In case you are planning an addition for a growing family or just getting new storm windows, finding a proficient and dependable contractor is the first step to a rewarding and gratifying home improvement project.
Your home might be your most important financial asset, which is why it is important to be very careful when you retain someone to work on it. Contractors usually advertise in the newspapers, the Yellow Pages, on the radio and on TV for home enhancements and repairs. However, it should not be deemed as an indication of the quality of a contractor’s work. Your should check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who have had enhancement work done. You should get written estimates from different firms and inquire about price variations. Do not automatically choose the lowest bidder.
Home Enhancement Professionals
Depending on the size and difficulty of your project, you might choose to work with different professionals:
General contractors oversee all aspects of your project, inclusive of hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining building permits, and scheduling inspections. They also work along with designers and architects.
Build Contractors give one-stop service and oversee your project from start to finish. Some companies have architects on staff, others use qualified builders.
Specialty Contractors implement particular products, such as bathroom fixtures and cabinet.
Designers have proficiency in specific areas of the home, such as baths and kitchens.
Architects draw plans for homes, additions, and major renovations. If your project involves structural changes, you may want to employ an architect who is trained in home remodeling.
Don’t Get Hammered
Not all contractors engage within the law. Here are some ideas of potential rip-offs. A less than trustworthy contractor:
Provides you discounts for locating other customers
Will only accept cash payments
Make door-to-door requests
Will claim to have extra materials from a previous job
Request for you to obtain building permits
Will not have a business number listed in the local directory
Informs you that the job will be for show only
Rushes you for prompt decision
Requires you to pay for all of the job up-front
Gives really long guarantees.
Advises you to borrow money from a loan agent that is known to the contractor. If not Cautious, you could suffer the loss of your home through this loan scheme.
Employing a Contractor
Question each contractor you’re considering. Consider the following:
To what degree have you been in business? Look for an established company and conduct due diligence with consumer protection officials. They can provide information about unresolved consumer complaints on file. Just because there are no records of a complaint does not necessarily means that there are no prior consumer problems. It could be that a problem exists but has yet been reported, or that the contractor may have several business names.
Are you registered and licensed with the state? Most states will license plumbing and electrical contractors, however, only 36 states have some form of licensing and registration statutes impacting contractors, remodelers, and/or specialty contractors. The licensing can span from simple registration to a more detailed qualification process. Also, the licensing requirement may differ in one locality from the rest of the state. Check with your building department or consumer protection agency for the necessary requirements within your area. If your states has a licensing law, request to see the contractor’s license and ensure that it s current.
Will my project need a permit? Most states and localities will need permits for building projects, even for easier jobs like decks. A proficient contractor will get all the required permits before the commencement on your project. Be very cautious if the contractor is not licensed or registered as required by your state or locality.
What is the quantity of projects similar to mine have you completed in the last year? Request a list. This will aid you in establishing how familiar the contractor is with your type of project.
May I be provided with a list of references?The contractor should be able to provide names, addresses, and phone numbers of a minimum of three clients who have projects identical to yours. Inquire about the time frame of the completed projects and request to see them. Also, inform the contractor that you would like to view jobs in progress.
Will there be subcontractors on your project? If yes, request to meet them, and ensure that they have updated insurance coverage and licenses, if needed. Also inquire if they were paid promptly by the contractor. A “mechanic’s lien” may be placed on your home if your contractor declines to pay the subcontractors and suppliers on your project. This means that the contractors and subcontractors would go to court which could force you to sell your home to cover their unpaid bills resulting from your project. Protect yourself by requesting a lien release or lien waiver from the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers.
What is the type of insurance that you carry? Contractors should have the type that covers personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Inquire about copies of the insurance certificates, and ensure that they are current. Stay away from contractors who do not have the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you will be accountable for injuries and damages that may occur during the project.
Cross Checking References
Have dialogue with some of the remodeler’s former clients. they can assist you in determining if a particular contractor is right for you. You may ask:
May I visit your home to view the completed project?
Are you satisfied with the project? And was it completed within the allotted time?
Did the contractor updated you about the status of the projects and of any issues along the way?
Were there sudden costs? If so, what were they?
Were the workers on time? Did they clean up after completing the job?
Would you recommend the contractor?
Would you use the contractor again?
Knowing Your Payment Options
There are several payment options for most home enhancement and maintenance and repair projects. For example, you can acquire a own loan or ask the contractor to organize financing for larger projects. For smaller projects , you may want to issue payment by check or credit card. Abstain from paying cash. Whatever the option chosen by you, make sure that you have a feasible payment schedule and a fair interest rate. Here are some additional tips:
Try restricting your down payment. Some state laws restrict the amount of money a contractor can request as a down payment. Contact your state or local consumer agency to locate what the law is in your area.
Try to make payments contingent upon the completion of a defined amount of work. In order that if the work is not proceeding according to plan the payments will also be delayed.
Never make a final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are contented with the work and know that the subcontractors and suppliers have all been paid. Lien laws in your state may permit subcontractors and/or suppliers to file a mechanic’s lien against your home to cover their unpaid bills. Contact your local consumer agency for an explanation of lien laws in your area.
Some state or local laws restricts the amount by which the final bill can surpass the estimate, unless otherwise, the increase was approved by you. Consult with your local consumer agency.
If there should be an issue with goods or services that you have purchased with a credit card, and you have made an effort to resolve the issue with the vendor, you have a right to hold funds from the card issuer payment for the goods or services. You restrict payment up to the amount of credit outstanding for the purchase, in addition to any finance or related charges.
Home Enhancement Loan Scam
A contractor calls or visits your home and offers to install a new roof or renovate your kitchen at a cost that appears reasonable. You acknowledge your interest, but state it is unaffordable. He expresses that it is not a problem, he can make the necessary financing through a lender he knows. You agree to the project, and the contractor commences work.
At some point after the contractor starts, you are requested to sign a lot of papers. The papers maybe incomplete or the lender may have forced you to sign before you have had time to read what was signed.
Later, the realization hits that the papers you signed are for a home equity loan. The fees, interest rates and points appears to be very high. And even worse the work on your house is unsatisfactory or is incomplete, and the contractor, who is in conjunction with the lender, has little interest in completing the work to your satisfaction.
Here is how you can protect yourself from inappropriate lending practices:
Comply to a home equity loan if you are unable to pay the monthly payments.
Sign any incomplete documents or any you have not read and fully understood.
Let anyone rush you to sign any document.
Deed your property to anyone. Consult with an attorney, a knowledgeable family member or someone that you trust. Always enquire around and compare loan terms.
Requesting a Written Contract
Contract conditions vary by state. Even if your state does not reqire a written contract, request for one. A contract defines the who, where, what, when and price of your project. The agreement should be concise, clear and complete. Make sure the contract contains:
The contractor’s personal information such as; name, address, phone , and license number, where necessary.
The payment schedule for the contractor , subcontractors and suppliers.
An approximated commencement and completion date.
The contractor’s agreement to acquire all necessary documents.
How change orders will be dealt with.
A change order – typical on most renovation jobs, is a written approval to the contractor to modify the work described in the original contract. It could impact the project’s cost and schedule. Remodelers frequently request for payments for change orders before commencement.
A comprehensive list of all materials inclusive of color, size, model, brand name, and product. Warranties covering materials and workmanship. The personal information of the parties honoring the warranties must be identified. The warranty period and any limitations must be stated.
What are the services provided by the contractor? For example, is site clean-up and trash hauling inclusive in the price? Request for a “broom clause”. It makes the contractor liable for all clean-up work, including spills and stains.
Verbal promises should be incorporated into the written contract.
A drafted statement of your right to terminate the contract within three business days if signed at home or at a location besides that of the vendor’s permanent place of business. Amid the sales transaction, the contractor must present two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and the other to return to the company) and a copy of your contract or receipt. The contract or receipt must exhibit the date, name and address of the contractor and also gives you the right to cancel.
Store all paperwork related to your project in one area. This should include all copies of the contract, change orders and correspondences with all parties involved in the project. Maintain a log or journal of all phone calls, conversations and activities. Take photographs of the job’s progression. These records are very important if you have disputes with your project, during and after construction.
Job Completion Checklist
Before final payment, ensure that the job is complete. Check that:
All work adhere to the standards drafted in the contract.
There are written warranties for materials and workmanship
There is evidence that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
The work site area has been cleaned up and cleared of excess materials, equipment and tools.
The completed project has been inspected and approved.
Where to Lodge Complaints
If there is a problem with your home improvement it is best to try to resolve it with the contractor. Follow-up with phone conversations and with a certified letter through the mail. Make sure to obtain a return receipt. This will be your evidence that the company received your letter. Keep a copy for your files.
If unresolved, consider contacting the following organizations for further information and help:
Your local Better Business Bureau.
Action line and consumer reporters.
Check with your local dispute resolution programs.
Your state or local Builders Association.
State and local consumer protection offices.