Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Fine Art of Choosing the Right Contractor

With autumn approaching, now is the time to tackle home-improvement projects. This is the season for installing decks, in-ground swimming pools and central air-conditioning. Autumn remodeling often has bargain-pricing, but choosing the right contractor for the job is truly an art form.

No matter how small the project is, hiring a contractor means giving a stranger access to your home and, in some cases, even putting the safety of your family into his or her hands. Home-improvement complaints are among the most common consumer concerns. Therefore you need to be on the lookout for red flags before you sign any contract.

Get Recommendations! Contractors build their customer base through referrals more than through any form of advertising. If you are looking for a contractor for a specific project, you probably know someone who can point you in the right direction. However, sometimes a recommendation is not enough. When you interview a potential contractor, ask for references. Professionals who cannot demonstrate that they deliver on their promises are not worth your consideration.

Ask for a detailed estimate! Once you have contacted the contractor’s references and are ready to begin a project, ask for a detailed project specification, including the price, materials, estimated completion time, work stages, and contingency plans. Contingency plans are important, because unfortunately projects rarely occur exactly as planned. You need to know in advance what the contractor will do if, for example, a need for repair arises before the original project is completed.

Require Insurance! Whenever you hire a professional to work on a home-improvement or -repair project, he or she must be insured adequately. Consider requiring proof of accident insurance that covers up to one million dollars in damage. If a contractor is not insured, you assume the risk should something go wrong. 

Get the Required Permits! To secure your interests, you as the homeowner need to request any necessary building permits. Occasionally a contractor agrees to obtain the necessary permits, does not do so, and then the homeowner is caught in the middle of a legal dispute. Many localities now require that homeowners make all the permit applications themselves. This protects the homeowner. Never make the permits someone else’s responsibility.

Hire the Best Contractor for Your Project! A carpenter may build excellent decks, but he or she probably will not be the best contractor for installing central air-conditioning. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to hire a plumber to re-wire your garage! When you are searching for a contractor, be sure to find a specialist. Some general contractors are equipped to handle nearly any home-improvement or -repair project, but they tend to overcharge and then outsource the work to sub-contractors. Find out who their sub-contractors are and contact them yourself, if possible. This could not only save you cash, but also the provide peace of mind of knowing that you have selected the right person or company for the job.

If you are considering a remodeling, repair or other home-improvement project this autumn, take your time and start planning now for a successful project. By following these tips for selecting a contractor, you will demonstrate your mastery of the art of finding the right person for the job.

Home improvements are – and should be – exciting, particularly when you are a new homeowner. Just don’t end up regretting your selection of the contractor.

Realtors like to look out for their clients’ interests. Helping you select a contractor is just one of the many ways they can help you with your home-improvement projects.


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