Finding the right person to install your garage door opener, patch your roof or landscape your yard takes time – but it’s time well spent.
The Better Business Bureau last year recorded 24,900 complaints from U.S. homeowners about general contractors, remodeling and repair specialists, roofing contractors, painters and plumbers. The Bureau received an additional 12,500 complaints associated with landscape professionals, pest control businesses, appliance repair companies, air-conditioning contractors and pool service companies. Grievances ranged from quality of work provided to contract issues, and inferior repairs to unfinished work.
Invest the time and energy upfront by checking a service pro’s credentials and insisting on a written contract. These five tips may help you avoid problems:
1. Do your due diligence
Ask potential service providers for copies of their license, insurance and bonding capacity, then make sure the information is current. Ensure the company is licensed to perform the type of work you need and that it meets the bonding requirements of your town, county and state. Ask for references — and call them. Search online for news articles, customer reviews and reports of violations related to the company.
2. Be wary of bargain bids
Bids that come in substantially lower than the competition aren’t necessarily the best deal. There may be an explanation for the bargain-basement pricing; perhaps the low bid doesn’t account for the same installation, materials and features. Or, it could be that the low bid is a sign that you’re going to receive a lower level of service. Conversely, don’t be fooled into thinking a very high bid indicates higher standards of service. You may simply be working with a contractor who is so busy he’s not looking for more work. Any time you receive a bid that’s significantly higher or lower than all the others, ask the service provider if there’s a reason for the difference.
3. Communication is key
You’re trusting your service pro with the most expensive thing you own – your home. That’s why it’s so important that you hire someone with whom you feel comfortable talking. Do the companies you’re considering respond to your questions in a timely and effective manner? If they don’t respond when they’re trying to land your business, do you think that will change once you’re in the middle of a remodel? If the contractor doesn’t ask pertinent questions how can he know what you expect from him? Once you verbally agree on the work that needs to be done, ask for a contract and read it. Make sure the contract includes the start date and expected completion date.
4. Minimize upfront payments
Be careful if your installer, landscaper or repair person wants to be paid in full upfront. In some cases, a contractor may need a down payment to cover materials, but the bulk of the money should not be due until the work is completed and you are satisfied with the results.
5. Say ‘no’ to door-knockers
Not every roofer, contractor or landscaper who comes to your front door looking for work is a scam artist, but they could be. Be leery of the drop-by contractor who offers a “free roof inspection” or who can “discount” your fence painting because he has supplies left over from a project around the corner. These gimmicks and promotions could signal a con. If you have a good feeling about a door-knocking service provider, ask for a business card and check the company out online or with the Better Business Bureau.
Remember that a well-designed website and a glossy business card aren’t proof that a contractor does quality work. Regardless of the size of the job you need completed, it’s crucial to invest the time to find the professional who best suits your needs, timeline and budget.
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