First, consider who you want to be in your home. Someone you can trust is important. Trust goes beyond your possessions in your home; it extends to who the company is doing the work. Make sure they have a reputation you can live with, and are dependable to do what they say they will do.

Companies which require huge down payments are often companies which are shaky financially. While it is common for contractors to request upfront monies to pay for materials, companies which expect you to front more money leaves you exposed to risk they may disappear before they start or complete your job. For large projects, inquire about a performance bond; don't be shy asking financial questions.

Check the overall reputation of the contractor in the specific area you want work done. A contractor which has historically remodeled kitchens and bathrooms may not be the best choice for building a detached garage. Ask to see previous work performed, and ask for references and licenses. Good contractors are usually quick to show off their work, and any hesitation on references is an automatic red flag.

Inquire about how changes are handled. Even when a scope of work and price are agreed to in advance, at times "inspiration of the moment" occurs as work is being done, and you may wish to make some changes in midstream. Ask upfront what the mechanism for change is, and what costs may be involved. Minor changes should never upset anyone, medium to major changes should require a quick renegotiation of terms. If contractors are unwilling to make changes - and charge a fair price for them - they may not be your best choice.

Finally, what is your agreement for a timeline? If your project is expected to go smoothly, all materials are readily available and the weather cooperates if you're doing an outdoor project, does your contractor have a reputation for finishing in a timely manner? If the project is stalled for some reason unrelated to you, is the contractor willing to have a guarantee or penalty clause for late completion?

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