Rico León, HGTV Host And Renovation Rescuer, Names Top Contractor Red Flags For Remodels

No matter how large or small the project may be, hiring a contractor to come work on your home can be a very intimidating task. Even contractors with amazing reviews and credentials can be difficult to trust. However, unless you have extensive construction, masonry, woodworking, or other experiences under your belt, it's best to get professionals involved instead of being stuck with a botched DIY.

Hiring reputable contractors is a project in itself, though. If you choose wrong, you could be left with a major, and likely expensive, mess to clean up. Fans of HGTV's newest program, "Rico to the Rescue," are familiar with renovation disasters of varying degrees. The show follows Rico León as he helps homeowners in the wake of horrible contract work recover their homes. As such, León knows exactly what red flags to look out for when hiring a contractor for your next home renovation project.

Financial issues

A bad contractor isn't just an inconvenience — it can be a major, potentially irrecoverable financial burden. This is why financial estimations and discussions can be some of the top red flags when hiring a contractor. In the episode "Ranch House Redo," the contractor's estimate was around $150,000 below what it should've been, throwing off the entire project (via Realtor.com). León says that of all the issues they had in the renovation, the contractor's biggest mistake was "not bidding [the project] correctly," which left the project unfinished and the homeowners paying more than they were prepared to.

While a low estimate can be appealing, it can mean quality is being sacrificed somewhere, either in materials or labor. Make your own estimation as to what your project should cost, and if it's significantly higher or lower, ask both yourself and your contractor why. This also goes into a lack of transparency as a red flag. Your contractor should also be able to speak openly about any snags in the project, where the money and materials are, etc. In the episode, León attempted to speak to the contractor about the uncompleted project, but the conversation went poorly when finances and repayment were brought up.

Shady business practices

You should also pay attention to how the contracting company conducts itself, as any red flags can transfer to your contractor and their work. Every contractor you work with should have a license and be insured. While a license doesn't ensure they'll do good work, it means they're at least legitimate professionals.

Being insured also adds a layer of protection to your money. If the contractor dips out or damages your home, the company's insurance can help with the associated cost. This exact scenario plays out in "Ranch House Redo," and luckily, the couple is covered. After they filed claims, León said that the issue was no longer their responsibility and instead in the insurance company's hands (via Realtor.com). Having a reputable company can also mean someone else may be able to pick up the slack if the original contractor can't.

A final red flag is how the company handles financing. Paying cash upfront is great to avoid the complications of loans, but it can also remove extra security from your payment. "...when you do a loan, the mortgage company will be on top of the contractor as well," says León. So, if a contractor or company only takes cash payments, or refuses home improvement loans, consider it a red flag.