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Choose the right contractor for your home improvement project

Avoid problems later by doing your research first

With warm weather on the way, many homeowners will hire a con- tractor to repair the roof, remodel a room or handle other home maintenance work. While most contractors are licensed and do quality work for the fees they charge, some are merely con artists who may overcharge, per- form inferior work or demand payment without completing the job.

Here are several tips that can help you find the right contractor for your next home improvement project:

□             Get recommendations from your family and friends.

□             Only deal with licensed, bonded and insured contractors. Check with your local Better Business Bureau or home builders association to see if they have received any negative comments about the contractor you are considering.

□             Ask the contractor for the names and contact information for several recent customers and follow up with them to verify the contractor’s record. Legitimate companies give you time to verify references and background.

□             If you need to get a loan to pay for the work, consider asking an attorney to review the loan documents before you sign. Also, be cautious when using your home as security for the loan.

□             Get a written cost estimate for the work to be done from more than one contractor; ask if the contractor charges for estimates. Don’t automatically choose the contractor who gives you the lowest price for the work– price should not be the only reason to choose one contractor over another.

□             Don’t deal with a contractor who asks for the entire fee up front. Many contractors ask for a percentage of the total fee as certain stages of the project. Make sure you have a written agreement that spells out in detail when payments are to be made. Don’t pay cash–only pay by check or credit card so that you will have a permanent record of your payment.

□             Before signing any contract, read it thoroughly and ask a knowledgeable friend, relative or attorney to read it. The contract should include a notice of cancellation form, which gives you three days to cancel if you change your mind. Make sure to get a copy of the final contract.

□             Be skeptical if the contractor urges you to spend a lot of money on temporary fixes for your problem.

If you believe that a contractor is operating dishonestly or if you want to file a complaint, call the consumer division of your state attorney general’s office.

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