To Enlarge or Renovate Your Home, Hire an “Ombudsman” First!

Real Estate Sales Representative with William Raveis Real Estate

It was more than 40 years ago, but I still feel the sting of being swindled by an unscrupulous home improvement contractor.

As a young couple, my wife and I had just managed to qualify for a mortgage and cobble together enough money for a down payment to buy our large historic house that at that time was in fairly poor condition. We didn’t have much money left for needed improvements but it was essential to renovate the mudroom which was literally falling off the house. It was the main entrance from the driveway to the kitchen and needed the works: a cement floor, new framing, roof, new door, insulation, a half bath, and closet.

Our friends Linda and Michael who had moved to Westchester just before us recommended a contractor who gave us a quote of $2,000 for job and told us he required a $500 deposit to pay for materials. Naïve as we were, we went with him, not knowing whether he was licensed or checking other references. He took our check, cashed it quickly, and we never saw him again.

Recently in the White Plains edition of this newspaper, I read about a new service that guards against this kind of thing happening to other homeowners who may be as naïve as I was then and, in many ways, still am. I thought it would be a good idea to share this information with other readers because so often I receive complaints about unsatisfactory home improvement jobs.

Called the Homeowners Ombudsman Program, the service was created by Richard Cirulli of Kymar Limited, a White Plains-based construction management company. Cirulli, who holds a doctorate degree in engineering, has spent over 30 years in facilities and construction management for major companies, and now in his own business, offers himself as an ombudsman, or advocate, to homeowners to protect themselves from making mistakes when renovating their homes.

“I should be the first person homeowners call when planning a home improvement, not a contractor,” Cirulli says. “For a reasonable consulting fee, an ombudsman can prevent a homeowner from the pitfalls so common to the industry. For instance, such an advocate knows enough to ask the contractor which bank would hold the client’s escrow account as required by New York State lien law. And he lets that contractor know that a waiver of liens will be required with each progress payment.”

To read the rest of this column, click here.

Ombudsman Richard Cirulli can be emailed at or called directly at 845-380-2872.

Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (, specializing in lifestyles, real estate and development. His real estate site is: and his blog is: To engage the services of The Home Guru and his team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.


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David Shamansky
US Mortgages - David Shamansky - Highlands Ranch, CO
Creative, Aggressive & 560 FICO - OK, Colorado Mtg

Never heard of this service "specifically" but simillar concepts to it, but I highly agree to check references as well as BBB and others to ensure you are working with a reputable company

Aug 09, 2014 04:50 AM #1
Debbie Gartner
The Flooring Girl - White Plains, NY
The Flooring Girl & Blog Stylist -Dynamo Marketers

I've never heard of this either, Bill, but I will check into it.  I agree you should check references and places like Angie's List help protect the consumer (as does the BBB).  Usually Angie's List has a bigger impact - believe it or not.

Aug 09, 2014 05:27 AM #2
Carla Muss-Jacobs, RETIRED
RETIRED / State License is Inactive - Portland, OR

It's really too bad that we have to even think about this type of thing.  It's a telling tale when people can't be trusted to do the job they are going to get paid for.  

Aug 09, 2014 05:35 AM #3
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