Here in Nashville, business is booming. In “It City,” cranes dominate the skyline, hardhats are as common as sparrows, and hiring a great contractor for your home improvement needs is about as hard as catching skink. Finding the right fit for your home renovation project may be a challenge, but it’s well worth taking the time to find the right contractor for your job.

We’ll do our best to make it easy for you, here are 8 expert tips for finding the best home remodeling contractor for your project:

Get Recommendations

It pays to know thy neighbor because around this town, someone knows someone with a sparkling addition or lovely backyard DADU. Find out not only who they ultimately used for the work (and why they chose that renovation contractor), but also who they considered for the project. You never know, the runner-up may well be a better fit for you and your project. (Or, alternatively, you may save yourself a lot of time and trouble by eliminating all of the horror story candidates.)

Do Your Research

Once you have your list of four to eight potential home improvement contractors, fire up your computer and see what Google has to say. Check out sites like the Better Business Bureau and look for companies with 5-star rankings. Find out how long the company has been in business and check for qualifications like licensing and insurance.

Meet Face-to-Face and Ask Lots of Questions

After completing your online research, you can probably strike a few candidates off your list. Now it’s time to pick up the phone or fire off emails to your final four or five contenders to schedule a time for them to meet with you and survey the scope of your home improvement project. A contractor should be able to communicate easily and clearly, articulate his or her ideas for the project, and give examples of work they’ve done on similar projects. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and share your ideas. Ask if they work with subcontractors or with an in-house team, ask about permitting, zoning, and historical overlays, and finally, ask for references.

Get Bids

Once you have your short list of contractors, it’s time to look forward to your home improvement project. Ask your finalists to break down the cost of materials, labor, and other expenses.  Compare bids carefully, knowing that they probably won’t all line up perfectly. It’s likely that you’ll have questions about your bids after receiving them, so don’t be bashful. Ask questions and look for clarification. And finally: don’t be surprised or dismayed when your top picks can’t start tomorrow! It just means they’re busy and doing good, professional work.

Check Recommendations

Okay, you’ve got your two of three finalists. Remember all those recommendations that you asked the contractors? Follow up with them. Ask each client when the project was completed and how long it took for the build. Were there unanticipated problems and how were they resolved? Did the project remain on-budget? Were the workers on-time and professional? Did they clean up after themselves each day and did they respect your property and your neighbors? If possible, visit a few of the projects each of your finalists completed.

Don’t Let Price be the Deciding Factor

This is a tough one because the inclination to go with the least expensive bid is a strong one. Do yourself a favor, throw out the lowest bid: there’s gotta’ be a catch. It’s likely that they’re cutting corners and overlooking something that your other home improvement contractors didn’t. At this point, you can assume the finalists come well-recommended, are licensed, and their references are glowing. So when it comes time to sign on the dotted line, the most important factor is choosing the home renovation contractor that you and your family feel most comfortable with and who communicates on your level.

Get it in Writing

A handshake is nice, but a contract is better. A good contract from a reputable home improvement contractor will include detailed time frames, the total cost, product and material list, permits, warranties, payment arrangements, license number, project descriptions, and named parties.

Understand Your Payment Options

Make sure that the payment schedule is clear and that your payment options are agreed upon. Payment schedules can also give you some insight into the contractor’s financial status (if they ask for a large payment upfront, beware). For large projects, a schedule may start with 10% at signing, followed by several payments, evenly spaced throughout the duration of the project. The final payment should be due after every item on your punch list has been checked off.

For professional home improvement, remodeling, and renovations you can trust and new looks you’ll love, contact Nashville’s Stratton Exteriors at 615.750.2148.