How to Hire the Right Contractor or Remodeler

Two Methods:Before you hire a Contractor or Remodeler:Once you have chosen a Contractor or Remodeler

Are you planning to hire someone to work on your home or property? If so, you will need to do some homework. While the law provides some protection from fraudulent or incompetent contractors, it doesn't guarantee honest transactions or perfect performance.[1] Protect your investment by being an informed, cautious consumer.



Method 1
Before you hire a Contractor or Remodeler:

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    Plan your project carefully. If you know what you want done and can clearly explain it, you're less likely to misunderstand instructions or encounter cost overruns.
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    Interview several qualified registered contractors and solicit written bids.
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    Verify that the contractors you are considering are registered by looking them up online. You can do this by typing ("your state" contractor lookup) into your favorite search engine.
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    Ask for references and then check them out. If possible, view the work, visit a site with work in progress and interview the homeowner.
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    Ask for references of suppliers that the contractor works with and check out his or her payment record.
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    Ask for a copy of the contractor's license and insurance policy to verify what is covered.
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    Do an Internet search on the owner's name to look for general comments that might be posted.
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    Evaluate all the aspects of the bids, including the scope of work, warranties, references, time frames and price.
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    Ask the Contractor if they would be willing to submit to a back round check. Sometimes the reaction to the question is enough.
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    Request that the contractor post a performance bond for the entire cost of the project if it is more than $6,000.
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    Try to anticipate problems and inconveniences, such as cost overruns or cleanup, and come to an agreement with your contractor on how they will be handled before the work begins.

Method 2
Once you have chosen a Contractor or Remodeler

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    Obtain a written contract that includes price, payment terms, sales tax, permit fees (if applicable), the specific work to be performed, materials to be used, warranties and start and end date. It is also a good idea to include change-order processes, final review and sign-off procedures and cleanup.
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    Ask for a disclosure statement prior to work starting. Sample disclosure statements are available from your state's governing office.
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    Make frequent inspections and consult your local building department about required permits. Make sure that all permits are in place and that inspections are in order.
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    When advancing money for materials, it may be possible to make checks payable to both the contractor and the supply house or to pay the supply house directly.
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    Put all change orders in writing and ask questions as work progresses. Avoid verbal contracts, and be very cautious about paying for work that has not been completed.
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    Request signed lien releases from all major subcontractors and suppliers on your job before making final payments.

Tips

  • Make sure the contractor is currently registered and for how long.
  • Ask for the legally required disclosure statement that advises consumers about lien releases.
  • Protect yourself with permits. Contact your local city or county Building Department.
  • Verify that the contractor has workers compensation insurance for his or her employees.
  • It's usually a good idea to check with your local Better Business Bureau

Warnings

  • Be wary of contractors who:

    • Provide credentials or references that cannot be verified.
    • Offer a special price only if you sign today or use other high-pressure sales techniques.
    • Accept only cash, require large deposits or the entire cost up front or ask you to make the payment in their name.
    • Do not provide a written contract or complete bid.
    • Ask you to pick up the building permit. In most instances, the contractor is required to take out the permits. Permits are your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes.
    • Offer exceptionally long warranties.
    • Want to do most or all the work on weekends and after-hours.
    • Give you an offer that sounds "too good to be true."


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