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A Familiar Face: Should You Hire Someone You Know to Work on Your House?

When it’s time for a repair or renovation on your home, you’ll notice that self-proclaimed experts suddenly come crawling out of the woodwork. Family members, friends and distant acquaintances may offer their advice when they get wind that you’re in the market for a project, or even offer to do it themselves. You may feel pressure to choose someone you know out of social decency or a discounted work estimate. It’s time to step back and assess the situation at hand before making any decisions.

Protect your home by shopping around for the right contractors and comparing homeowners insurance rates in case something goes awry. There’s no such thing as too much preparation when it comes to something as important as your living space!

Ask These Questions Up Front

Whether you’re talking to your next-door neighbor who works construction or a contractor you’ve never met with rave online reviews, you need to ask them the right questions. The Federal Trade Commission recommends starting with these:

How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year? The more the better.

Will my project require a permit? A contractor should be familiar with federal, state and local laws and how to obtain necessary permits.

May I have a list of references? Don’t just ask for a list; contact everyone on it.

What types of insurance do you carry? Contractors should have the right business insurance, including liability and workers compensation.

Will you be using subcontractors on this project? If so, you’ll need to vet these workers too.

Why Licensing and Insurance Matter

What’s the difference between hiring a licensed versus an unlicensed contractor? Though it could save you money on the original bid to opt for a more casual arrangement, the consequences can be financially and legally brutal down the line.

As Eric Hernanz, the owner of a painting business in Portland, says, “Unlicensed contractors put their own clients at risk if someone’s injured on the job.” Hernanz experienced this personally when one of his employees broke his elbow after a nasty tumble off a ladder. The medical bills totaled $18,000, but Hernanz had a contractor’s license for his state plus the required workers compensation to cover the costs. If he hadn’t been properly licensed, the injured employee could have filed a lawsuit against the homeowner for medical expenses and missed work.

Accidents happen when it comes to home renovation and repair, so the proper licensing and accompanying insurance is one of the foremost factors to consider when you’re hiring a contractor.

Damage to Your Home and Relationship

If you hire someone you know over a licensed contractor with a proven track record, you’re risking damage to your house. With systems as delicate as plumbing, electrical, heating and support, one accident can counteract any “family and friends” discount you received on the initial bid. Not only can resulting bad blood make your professional and personal relationship extremely awkward, but issues that stem from an unlicensed contractor working on your home are not “by the book,” thus your homeowners insurance will likely not pay for the damages. Unless your acquaintance happens to be a licensed contractor with adequate experience and the proper knowledge of local permits, you’re better off vetting three to four experienced local professionals and narrowing it down from there.

Compare homeowners insurance rates through CoverHound and safeguard your home through every step of the renovation and repair process!

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