Planning to meet with a contractor or builder? Use this list of Contractor Vetting Questions to help guide the conversation and get all the important facts covered.

Trying to sort out the many options for your home rebuild?  Consider many before making your decision about the builder you want to work with, and even develop a 'plan B' in case the first choice doesn't work out.

What are the latest developments in energy efficient homes? Fire resistant building materials? Do some homework before planning your build!  Make sure the builder you choose is prepared to help you with these decisions.

Ask your neighbors who their builder was and find out the pros and cons of their experience. Nothing beats learning first hand about their experience and getting a personal recommendation.

Sound Advice from one of our neighbors, who learned from experience! 

If you're rebuilding a home that was completely burned, doing these things can help protect you from making a bad choice when hiring a builder. A lot of people after the Tubbs fire ended up firing (or getting ripped off by) their first builder, and having to find another one:

  1. Make sure they have built a number of complete homes, not only done remodels. Talk to a few owners of those homes and ask if they've had any problems or if they're happy. Don't just talk to the 3 happy clients whose glowing reviews are on their website.

  2. Check the contractor's license number on the CSLB website. If there are complaints, great, you found that out before you gave them money. But be warned, "no news" is not necessarily good news. If nothing bad is listed, people still may be having problems with the builder. The CSLB doesn't help as much as they say they will, and they are quite slow at getting complaints onto their website.

  3. Check Yelp, and especially the contractor's reputation among other builders in the area. Local Legal Aid lawyers will know who is having problems, and they may be able to help steer you clear of a potentially bad situation.

  4. The city inspectors know things. If they will talk, that can be helpful. Private inspectors may also know things. Find addresses of homes they've built, and look up the history of those building permits on the city website. You will be able to see what kinds of correction notices they had, and what their timelines were like.

  5. Do not choose the lowest price builder, or the one everyone is using. Contractors can easily get overwhelmed in a disaster situation, and then bail on you. Reputation is the most important thing if you don't want to have problems down the road.

  6. Get everything you agree on written into the contract. Don't depend on verbal assurances. Especially get clarity on payment schedules.

  7. Get a timeline, but realize that it will probably take longer.

  8. If you've got a good builder, be patient. Everything takes longer in a disaster.

Is your contractor reputable?

Look up your builder by name or license number to check

Look up a contractor license or Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS) registration to verify information, including complaint disclosure. Before hiring a contractor or signing a contract, CSLB recommends you read the Hiring a Contractor page.

Use this tool from the CA Dept. of Consumer Affairs to check the status of a builder’s license and see any active complaints that might be under investigation.

be diligent and forthright in discussing the funding process with your Contractor

North Coast Builder Exchange

The North Coast Builders Exchange (NCBE) is an organization dedicated to serving the construction industry in our area. Headquartered in Santa Rosa, it is a membership organization committed to helping connect valuable resources to victims of the fires. Their website has a directory, and helpful links to relevant information regarding rebuilding.

NCBE members include licensed contractors and other firms – such as architects, engineers, and building suppliers – who are affiliated with the construction industry. NCBE members specialize in every aspect of construction: from new residential and commercial construction to remodeling and repairs to existing homes and businesses. You can search their directory online for a full range of design and building needs.