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Home Improvement and Repairs - Hiring a Contractor

Oct 12, 2007
Hiring a competent and reliable contractor is essential to making sure that the job is done right. While it may seem as if it should be as easy as opening the yellow pages and choosing one in your area, smart homeowners know that finding a good contractor takes as much time and effort as other aspects of your remodeling job.

Remember, the person you choose to do the work for you will have complete access to your home and family for several days or even weeks, so you must be completely comfortable with having them in your home for an extended period of time. The best way to find a contractor that you can trust is to:

-Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers for referrals
-Check references with people the contractor has done work for in the past
-Ask salespeople at the local lumber yard or home renovation center who they recommend
-Check with your local zooming and/or code enforcement office for a list of licensed contractors in your area

Once you find a few contractors that you'd like to consider using for your remodeling project, it's time to schedule an interview. The Federal Trade Commission suggests that homeowners ask the following questions to determine if a contractor is right for you and your project:

-How Long Have You Been In Business?
-Are You Registered and Licensed With the State and Local Building Authorities?
-How Many Projects Like Mine Have You Completed in the Past Year?
-May I Contact Some of Your Former Clients?
-Will You Be Hiring Any Subcontractors for This Project?
-What Types of Insurance Do You Carry?

Once you've chosen your new contractor, be sure to insist that you get all the details of your project (including price and delivery estimates/completion dates), in writing before paying any deposits. A written contract is essential to ensuring that the work is done properly and on time.

Unfortunately, not every contractor is reputable, and homeowners need to be on the look-out for potential rip-offs. Here are a few things to watch for when hiring a contractor:

-Door-to-door solicitation.
-Offers to use leftover materials from another job.
-A contractor who only accepts cash payments.
-Someone who insists on receiving payment in full before commencing work.
-Pressure to make an on-the-spot decision.
-Offers to help you secure financing with their own "lender".

Hiring a reputable contractor seems like it should be easy, but oftentimes it isn't. Homeowners should be aware of the dangers of hiring the wrong person to work on their home and take all necessary steps to ensure that the work is completed to their specifications, timetable and budget.
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