How did we select our contractor?

selecting a contractor

We are often asked for recommendations for contractors. We do not make it a practice to make such recommendations since if something goes awry, it could negatively impact our relationships with our borrowers. We allow our borrowers to select their own contractors, but we require the following:

The contractor must be licensed, bonded, and insured. This information will be confirmed—you cannot just take someone’s word on this. There is far too much risk associated with going any other route. The homeowner will end up holding the bag if the project does not meet code, if a worker is injured on the homeowner’s property, etc. The homeowner will also assume liability for payment to subcontractors. It may be tempting to hire someone who is unlicensed but comes highly recommended—but the potential pitfalls far outweigh any cost savings. Maryland’s Department of Labor provides a home improvement public query that enables members of the general public to check to ensure that a prospective contractor has an active license. The state of Maryland requires that only Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) licensed contractors enter into contracts with homeowners to perform home improvement work.

We must be provided with references for the contractor if it is someone with whom we are not familiar, and we will call those references. We will be asking the following questions of the references and more:

  • Did the contractor perform the work within the budget?
  • Did the contractor perform quality work?
  • Did the contractor meet the timing requirements?
  • Did the contractor use subcontractors with whom he has experience?


We will ask to see photos of the contractor’s past work. This mitigates the risk that the references provided are not being forthcoming regarding any negative experiences.

We will check for any negative reviews. While you certainly cannot make everyone happy, a negative review should be the exception rather than the norm. Note also that anyone may check a contractor’s complaint history by calling the state of Maryland’s Home Improvement Commission, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., at the following telephone numbers: 1-888-218-5925 (toll free) or 410-230-6309 (Baltimore area), or by sending an e-mail to Complaints closed within the last three fiscal years are reportable to the public.

We will ask to meet with the proposed contractor in person.

We will ask to review the written contract between the contractor and the owner.

We recently moved into new office space that required renovation before occupancy. In selecting the contractor for the work, we based our selection on the following:


  • The contractor is someone with whom we were already familiar and whose work we had seen numerous times.
  •  The contractor is easily accessible to the project owner. All too often, calls from project owners to their contractors go unanswered or are not answered promptly.
  • The contractor is someone who uses a regular team of workers—not a rotation of unfamiliar faces.
  • The contractor is someone whose team has specialties—someone on the team is particularly skilled with painting, someone on the team is particularly skilled with floor installation, etc.
  • The contractor is someone who takes personal responsibility for the projects for which he is hired and can often be found onsite checking the work of his team.
  • The contractor’s skills are robust enough to guide us through the project and head off any mistakes of our making. For example, when selecting doors, he pointed out which way they needed to swing in order to improve flow.
  • The contractor is someone who does not take too many jobs at the same time (those who do end up being pulled in too many different directions and deadlines tend to become far too fluid).