As homeowners, we take pride in our home’s appearance and condition, and we do our best to keep it well-maintained throughout the years. And if you haven’t already done so, you will surely at some point find yourself in a position that will require you to hire a contractor. Whether it is a renovation, repair, or addition, a licensed contractor is essential to your decision-making prior to starting any home project. However, choosing a reputable and reliable contractor is one of the most challenging tasks to undertake. Many of us have heard the horror stories from family or friends about contractors over-charging, taking forever to complete a project, or leaving clients frustrated and dissatisfied in the end.
Although the reputation of a few bad apples clouds the waters for the rest of the industry, it is important to remember that there are plenty of individuals who take pride in their work and their reputation as a licensed contractor. We recommend asking your family, friends, or neighbors for previous contractors they have worked with, we well as their thoughts. Also, with access to the internet readily available, there are numerous sites that provide reviews and rankings for many local contractors. You may also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any official complaints made against the contractor or organization. Lastly, keep an eye on how many years the contractor you’re considering has been in business, as well as their contractor’s license. If a contractor does not have a website or cannot be found on search engines, or if they do not provide you with their contractor’s license number, then they are more than likely an inexperienced or unlicensed contractor.
You should feel comfortable when making important decisions such as your home improvement project. One of the best ways to protect yourself is through thorough research. Do your Homework! Take your time and make sure to ask the right questions when inviting a contractor into your home. Be better prepared when walking through a demonstration by having preset questions for the contractor such as expected time of completion and alternative designs or options.
After you have spoken with the contractor, take your time reviewing the contract and make sure you are satisfied with all the responses you were given. Be sure that all costs have been included and that there are no hidden charges. Even though it is a legally binding contract that protects you, a lot of times some contractors try to take advantage by “hiding” essential information. The contract should be as detailed as possible as far as explaining exactly what is being done and paid for. The contract should include the following: name, address, contact information, and contractor’s license number of the contractor performing the project, when the project will begin and expected timeline, what exactly will be done to your home including specific materials, styles and/or colors, payment schedule and method, and instructions on how to cancel the contract.
One important thing to note is that most of the time a down payment is required to get a job started. Do not be fooled into paying the entire cost or too much upfront. Many states have laws that limit the maximum amount of down payment a contractor can request. It is also important that your contract include a payment schedule so you are not hit with any unexpected requests. Lastly, you should never make your final payment until the job is entirely finished and you are completely satisfied with everything that has been done to your home.
It is extremely important that you do your homework when finding the right person to work on your home. Remember to view a copy of their license, ask for references, and most importantly, use your instincts to help you. Consider that you will be letting this person into your home, and although they may not be there for too long, the work that they leave behind will be a part of your home for many years to come, so take your time and choose wisely.
Here are some sites that might help you:
Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/
Contractors State License Board: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
Contractor’s License Reference Site: http://www.contractors-license.org/
State Consumer Protection Offices: https://www.usa.gov/state-consumer