Check out the Reputation of Your Contractor before You Sign

Selecting a contractor can be a daunting task. Not only will this person become a permanent fixture in your humble abode, an adopted family member of sorts, but you are also entrusting them with your most valuable asset—your home.

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There is no need, however, to become hysterical or start blowing into a paper bag. Following a few easy steps will make the hiring process much simpler and enable you to avoid some common pitfalls.

Get the full scoop. You need to know as much about your contractor as possible before they step one steeled toe in your home. Most importantly, you need to make sure that they hold a contractor’s license in your state and that they are insured. If they don’t meet these stipulations, move on. You also need to ensure that they have experience in the task you are hiring them to do. They should be able to provide you with references and you need to check these out. Ask your friends and family if they have had a great experience with any local contractors. Ideally, your contractor should have a proven track record that you are able to verify. You can also learn a great deal about a contractor based on their online business reputation, so it is important to see what you can dig up on the internet.

Interview Like Crazy. Make sure you interview several candidates. They should be able to provide you with written estimates, but make sure that you aren’t too fixated on price. The lowest bid may not be the best deal. That contractor may be inexperienced and might have under-priced himself. This could result in the use of inferior materials, failure to pay for required permits, or other cost-cutting measures.

Get it in writing. Without a contract in place, you are leaving yourself open for miscommunication, misunderstandings, and other unpleasant surprises. The contract should spell out everything you have mutually agreed upon including the price, the timeline, materials to be used, and specifications of the work to be completed. A contract protects the interests of both parties. If the contractor does not wish to sign a contract, run the other way as quickly as possible.

Cover your butt. In some states, a mechanic’s lien can be placed on your house if the contractor or suppliers are not paid for work or materials. That’s right. If your contractor doesn’t pay for the drywall, you can be held responsible. In order to avoid this situation, you can make checks payable to the contractor and the supplier or you could pay for the materials yourself.

Watch what you pay. Before reaching into your wallet, check out your state’s regulations regarding down payments. You don’t want to fork out a large wad of cash and have a contractor pull a disappearing act. Don’t pay more than your state requires. It is also recommended that once the job is under way, you don’t pay for work that isn’t happening yet. And always hold back 15-20% of the total cost until you are completely satisfied with the final product. All of these stipulations should be in your contract, so the contractor will be prepared in advance. If your contractor balks at the inclusion of these stipulations, he is not the contractor for you.

While it is impossible to prepare for every eventuality, taking a few easy steps can take a great deal of the guesswork out of hiring a contractor. Remember that your contractor will be working for you. Take charge, ask questions, say what you want—and get it in writing.

Photo credit: Image courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/579286.
Kimberley Laws is a freelance writer, avid blogger, and novelist. She loathes her septic system and recently bid adieu to her aged oil furnace.

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