Homeowners rarely need an excuse to remodel their homes, but doing so can mean wading into a world both alien and expensive. Hiring the right contractor makes all the difference to the success and affordability of your project.

Most contractors are professionals who do their best. So, the key is to avoid the few who can turn your home renovation dream into a nightmare.

Follow these steps to separate the pros from the bad eggs, avoid misunderstandings and expensive missteps, and get the most for your money:

1. Get recommendations

The best way to find a competent contractor is to ask friends, colleagues and family for the names of pros with whom they’ve had a great experience. Send your network an email. Or, phone friends and ask acquaintances for recommendations.

2. Verify licenses

When you have narrowed your list to two or three contractors, ask to see their business licenses. You want to make sure that the contractor is an actual licensed contractor.

3. Screen for legal problems

Look for lawsuits involving a contractor. Sadly, we live in a very litigious society and a lawsuit can happen to anyone. That being said when a contractor has multiple lawsuits it may be wise to stay away.

4. Verify insurance coverage

Liability coverage: Covers any property damage or injured parties related to the project. Without this insurance, you could be held responsible for alleged wrongdoing or accidents caused by your contractor or his/her work.

5. Conduct interviews

Sit down for a half-hour with each contractor you are considering. Talk over the job, and ask each contractor to outline expectations. This will also help you know whether or not your personalities mesh well together. Some people don't realize how much better a project can go if you all get along! This is a stressful situation for many and ease of communication can help tremendously.

6. Check references

Ask each contractor you’re considering for three references. Confirm that the contractor really did the jobs he or she claims to have completed. Find out when the work was done, how long it took and whether it was finished on time. References will also give you a good idea of how the overall project went. Would they use the contractor again? How smoothly did the project run?

7. View work they’ve done

Some contractors carry photos to show the quality of their workmanship. But it’s even better to ask the former clients who were the contractor’s references if you can see the work. An in-person look enables you to confirm quality in a way you can’t with photos.

8. Sign a contract

Make sure you and the contractor have the same understanding of the work to be done. Ideally, you or the contractor should write a detailed list of each task with steps to be completed and dates for completion.

9. Be careful with upfront payments

Your contractor may ask for a portion of the payment upfront. That’s often reasonable. But agreeing to make a large upfront payment presents a risk for you. Materials often need to be paid for upfront, then an invoice will be sent for work that has been completed.

10. Beware of low-ball bids

When asking several contractors to make competitive bids, be wary of any that come in far lower than the rest. You also want to be sure a contractor is confident with his/her bid. If prices can't be explained when getting a proposal then you should keep looking.

11. Protect against tail-dragging

It’s not unreasonable for a contractor to juggle more than one project at a time. But this can get out of hand, leaving homeowners waiting for their job to be completed.

To ensure prompt completion of the job, include a penalty for late completion in your contract. In fact, you might add an incentive payment for an early wrap-up.

We work with one of the best contractors in our area, so if you are planning on a remodeling project around here, please contact us for more information at | 630.280.9713 | 630.280.9378

We would love to help!

Source: Excerpts from MoneyTalksNews by Marilyn Lewis

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