Have a trusted professional for your home, like you have a family doctor-Have a family contractor because in an emergency you are vulnerable to being taken advantage of...use professional associations like NARI or UHA (united handyman association).
Brings us to our second story...DeSoto
Do your due diligence if remodeling, building or repairing..just because you like someone and they are saying all the right things does not mean you shouldn't check their references, licensing, insurance and bonding through the state license board you can find out if they are licensed, insured and bonded and /or if there are any complaints against them. Check with their former clients, see their work.
Virginia...I have a client who did all the right things got a referral from a trusted source, checked references and still ended up with an unfinished project that she already paid for...
Have things in writing the contract, the job specifics, the payment schedule make sure it coincides with landmarks in the project—never give anyone more than $1000.00 or 10% of total project whichever is less in California and make sure there is a final payment owing (I usually do the same as the deposit) to be due upon final walk through after punch list.
Take out permits-check with your city to see if needed for your project. They are for everyone's protection and were created to assure an average standard for the work to be done and for your safety. They serve as a record and they serve as QA.
Barksdale story of selling realtor who was being nice and had all the can lights changed out to be rated for the insulation the new buyers wanted to put in... when we went to install our work for the buyer we noticed the can lights were all cut to fit the existing opening which negated the UL rating for safety and that there was no permit. The lights had to be replaced correctly again with a permit. However if we had not noticed the issue and the house had caught fire the realtor would have been responsible as they had hired the workers and no inspections had been done to assure that the work was done properly. Ask to see the permits and to see the inspections signed off.
Lastly, often stories are of going over budget and taking longer than they should…I have actually two tips to avoid these…Riley's story of lowest price/Skogstaad of changing their mind
If a price is too good to be true it probably is...and don't change your mind these two items will help you to maintain a realistic budget and keep to your schedule.