Spring has arrived and homeowners are faced not only with maintenance and renovations, but also repairs because of the unusually wild winter Georgia experienced this past year. BBB says consumers can save money and avoid problems when fixing up their property by shopping around and learning from multiple contractors.
The best way to save money on repairs and renovations is to avoid common scams. Experience shows that consumers who do their research are less likely to have problems and be victims of fraud.
Although some damage should be repaired as quickly as possible, consumers should know that unscrupulous, unlicensed and incompetent contractors show up in neighborhoods at this time of year, taking consumers' money, and leaving behind unfinished or substandard work.
Whether your property needs post-winter repairs, maintenance or improvement, BBB recommends consumers follow a checklist to save money and avoid problems:
Inspect your property - Check gutters, drains, trim, concrete slabs, the roof and chimney for obvious damage. Make sure pipes connected to outside faucets didn't split during the winter.
Prioritize the repair work - The ravages of winter and the spring thaw can reveal damage which, if repaired quickly, can prevent other problems. Basement flooding for example can creep into walls and framing, and cause structural damage and mold.
Contact your insurance company - Not all water or weather-related damage is covered by property insurance, however, it's worth it to check your policy. Consider adding extra coverage for the future.
Call-in the experts and compare - If you obtain three bids, you can make sure you are not overpaying and learn about the type of work that is required. Ask for and compare detailed estimates for the same work and using the same materials. Have the contractors explain what kind of work is required. If one bid is significantly higher or lower, ask why. Ensure the estimate specifies that the contractor will get required permits from your city or town hall.
Verify licensing & insurance - Check http://verify.sos.ga.gov/websites/verification/ to look up a prospective contractor's licensing. Reputable contractors also will gladly offer proof they are insured in case of an accident on your property.
Check references - Photos and web pages are not sufficient to indicate the quality of work a contractor has performed. Ask for references, and if feasible, see the work that was done in person.
Get a detailed contract - This should include start and completion dates, a description of materials and work to be done, the number of hours of labor, any guarantees or warranties on workmanship and materials, and a payment schedule. The contract should also contain all verbal promises and notice of the federal cooling-off rule that allows cancellation within three days of signing and refund of any deposit paid.
Be Aware of the Use of Sub-Contractors - People who contribute labor or materials to improve a new or existing home are allowed to file a claim of lien against the home if they do not get paid. In Georgia this claim of lien is called a materialman's or mechanic's lien. Should you have a lien place against your home, please visit http://consumer.georgia.gov/consumer-topics/liens-against-your-home for in depth information on next steps.
Pay by thirds - Pay one third of the project's cost up front to lock-in a date and allow the contractor to buy some materials to start the job, one third when the work is under way and the final third after the job is complete and you are satisfied after a walk-through and explanation of what was done.
You may check contractors' BBB Business Reviews, or select a Better Business Bureau accredited contractor at http://www.bbb.org/atlanta/accredited-business-directory.