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Big Island

How to Select a Good Contractor in Hawaii

Whether you’re building or remodeling your own home it can seem daunting to find a good contractor, especially if you are new to Hawaii. Many Hawaii property buyers opt to purchase vacant land, like this 1.3-acre Kohala Waterfront property that offers stunning ocean views, so they can build their own home. When it comes time to find a contractor, where do you start? How can you tell if they’re dependable and reputable?

Kohala Waterfront MLS 291727

Kohala Waterfront property (MLS# 291727)

Because I’ve spent 38 years selling construction materials to contractors here on the Big Island (in addition to selling real estate), I’m frequently asked advice on finding a good contractor. Here are my best tips:

1. First off, keep in mind that the cheapest price is not always the best deal. I’ve seen so many people go for the cheapest priced bid when hiring someone to do a building or remodeling job only to wind up crying over cost over-runs and poorly done work.

2. Remember too that because the Big Island is so large, most contractors are geographic, meaning that some builders will only work within a certain radius of their business. For example, Hilo contractors tend to not do work on the westside because of the time and travel costs involved. There are builders that will not build in Waikoloa because of the wind while other builders will not build in Waimea because of the rain and the wind.

3. When looking for a contractor that works in your area, get the names of two to three companies and have them provide written estimates for the work you want done. Ask each of the contractors for references and check to see if they were professional, completed the work on time, and how they resolved any issues that arose in the building process.

4. By all means find a licensed contractor in good standing. There are several easy and free ways you can check out a contractor before hiring them.

Hawaii Island Contractor’s Association

The Hawaii Island Contractor’s Association (HICA) website includes a business directory containing the names of various trades people, including plumbers, electricians, general contractors, and certified arborists. Homebuilders can learn about the types of licenses that the builder has as well as whether the contractor does commercial or residential work. You can contact HICA at (808) 935-1316 or visit their website.

Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Before hiring a contractor you’ll want to check their business status with the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA). The DCCA is particularly helpful because they offer a number of resources to help you check out a company that you want to do business with. For example – does the contractor owe taxes? Do they have lawsuits against them? Have they had their license revoked or suspended? DCCA also offers a helpful checklist for hiring licensed contractors in Hawaii.

• DCCA’s business complaint history search allows you to search Office of Consumer Protection complaints, as well as research licensee complaint history.

• It’s usually a good idea to do a business name search before hiring someone. Check out how long they’ve been in business, the names of the business owners, and previous names of the business. You can use these names to conduct a business company search.

• In Hawaii, general contractors, plumbers, electricians and other skilled trades people need to be licensed. DCCA’s website lets you do a quick Professional and Locational License search. The information is updated every weekday so you can see the latest information on whether a contractor has a license or not.

DCCA also provides these services by phone at (808) 587-4272.

Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce

West Hawaii has a large and very active chamber of commerce. Even if you’re not a member, Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) offers a variety of resources for folks looking to build their own home. You can search KKCC’s online member directory and their annual business resource guide The Source is available online and in print.

The Chamber also hosts the only home show on island with their annual KKCC Building and Design Expo. In the past, the Expo was held in the summer or fall, but starting this year, it switched to February in order to accommodate seasonal second-home owners. The next Design Expo is February 12 – 14 at the Sheraton Kona Resort in Keauhou and if you’re considering upcoming home building or remodeling projects, it’s a great event to check out.

Word of Mouth

Another good way to find a contractor is old-fashioned word of mouth. If you’re working with an architect, he or she may already know several reputable contractors with whom they have a good working relationship.

Want to Know More?

If you’d like to learn more about vacant land for sale in Kohala Waterfront and elsewhere along the Kohala Coast, or have questions about finding a building contractor, call me today at (808) 557-2237 or email MBates@HawaiiLife.com. You can also contact co-listor Julie Keller, R(B), at (808) 987-7931 or email Julie@HawaiiLife.com.

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Mihaela Stoops

February 4, 2016

Aloha Michael, this is an excellent blog for those thinking of building in the islands. I would suggest that criteria #4 becomes #1. One should ALWAYS employ licensed contractors. The area and the price are very important, but they will not mean anything if one works with unlicensed contractors. It may be because I am a young woman ( ha ha :-))) that when asked if they are licensed, some answer: yes, I have a GET license. We ALL have a GET license. The question is if one has a CONTRACTORS LICENSE.

I also think that knowing how long a contractor has been licensed in Hawaii is also relevant. Many people in this business come from the mainland and end up going back. So when a problem arises, try and find someone to help…

Mihaela Stoops

February 4, 2016

Aloha Michael, this is an excellent blog for those thinking of building in the islands. I would suggest that criteria #4 becomes #1. One should ALWAYS employ licensed contractors. The area and the price are very important, but they will not mean anything if one works with unlicensed contractors. It may be because I am a young woman ( ha ha :-))) that when asked if they are licensed, some answer: yes, I have a GET license. We ALL have a GET license. The question is if one has a CONTRACTORS LICENSE.

I also think that knowing how long a contractor has been licensed in Hawaii is also relevant. Many people in this business come from the mainland and end up going back. So when a problem arises, try and find someone to help…

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