Thursday, 5 March 2009

A Match Made in Home Repair Heaven: Choosing the Right Contractor

Finding a contractor who is well qualified, reasonably priced, and has a good reputation may seem like a challenging task for homeowners.

"Holmes on Homes" is a home improvement television show that follows general contractor Mike Holmes, who fixes up houses that have been negatively impacted by shady or incompetent contractors. The program details not only the physical consequences of shoddy workmanship, but also shows the emotional and financial toll that hiring the wrong contractor can take.

Fortunately for the homeowners featured on the show, Mike and his crew repair all items that were bungled by the previous contractor, for significantly less than other contractors would charge.

This white knight of home repair can't come in and rescue every homeowner who's been swindled, so it's up to homeowners to do thorough research before signing a contract with anyone about to work on their biggest asset.

If thinking about having work done on your house, it's important to line up at least three contractors to interview and receive estimates from. The first thing to watch for is how they present themselves when they first meet you. Do they have business cards, a cell phone, and stationary to take notes on? Do they look reasonably put together, and seem to care about making a good first impression? If they're late for their appointment with you, or they seem unprepared, take that as a bad sign. If they're careless during the interview process, it's almost guaranteed that they'll be lax on the job.

When the contractor comes to your home, ask them to provide a written estimate for the work you'd like done. Most companies will do this for free, so be cautious of places that charge. You want the estimate to be detailed—not just a number pulled off the top of their head.

There is certain information other than the estimate that you're going to need from your potential contractors as well. These include the company's physical address and contact information. These pieces are necessary to run a credit check on the company, and to make inquiries about the contractor at the Better Business Bureau.

You want to gather financial information because the last thing you want is to hire a company that's on the verge of bankruptcy. If you hire someone, and their business goes under, you could end up with a half-completed job. Even worse, you could lose money in the deal if the contractor disappears.

The Better Business Bureau will be able to tell you if there have been any complaints made about the company, and if any lawsuits have been filed against them. In addition, you need to contact your state licensing board to make sure that the contractor is licensed for the work they're about to do on your home.

You should also obtain proof of insurance from your contractor by calling the insurance company directly. In terms of insurance, both the contractor and any sub-contractors they hire will need liability insurance and Workers' Compensation coverage in case an accident occurs on the job.

Finally, it's imperative to not only see photographs of work the contractor has completed on past jobs, but you should also visit homes that the contractor has worked on. If he or she will not provide you with names and addresses of former clients, then consider that a red flag and hire someone else.

In addition to seeing the actual work done, talk with the homeowners to see if they were satisfied with the job the contractor did. Was it done on time, and according to the terms of the estimate? Speaking with former clients will give you valuable insight into the reality of working with the company, and protect yourself from hiring the wrong one.

About The Author:
Philadelphia Real Estate Guide: Find Society Hill condos and homes in Center City Philadelphia. Easy-to-use search and neighborhood info from Todd Levinson, Philly Buyer's Agent.