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(Credit: David Benthal)

If you’re like some North Fork homeowners, you’re using the off-season to begin home improvement projects you’ve been putting off, or noticing areas of the home that are starting to look in need of a little TLC.

The issue many might run into? How to find and vet local contractors. Some longtime homeowners might have a list of providers they’ve used in the past. For those new to the North Fork, trusting your project to another set of hands can be a daunting task.

The good news: It doesn’t have to be if you follow a few steps.

Begin by asking your friends and neighbors for recommendations, says Marianne Collins, a licensed real estate salesperson with Brown Harris Stevens. You’ll want to describe your project and ask questions that get to the heart of what matters to you. Staying within budget, meeting deadlines and being communicative are key.

She also suggests speaking with providers you already use.

“If you trust your electrician,” she says, “they likely know a good carpenter or two and vice versa.” 

Once you’ve got your list of contractors, speak to several of them so you can confirm your project fits with what they do. Then meet them at your property to go over the expected scope of the project. 

“Ask for references, and check them,” Collins said. “Obtain estimates from at least three. Some, depending on the scope, may work on a ‘time plus materials’ basis; ask about rates and billing schedules. Confirm they are licensed and insured.”

Carol Szynaka, East End sales manager at Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International, says the three most important things to discuss with a contractor are timing, budget and quality.

“You can have any two,” she says. “If you want quality and you want it fast you have to pay. If you want quality and a good price be prepared to wait. If you want if you want it fast and cheap understand you will be sacrificing top quality.”

It also helps to be prepared once the project is set to start.

“Know what materials and fixtures you want to use and have them available to the contractor before they need them so they don’t have to chase you and you don’t have to make snap decisions that you might later regret,” Szynaka says. “Keep changes to a minimum. Most importantly keep your eyes on the project. If a decision about the project has to be made you want to have good communication with your contractor.”

Finally, it helps to be patient.

“Quality contractors are in demand, now more than ever,” says Collins. “Combine that with supply chain issues and you may be looking at scheduling several months out.”