about working with a contractor you need to know before locking one in.

What should a remodel contract include?

There should be a contract in place before any remodeling job begins. You’ll want to make sure the contract lays out the overall project budget and scope of work, when payments are due, and how to handle the inevitable changes that will arise.


You’ll also want to have a dispute resolution and waiver of the lien clause so that a subcontractor cannot put a lien on your home, and a warranty for the work that is an acceptable time frame for the amount you’ve invested.

What questions should I ask a contractor?

When you’re meeting with each potential contractor, ask about past projects and if they have specific experience doing the type of renovation work that you’d like done. It’s also helpful to ask how they would approach the project and how much of an impact it’ll have on your ability to live in the home while work is taking place.


You’ll also want to inquire about insurance. Does the contractor carry an insurance policy that protects you, the homeowner, as well? All of these are things a professional contractor should have and easily be able to produce.

What should you know before hiring a contractor?

Homebuilding is a booming industry right now. Many contractors are doing good work, but there are always bad actors that can take advantage of the huge influxes of money that Americans are pouring into their real estate investments — and their eagerness to get someone to do the work amid shortages.


It’s smart to do your research, to be patient on timing, and to stay flexible as the project — and its costs — evolve.


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10 home improvements totally worth the time & money


Home has always been where the heart is, but lately it has been where everything is. For many people, work, play, family time, and basically every moment is taking place at home while social distancing recommendations are in place. Creating a home you love and feel comfortable in has never been more important than it is now.


Lots of homeowners have been tackling home repairs as of late or doing major remodels. It’s understandable you may want to give your home a refresh after not leaving it for months, and you also may have in mind the long-term financial gains associated with home projects.


Keep reading to see what improvements deliver the highest return on investment.


Please note that the cost estimates and expected ROIs for the following projects can vary with specific project needs, location, and other factors.

Related: A guide to remodeling your closets


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Who doesn’t dream of having a shiny new bathroom that gives off major spa vibes? In a recent National Association of Realtors survey, 19% of people who renovated a bathroom did so because it felt like time for a change, and 41% wanted to simply upgrade worn-out surfaces, finishes, and materials.


After completing a bathroom renovation, 58% felt an increased sense of enjoyment at home, and 80% felt a major sense of accomplishment. Many real estate agents are fans of this project, too, with 33% recommending sellers renovate a bathroom before putting their home on the market.


  • Cost Estimate: $35,000
  • Expected ROI: 57%


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There’s nothing quite like spending time in the great outdoors, especially now. Adding a deck to your backyard can be a great way to enjoy the fresh air and your outside space.


The cost of a deck can vary based on the type of material used (wood generally costs less than composite materials, for example) and the size. But generally, homeowners can expect the below cost estimate and ROI when adding a deck.


  • Cost Estimate: $14,360 – $19,856
  • Expected ROI: 66.8% – 72.1%


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Admit it: You’ve lusted after the dream kitchens on HGTV. Shiny new backsplash, countertops, and appliances—we want it all. Considering that we all spend a decent amount of time in our kitchens, it seems fair to want a beautiful room to cook, eat, and entertain loved ones in.


If you’re unsure whether you want to remodel your kitchen or not, consider that 85% of homeowners who completed the project reported feeling a stronger desire to spend time at home, according to the Realtors survey.


  • Cost Estimate: $38,300
  • Expected ROI: 52%


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Selling a home? Improving curb appeal can’t hurt. Not to mention, this project is one of the more affordable ones on this list. If your front door is looking a little worse for wear, consider swapping it for a shiny new one.


  • Cost Estimate: $1,881
  • Expected ROI: 68.8%


mirsad sarajlic / istockphoto


Not all home reno projects are fun. Some are just a necessity, whether you plan to stay in your home or sell it. Rain or shine, you need a solid roof over your head, and if you’re looking to sell, your buyers will need one, too.


In fact, the roof and structure are part of the four-point inspection that gauges homeowner’s insurance risk. Replacing a roof before snow or storm season rolls around or before you sell a home can be advantageous.


  • Cost Estimate: $24,700 – $40,318
  • Expected ROI: 61.2% – 65.9%


Basements are tricky. They can be a great extra living space if set up properly, or can be kind of creepy if left to their own devices.


Which is why a renovation may be in order. Want a home gym or a winter play area for your children? What about a quiet home office if you’re working from home?


Converting a basement to living space has allure, as 85% of people surveyed who had remodeled their basement felt a greater desire to be at home since completing the project, the Realtors Association reported. We could all use a little extra motivation to stay home right now.


  • Cost Estimate: $46,900
  • Expected ROI: 64%


DFTidrington / istockphoto


Giving what’s underfoot a refresh can feel pretty good, considering how much wear and tear our floors get. New wood flooring can majorly make over a home, which is probably why 78% of consumers reported feeling a major sense of accomplishment whenever they reflected on the project.


Adding new wood flooring can be expensive, depending on the size of your home and type of wood you’d like to use, but this isn’t one of the most expensive home upgrades on this list.

  • Cost Estimate: $4,700
  • Expected ROI: 106%


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While this home project isn’t one you can see, it’s one you can feel both physically and financially once it’s complete.


When asked why they were motivated to upgrade their insulation, 93% of consumers said they did so to improve energy efficiency. After completion of the project, 47% reported that the upgrade led to better functionality and livability.


  • Cost Estimate: $2,400
  • Expected ROI: 83%


brizmaker / istockphoto


For those who have discovered the joy of tidying up, a closet overhaul is likely high on their dream list of home projects. A perfectly organized closet does sound pretty darned convenient. A big closet renovation can set you back a bit, but for those who crave organization, it can be an investment worth making.


  • Cost Estimate: $6,300
  • Expected ROI: 40%


PC Photography/istockphoto


In a perfect world, we would all build our dream homes immediately. Tackling a fixer upper can sound ideal, but let’s face it, home projects cost money and take time to execute.


Funding home projects can be challenging, and you may need to carefully consider what adds value to a home before you start a renovation project. Luckily, there are financing options out there that can help you tackle home upgrades in a manageable way.


Homeowners who are looking to make improvements may have the option of taking out a home equity loan. The home is used as collateral in order to borrow money. It’s worth noting that if the borrower can’t pay back the full loan amount, the lender can foreclose on the home.



Jelena Danilovic / istockphoto


For low-income households looking to improve their heating, cooling, or electrical systems, the Weatherization Assistance Program  provides free weatherization services. You can learn more about the Department of Energy’s general eligibility guidelines and application procedures.


A variety of personal loans are available to help consumers finance large purchases. Generally with personal loans, a borrower pays back the money over an agreed-upon time period. Secured loans require property as collateral, similar to a home equity loan. Unsecured loans don’t require collateral, which makes them riskier for lenders, so they often charge a higher interest rate.


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