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The autumn and winter seasons are a good time to hire for home maintenance jobs—things like painting, landscaping, masonry and “handyman” work—because many contractors aren’t booked up the way they can be during the summer months, when most people start catching up on their “to-do” lists. And in metro Denver the mild weather makes it possible to work outside almost year-round. To start, you’ll need to know how to find and hire contractors.

Finding the right pro for your project can be a daunting task: the construction industry has long been plagued by scam artists; there can be a wide range of pricing among companies with equally good ratings; and many times, an independent contractor can be the best find even though the individual doesn’t present the most professional-looking bid on paper.

Below are four quick tips to help you find the best contractor for your project.

Personal referrals from neighbors, friends and family are the most effective means to find the right person for the job. Consumers tend to rely on online ratings when choosing a product or service, and while these can be valid and helpful, it’s far better to get a referral from someone you know and preferably someone who lives in your neighborhood. A contractor who does great masonry work on a newer suburban home might not be a good choice for a historic home in the city.

Nextdoor is a free private social network that serves as a bulletin board for your neighborhood. In addition to information on free and for-sale items, crime and safety and neighborhood events, Nextdoor offers referrals from your neighbors for just about any service you can imagine. If what you’re looking for is not listed, you can post a request for referrals and even private message the neighbor for more specific information.

Websites for prescreened and customer-rated professionals such as Thumbtack can be a great place to start your search. Just type in the service you’re looking for and receive multiple bids within minutes or hours. Even if you don’t hire through a website, the bids you receive will give you a good idea of the going rate for various types of professionals—valuable information in itself. Similar sites include Home Advisor, Houzz and Porch.com

Ask your REALTOR. We have a large network of professionals we can refer you to – any good REALTOR does. Our clients tell us who they like and we keep a list of plumbers, electricians, handymen and other professionals that we provide to clients.

When hiring a contractor, remember these points:

–Don’t pay upfront. Even if the contractor requires materials for the job, in the vast majority of cases you don’t need to front the money.

–Ask for a written contract to be sure that there is a clear understanding regarding the scope of work, scheduled work dates and length of time to complete the project, as well as written confirmation that the pro is bonded and insured.

Metro Denver Luxury Homes is the real estate expert; if you would like more information on any aspect of your present or future home, please contact us.