Monday, April 16, 2012

Improving Your Castle

Spring is the time of year when we all start thinking about working to improve or repair our homes and property.  Since finding a good contractor can be a daunting task, check out these tips:

 Ask for References  Always obtain references from a contractor.  Don’t just ask for references; check them out.  Call the reference.  If possible, take a look at the work the contractor has performed.  Any good contractor will have references that will be happy to answer questions about the contractor’s work.

Check Professional Organizations  Many industries have professional organizations.  Check to see if the contractor is a member of the organization for his industry.  While the organization may not have extensive records on the contractor, the organization should be able to tell you if any complaints have been filed against the contractor. 
Licensing Some industries require a license to perform the service.  Find out if the contractor needs a license.  Check with the proper authorities to ensure the contractor has a valid license.  You may also inquire with the contractor as to the licensing status of the employees doing the work.  Some industries require licensing, but only of the principal in charge of the company.  This may mean an unlicensed person is actually performing the service.  Most reputable companies in industries that require licensing will have licensed employees performing the service and/or directly overseeing the work performed.

Check with the Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce  Again, these organizations may not have extensive records on the contractor; however, they may be able to inform you of any complaints made against the contractor.

Ask Your Neighbors  The best source for contractors may be your neighbors.  As the community ages, many homeowners have taken on projects.  There is a good chance that one of your neighbors has used a contractor for something similar to what you need that they were pleased with (or they may be able to inform you of a bad experience with a contractor you are planning on using).

Ask Other Contractors  A good source for contractors is other contractors.  Example:  Maybe you have a plumber you are happy with.  Chances are that plumber will know a good HVAC company.
Insurance  It is highly suggested that you never let any contractor on your property that cannot provide you proof of liability insurance.  All good contractors will be happy to provide you with proof of liability insurance.  While you may see amounts higher or lower,  $1 million is a standard minimum.  A contractor that does not have liability insurance will probably look to you for monetary compensation should an accident happen on your property.

Obtain Bids  Always obtain bids.  By obtaining more than one quote on a job you can be assured that you are receiving a fair price.  The bid process may also reveal differences in the levels of service provided by different contractors.

Lien Release You may consider having the contractor sign a lien release at the completion of a job as a requirement for receiving the final payment for the service provided, especially for high-dollar projects.  A lien release simply states that the contractor has paid all subcontractors and material providers.  It further releases you from liability for any debt the contractor incurred as part of the project if the contractor did not pay subcontractors/suppliers as so sworn in the lien release.

Call the Association Manager  Mangers often have contractors for several different categories on file that have been recommended by other homeowners.  While these contractors should not be exempt from the above investigation, it is a great starting point. Further, please inform the manager of contractors whom performed well for you.

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