Do's and Dont's for Choosing the Right Contractor
Americans spend billions of dollars on construction and home remodeling each year. Many homeowners have discovered that improving their present residence can be a more prudent investment than purchasing a new residence!
However, adding a room or updating a kitchen can cost more than a new car, and consumers should take some time and care in planning a costly home improvement project. Unfortunately, most consumers spend less time choosing a contractor than they do choosing a car.
Here is a checklist of important things to consider before starting any major construction project:
- Plan your project carefully.
- Get a referral or shop around before hiring a contractor.
- Get at least three written bids on your project.
- Provide all contractors with accurate plans or drawings that will enable them to determine the scope and cost of work when requesting bids.
- Check with the Contractors State License Board to make sure the contractor is properly licensed, and to check the status and disciplinary history of the license.
- Check out contractors with your local building department, trade associations or unions, consumer protection agency, and the Better Business Bureau.
- Look at work the contractor has completed.
- Ask your contractor to furnish a completion or contract bond.
- Consult with more than one lending institution regarding the type of loan to obtain.
- Make sure your contract provides for "retention," a percentage of each payment or of the total job (ordinarily 10%), which you retain until the job is completed.
- Make sure everything you and your contractor have agreed to is included in your contract, and don't sign anything until you understand and agree with all terms.
- Ask your contractor about inconveniences that may occur, and plan accordingly.
- Keep a job file.
- Do make sure you receive unconditional lien releases from subcontractors and material suppliers.
- Make frequent inspections of the work, including a final walk-through.
- Consult an attorney if a mechanics' lien is filed against your property.
- Negotiate with the contractor first if problems or disagreements occur.
- Don't hire an unlicensed contractor.
- Don't hire a contractor without first shopping around.
- Don't be fooled or pressured by a smooth-talking salesperson. Take the time and effort to make sure that the person or business doing your home improvement is going to perform in a professional manner.
- Don't act as an owner/builder, unless you are very experienced in construction.
- Don't sign anything until you completely understand it and agree to the terms.
- Don't make agreements with subcontractors or workers without consulting the prime contractor.
- Don't pay cash without a proper receipt.
- Don't make a down payment that exceeds the legal limit (check local laws).
- Don't let your payments get ahead of the contractor's completed work.
- Don't hesitate to ask questions of the contractor.
- Don't make final payment until you are satisfied with the job.
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Provided courtesy of Helene Kelbaugh with
Keller Williams Realty Baltimore
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