For those of you that live out of town from your unit or who simply don’t desire to get “down and dirty” with your rental, your only option is to establish a solid database (or Rolodex, if that’s still your thing… and there’s nothing wrong with that!) of highly-skilled and moderately-priced local contractors and vendors whom you can rely on to be there for both you and your tenants.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that easy, because even though there are plenty of housing professionals that make an honest day’s living by performing quality work or services, the industry still has a few masked men and women that won’t think twice about robbing you blind.
As expected, this “Rolodex” may take time to fill – usually accomplished by relying on good ol’ trial and error, if you don’t have the luxury of that invaluable “word of mouth” from a source you already trust. Fortunately, there are some tips you can use to try and weed out the bandits. Depending on the type of contractor or vendor, they can be applied accordingly.
• Get a Referral – Asking friends, family and associates if they have ever had similar work performed before – or if they, in turn, know of someone who has – is a very good way to begin your search. You can even ask fellow professionals in the industry – such as architects, engineers, suppliers, etc. – if they know of someone they trust or about whom they may have heard good things.
• Ask for References – Although we saw in Chapter 10 that you never know for certain whom you are contacting (friend, family member or other associate), it’s a good idea to ask for at least three references and require that one of them be from an established local company that knows of their reputation.
• Check out Their Professional License – You need to make sure that the person you are dealing with has been appropriately licensed with the applicable licensing board for your state. Each state will usually have a department of business and professional regulations that will tell you if the license is active and in good standing.
• Get Evidence of Insurance – When it comes to hiring contractors, you never want to take their word regarding their having a liability and workmen’s compensation policy. You should request the contractor to have their insurance company directly provide to you a certificate of insurance. This is the only way to ensure you are protected in case of a mishap that occurs on your property.
• Check Consumer Protection Groups – In addition to checking the contractor’s or vendor’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) file, there are many other local groups popping up online that maintain customer satisfaction ratings. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce for more information about such resources available for prescreening a contractor.
• Ask for Professional Associations – Many times, reputable contractors and vendors will spend the extra money to maintain a membership with an applicable and reputable professional organization. While anyone can usually join such organizations, provided their license is in good standing, it is a little more reassuring to know someone is interested in the presentation of their public image – and, usually by extension, their reputation.
In the end, after you’ve compiled all your research, you’re ultimately going to need to trust your gut instinct and hope for the best – word-of-mouth recommendation or none. If the contractor or vendor works out well for you, then quickly add them into that Rolodex! The advantages of establishing good contractor and vendor relations are invaluable. Just make sure you pay their bill on time, every time, to keep the goodwil vibe.
One thing is for sure: You’ll sleep a whole lot better at night knowing that you have people whom you can trust to handle almost any problem. Even if you’re only renting a single unit at this time, you can still reap the benefits of becoming a loyal customer, by making sure you tell others about your trusted contractors and vendors – and don’t forget to have everyone mention that the referral came from you!