Thinking About a Home Improvement? Don't Get Nailed

If you are thinking about making improvements to your home, selecting a contractor is the first and most important step in the process. The following tips and checklist will help you along.

Don’t assume that all contractors who advertise in the ´´home improvement´´ section of the Yellow Pages are reputable. Check out contractors with the Better Business Bureau. You’ll find out if there are any unresolved consumer complaints on file.

Ask friends, relatives and co-workers for recommendations.

Ask contractors if there’s a charge for an estimate before allowing them in your home.

Get written estimates from at least three firms. Ask for explanations for price variations.

Don’t automatically choose the lowest bidder.

Be skeptical of contractors who come to your door unsolicited or offer reduced prices because they’ve just completed work nearby and have materials left over.

Beware of contractors who ask you to pay for the entire job up front. Your down payment should not be more than one-third of the total price.

Pay only by check or credit card, not cash.

Be cautious about using your home as security for a home improvement loan. If you fail to repay the loan as agreed, you could lose your home.

Have a knowledgeable friend, relative or your attorney review the contract before you sign. If you get a loan to pay for the work, consider having these documents reviewed as well.

Check Out Your Contractor
Ask the contractor for the following information. Use it to check out the contractor with appropriate authorities and previous customers. If the contractor is reluctant to give you this information, consider doing business with another company.

An unsigned copy of the contract

A copy of the estimate

Contractor’s name

Street address (no P.O. Box)

Telephone Number

Number of years contractor has been in business

Names, addresses and telephone numbers of previous customers. Ask them about their experiences with the company. If possible, visit a completed job.