As some of my clients here in Northern Virginia prepare to sell their homes next year, it can be a good time to think about how you want to boost your home’s value. And that means finding a proven, cost-effective, contractor to do the work you don’t want to do yourself.

I’m often asked who are the best contractors or just experienced handymen (or women!) able to do the job on budget and on time. While I have a handful of professionals I can recommend, vetting – on your own -- those who can do the work is a good baseline to follow.

To start, more of my friends and clients are using HomeAdvisor.com now to get started. That might work for you. If you’re willing to invest some time, consider this comparison of Home Advisor to Angie’s List. Thumbtack.com and RedBeacon.com also offer ways to learn about contractors. Be careful with Yelp. There is a spirited debate over the integrity of Yelp reviews.

All contractors in Virginia must have license if they are bidding on any project in excess of $1,000. But it doesn’t stop there. Note the differences how Virginia distinguishes between different sizes – or classes – of jobs:

Class A: Over $1,000 but less than or equal to $10,000;

Class B: Over $10,001 but less than or equal to $120,000; and

Class C: Over $120,000.

Note: this page on Fairfax County’s web site has a good FAQ about contractors’ licenses including state regulations.

You can check on a contractor’s license on the state’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DOPR) web site.

As you dive into reviews and customer testimonials and digest which one’s are credible and which ones are not, here’s a checklist to help you decide whether a contractor is worth hiring:

 

 

Be very careful if a contractor:

  1. doesn’t want to put key aspects of a job in writing;
  2. asks for lots of money upfront -- I see demands for 50% of the job’s cost up front often;
  3. offers to save you money in you sign now;
  4. does not produce his contractor’s license.

On the flip side, a credible, experienced and ethical contractor likely will:

  • provide the detailed scope of work, including payment terms, in writing;
  • demonstrates he knows what requires a building permit, speaking of which, always have a contractor pull county permits 1) because liability resides who whomever “pulls” the permit and 2) county will not issue a permit if the contractor’s license does not cover the work to be done;
  • not pressure you to sign now.

What it all comes down to is trust. I hope these suggestions help you decide whom to work with. If you want my inputs, feel free to call or email me (703-593-9432; andy@HouseHunterAndy.com).