Open up the Yellow Pages or do a Google search for any home improvement contractor–a garage remodeler or a landscaper, for example–and you’ll be swimming in choices. But not all of them will be good choices; there will be a fair amount of home improvement contractors that are not properly licensed or insured. And there will be a fair amount that cannot follow through or perform at the level promised. Some may not even be in business anymore.
So, you need to remember some key tips when looking for a home improvement contractor for your next project, whether it’s installing outdoor lighting, making over a garage or reroofing the house:
- Take recommendations on home improvement contractors from people you trust. For example, if you know someone who has had an irrigation system or permanent garage shelving installed and you like the results, find out who did the work. And then ask a lot of questions: Was the home improvement contractor on time? Did they stick to the budget? Did they show proof of current insurance and licensing when asked? Were they nice about it?
- Thoroughly check out any home improvement contractor with which you’re thinking of doing business. See if the home improvement contractor is registered with the Better Business Bureau and if any complaints are on file. Then make sure the home improvement contractor has a permanent place of business, a tax id number and proper business licensing. Do not get involved with any fly-by-night home improvement contractors, who may be looking to make a quick buck (not having a permanent place of business or any “trail” is a sign that a contractor may not be legitimate).
- Get at least three quotes on any job, and ask for references. A legitimate home improvement contractor will be ready with references and won’t balk at a homeowner taking precautions.
- Never, never put down a large sum of money up front, no matter what a home improvement contractor says is “policy.” A lot of scam artists operate this way; in your contract, agree to pay only once a job is complete or for the portion of the project that has been satisfactorily completed.
- Don’t go with a home improvement contractor on price alone. Evaluate your home improvement contractor based on their professionalism, previous project quality and past client satisfaction (references). By and large, you get what you pay for. Don’t get sucked in on a low price alone-and be particularly suspicious if a home improvement contractor charges significantly less than competitors for similar work.