When selecting a contractor to renovate parts of your home before selling, you'll want to find someone who is reputable.

Not only can substandard work be dangerous and unappealing, but it can also turn away buyers if such errors are discovered during the home inspection. Choosing from many contractors is not always an easy task, especially given the many factors you have to consider. In addition to price, you have to think about a contractor's expertise, referrals, previous work and additional history. Here are some steps to follow when selecting the contractor who is going to help you get the most out of your home sale:

Research various sources

The phonebook and Internet are full of available contractors who are willing to update your home. However, picking the first name that comes up is not the best route to take. While this method can be a good first step, go a bit further and read reviews and ratings for contractors you find.

If you have friends and family who have recently had some work done on their home, ask them for a reference. With personal references, you will likely get a more in-depth understanding of the quality of the work done, whether the project was completed on time and generally how a contractor operated in the home.

In addition to researching contractors, make sure that you look into average costs for the work you want completed as well as the materials that may be needed. This information will come in handy for the next step.

Conduct interviews

Once you've narrowed down a list of a few viable contractors -  three is usually a good number - you can begin to interview your choices. When listening to their bids for total costs, ask for an itemized list of each individual expense and reference their prices against the information from your research. This can help you determine if the bid is too high based on other factors discussed in the interview.

Ask about the contractors' expertise. If you want to have the kitchen updated, a contractor who has been working on decks for 40 years may not be the best choice. Also inquire about properties the contractors have previously renovated. If possible, visit these properties to get a first-hand look at the quality you can expect.

While interviewing, look out for a few red flags:

  • Turn down bids where a contractor wants to be paid in full before work is completed. Contractors who ask for too much up front - typically more than a third - should also be avoided, as you could invest too much money into a project that doesn't turn out as planned.
  • Be wary of contractors who don't have any of their own references.
  • Stay away from contractors who don't want you around the property while they're working.

Make a choice and sign a contract

Once you have found a contractor that seems trustworthy and appears to meet your project's needs, you can sign a contract. No matter how small the work may be, you'll want to have an itemized, written contract that includes the work to be completed, the estimated completion date and both the total price and price for each item that comprises the total.

Sometimes poor contractors know how to sell themselves, and you'll need that contract to legally protect you and your home if things go awry, including such projects as those that don't meet the deadline or fall apart after completion.