How to Choose a Contractor

Selecting a New Mexico Licensed Contractor

Make sure the contractor is licensed with the Construction Industries Division (CID). A contractor’s license is required for any business or individual which bids on a project, or does construction, alteration, demolition, installation, or remodeling. Some examples are painting, paving, roofing, carpentry, siding, plumbing, electrical, mechanical, and general building work.

Verify the validity of the contractor’s license. Call the CID office to determine if the contractor is licensed and what he/she is licensed to do.


Find the Right Person for the Job

Develop a list of potential contractors

Ask friends, neighbors, relatives, and co-workers who they have used. Find out if their experiences were good or bad and why. Ask if they would use the contractor again.

Ask contractors for references

Call your potential contractors and ask for a list of their customers. Call references and ask whether they were satisfied with the job done, if the contractor kept to the agreed-upon schedule and budget, and whether they would hire the same contractor again.

Ask which trade associations the contractor belongs

Homebuilding and remodeling are professional work. Membership in a professional association is one sign the contractor recognizes the responsibilities of being a professional.


Make Sure to Obtain and Evaluate Bids

Ask for a free written estimate of the work you want done. Be sure everyone is bidding on the same exact scope of work and including the exact materials you want. If one contractor is bidding top-of-the-line materials and another bottom-of-the-line materials, this could account for a big difference in price and may not be obvious: be sure all quotes are in writing and include specifics of what you have asked for.

Remember “you get what you pay for” applies to home construction and improvement.   A higher bid may be worth the price for better workmanship and contractor reliability. When a contractor has bid too low to make a profit, he may use cheaper materials, take shortcuts, or walk off the job to take another project.

Make sure you understand the different types of bids you receive. Be careful about hiring a contractor on an hourly time-and-materials, or cost-plus basis. Although the price may seem high at first, a fixed-price bid may give you the best protection and price. Also beware of “special deals,” “demonstration projects,” or “a great deal from a friend of a friend.”


Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Contractor

  • What experience, expertise and/or certification do you have? Do you specialize?
  • Who will be doing the actual work- you personally, your employees, or subcontractors? Who will oversee the day-to-day job? (You may really like the contractor, but that person may not be the one performing or supervising the work.)
  • How many other jobs will you be working on at the same time as mine? (If there are several, yours may not get the attention you want. On the other hand, the contractor’s business may be large and he may be able to handle several jobs.)
  • How long will the job take? What kind of mess, noise, and inconvenience should I expect? What problems may come up?
  • Does hiring this contractor feel right? (Use intuition – if you do not feel comfortable, find someone else.)
  • Do I have rapport with this contractor? Am I confident in his expertise and ideas? Does he care about my concerns? Will he be reliable, keep his appointments, and return my telephone calls?
  • Can I work with this person for a period of time? (If you are having major remodeling done, this person may be in your home for weeks/months.)
  • Can I communicate with this person? Does he seem honest and forthright? (The contractor may be top-notch at the trade, but if the final product is not what you expected, you will not be happy.)
  • Can I be reasonable and let my contractor work without calling every other hour? Do I realize he cannot return my calls within minutes because he has other jobs and a personal life?
  • Am I willing to be reasonable about unexpected costs that arise and to let my contractor make a profit?
  • Am I ready for the unexpected, such as digging into solid rock, finding asbestos in the walls, etc.? Can I be flexible when the job takes longer than expected?
  • Are my expectations so high that I will never be satisfied with my contractor?
Please remember: Asking questions before signing a contract, and certainly before the project starts, can help prevent surprises later.