My brother is moving to the country. The house he bought needs a few repairs and updates. (Disclaimer: No, that's not a photo of my brother's new house.) My brother asked us how to find qualified trade contractors out in his rural/semi-rural area. Here's what I suggested:
1. Ask your realtor. Every realtor has a contact list full of painters, plumbers, handymen, and the like.
2. Since you're out in the sticks, some of the best contractors might not have web sites. Visit the local hardware/lumber companies in your area. Talk to the store manager and ask for references. A personal visit will get you more traction than a phone call.
3. Check out the Chamber of Commerce in the nearby towns. Reputable builder/remodelers should be members.
4. Visit the fire station and ask those guys. They know everything about everybody.
5. Drop by a local title company and the bank and ask them for references.
6. Visit the paint, hardware, farm and garden store for recommended trades.
7. There's a web site called www.nextdoor.com. You can join for free and plug into your own neighborhood. It's a great place to ask your neighbors for references.
Always ask, "Who would you hire to do work on your own house?" You'll probably want to ask who not to hire, but people might be reluctant to tell you.
Questions to ask
Be prepared with a written, prioritized scope of work for everything you want done, now and later, plus your desired timeline. Here are questions to ask a contractor.
1. How long have you worked in this business? in this area?
2. Can you provide me a list of your customer references?
3. Can you come visit and walk the job with me?
4. Will you give me a written quote?
5. How do you price your work? (For example, many builders out in more rural areas use a cost-plus method; they add a percentage markup to their out-of-pocket costs and hand you an invoice.)
6 Do you carry general liability insurance? (If not, you should consider calling somebody else.)
7. What's your availability?
8. How long will it take to complete this work?
9. Do you do the work yourself, or do you use trade contractors? Are they insured also?
10. If we agree on the scope of work and a price, what kind of contract will we sign?
11. What do you expect in the way of a deposit to get started? How will you invoice me or ask for draws?
12. What kind of paint will you use? Can you give me a color paint wheel to pick colors?
13. Where can I look at flooring samples?
Hope this helps. If you have more suggestions, we'd like to hear them.