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How to hire a contractor

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Here’s some good news if you’re planning a home improvement or remodeling project. Contractors are finding it slow going these days due to the housing slump and shaky economy. Many are taking on smaller jobs that they wouldn’t have considered before—and they’re willing to deal on pricing just to get new work.

Unfortunately, however, a softer economy also brings out unscrupulous types, warns the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, such as unlicensed individuals posing as remodelers.

Here’s how to protect yourself if you’re planning a project:

• Be sure to hire an experienced local contractor and not a fly-by-nighter. Contact state or local licensing agencies to ensure a contractor meets all requirements.

• Check with the local Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor. Check references from past customers as well.

• Get three written estimates from licensed contractors.

• Ask for proof of insurance.

• Draw up a contract before work starts. It should detail the type of work and materials and contain starting and finishing dates. The contract should also contain a warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year.

• Be wary of contractors soliciting business door to door.

• Never give a big deposit upfront. Consider putting down no more than 10 percent of the total job cost.

• Make sure you understand the financial terms of the contract and that the total price, payment schedule and any cancellation penalty are clear.

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