After you've come up with a shortlist of tradespeople who you want to work on a renovation, it's time to start checking their references. Here's how to research them so you can mitigate risk before making the choice.
Photos courtesy of Tool Crave
All tradespeople should be able to provide references from previous clients. But you need to dig deeper than a few emails and phone calls if you want insight into their true character and reputation.
Do Their Biggest Fans Love Them?
Ask your potential tradie for three references from the past five years. They will always provide their three favourite clients. Call them and ask the key questions:
- Were you satisfied with their work?
- How much did your project run over budget?
- Was the tradie and their subcontractors (subs) professional and courteous?
- Would you use them again?
It is almost guaranteed that this initial list will only contain satisfied customers. It is helpful, but doesn't provide the full picture.
Are Recent Clients Happy?
Ask your potential tradesperson for references from their last five projects. This list may or may not include names from their original reference list. Call the project owners on this list if they were not on the first list and ask them the same series of questions.
If these new references don't check out, then it's possible the tradesperson's performance has recently diminished (or that their work is more spotty).
There are many reasons why work could suffer from job to job. A one-off issue is understandable, but a trend of recent dissatisfied clients is a red flag.
What Do Suppliers Say?
Request three references from long-time material suppliers. Financial solvency is important.
Ask the supplier questions that will provide fiscal clues to how the tradesperson does business. How long have you sold them material? Do they pay their bills promptly? Would you hire them to work on your home?
Listen more than ask when talking to the suppliers and take cues on how they really feel about the tradesperson.
Are They Licensed And Insured?
Checking for a valid licence and insurance may seem like a formality, but don't let expired documents slide. Ask your tradesperson for a copy of their general liability policy. You can also request to be listed as "additionally insured" on their policy.
Expect minimal pushback from reputable tradies. The good ones have nothing to hide, and are transparent about why some jobs didn't work out as they expected. Good tradies also don't bash other rivals or previous clients. They let all of their good work speak for itself and don't waste time pulling down others or sharing grudges.
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