If your property was impacted by this weekend’s storm, we hope the damage was minimal and you feel supported by the wonderful community of Santa Cruz County.

Whether (pun intended) you’re addressing storm damage, recreating a fixer-upper, or tackling a long-awaited remodel, finding a great contractor is key. Hire the wrong person, and you could reap a giant headache.

Many homeowners assume hiring a contractor is the easy part. However, the more time and effort you invest here, the happier you’ll be. “I don’t think people try half as hard as they should,” says Mike Holmes, host of the reality show Holmes on Homes. If you're considering a project for summer, now's a great time to get started on your research.

Does the contractor you’re considering show these signs?

Sign One: He or She Is the Right Expert for Your Job

For a big project, you should hire a general contractor. A general contractor will subcontract to specialists, such as electricians, glaziers, and more. For smaller projects, find an appropriate expert. This contractor should routinely do the type of project you’re undertaking.

Sign Two: He or She Is Local

If the contractor has been local for a long time, that’s even better. Local people know where to find the best deals on materials, who to subcontract with, the ins and outs of the County’s permit requirements, and more.

Sign Three: He or She Is Busy

This is another reason to begin your research early. Good contractors have a full schedule; they're in demand. Be patient, because the work will be worth the wait. Note that contractors are typically less busy during the winter months.

Sign Four: He or She Passes the BBB Test

Check the Better Business Bureau. It’s easy to find out if a contractor is in good standing. Simply enter their license number, which should be on their website and business cards. The BBB tells about current or resolved lawsuits, complaints, and other red flags.

Note that complaints are not necessarily a deal breaker. Conflict happens easily when something as personal and costly as one’s home is involved. Instead, observe how the contractor resolves conflict. If he responds reasonably, apologizes for mistakes, and makes things right, he’s a good candidate.

Sign Five: He or She Is Willing to Provide a Detailed Contract

A good contractor won’t balk at your desire to have everything clearly spelled out in a detailed contract. It’s common to run into unexpected expenses, especially with a major remodel. Contractors advise clients to assign 20 percent of their budget to these unforeseen expenses. But you want to know the base cost of materials and labor, as well as deadlines and progress payments. And you should not feel penalized for wanting to add any details that concern you.

Sign Six: He or She Has Excellent References

A sure sign of a great contractor is many references, who are eager to rave. Interview at least three, and try to find references you know. Friends, family, and neighbors are invested in you, and may be more honest than a stranger. Yelp reviews are also helpful, but there’s no substitute for a real conversation.

Don’t hesitate to drill down. Ask if the crew showed up on time, respected scheduling requests, and cleaned up adequately.

Find out what it was like to work with the contractor. Was he or she open, honest, and trustworthy?

Ask if the work exceeded the budget, and if so, why. How long ago was the project completed? Is the reference still happy with the work? The more information you can gather, the more confident you’ll be with your decision.

Like most realtors, we can recommend some great contractors. If you’re having trouble finding one, feel free to call us at (831)818-4321 or contact us here.