Hiring a Home Contractor - Do You Know the Red Flags?

3/1/2012

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Whether you are looking to have your home windows replaced, new siding installed on your garage or a pool built for the summer months ahead, it’s always important to find a home contractor that you can trust. Better Business Bureau recommends following this smart shopper checklist before choosing a contractor for your home.

In 2011, BBB received more than 6,000 complaints against general contractors, which was up 11% from the previous year. While there are many trustworthy and reliable contractors out there, there are always those unscrupulous few that end up charging too much and doing too little…or nothing at all.

“You want a home contractor you can trust, so watch out for red flags from those  just looking to make a quick buck,” said Katherine Hutt, spokesperson for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “Be especially wary of doing business with a contractor who solicits business door-to-door. This could mean that the contractor is not from a local, established business and is instead just passing through and trying to scam innocent consumers.”

BBB advises consumers to follow this smart shopper checklist before choosing a home contractor:

Be picky and have lots of options. Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Homeowners should discuss bids in detail with each contractor and ask questions about variations in pricing. The lowest-priced contractor may not be the best. 

Make sure they are certified and insured. Consumers should ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage. Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city. Check with local authorities to find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.

Get everything in writing. Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. Read and understand the contract before signing. Get all verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract.

Remember the rule of thirds and follow it.  Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.

BBB has Business Reviews on more than 100,000 general contractors across North America, available for free at www.bbb.org/search.
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