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Veterans Realty Group | Homeowner Advice
faq-icon.png Contractors
  • Are there different types of contractors?

    Home improvement professionals vary. Who you hire also will depend largely on the size and complexity of your project. What follows is a brief description of the different contractors who do work for homeowners:

    • General contractors – they manage all facets of the project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining building permits, scheduling inspections, and working with architects and designers.
    • Specialty contractors – these are the folks who install products, such as cabinets, bathroom fixtures, and bookshelves.
    • Architects – they design homes, additions, and major renovations.
    • Design/build contractors – they offer one-stop service and will see your project through from start to finish.
  • Are there ways to save money when using a contractor?

    Chances are you will have to pay the going rate for contractors in your area. Architects or designers will typically cost 12 to 20 percent more.
    But remember you will want a home improvement that is done right the first time. That said, there are still ways you can save if you do decide to work with a contractor:

    • Shop around for the most reasonable bid - not necessarily the cheapest.
    • Ask friends and family if the contractors they refer stuck to budget.
    • Root out hidden costs written into contracts.
    • Insist that trade discounts on materials be passed on to you, or buy materials yourself.
    • Compare payment alternatives – flat vs. hourly rates, for example – and negotiate the more reasonable of the two.
    • Do part of the project yourself, such as some disassembly or prep work.
  • How do I avoid being ripped off by a less than reputable contractor?

    According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are several ways to spot less than reputable contractors because these hucksters tend to do the following:

    • Only accept cash payments;
    • Pressure you for an immediate decision;
    • Ask you to pay for the entire job up-front;
    • Solicit door-to-door;
    • Offer exceptionally long guarantees;
    • Just happen to have materials left over from a previous job;
    • Ask you to get the required building permits;
    • Not list a business number in the local telephone directory;
    • Offer you discounts for finding other customers;
    • Suggest that you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows, which could make you the target of a home improvement loan scam – a sure way to lose your home.
  • What guidelines should I use to find a contractor?

    Use caution. Your home is your most valuable financial asset. You will want someone who completes the job, not botch it up. It is important that you find a competent and reliable contractor who will successfully complete your home improvement project.
    Here’s what you can do:

    • Avoid the Yellow Pages. Check with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for recommendations.
    • Contact local trade organizations, such as the local Builder Association or Remodelers Council, for the names of members in your area.
    • Deal only with licensed contractors. The state licensing board and local Better Business Bureau also can tell you if there are any outstanding complaints against the license holder.
    • Interview each contractor, request free estimates, if possible, and ask for recent references. Make sure bids are based on similar project specifications. And do not automatically settle for the lowest bid.
    • Ask for proof of worker's compensation insurance and get policy and insurance company phone numbers so you can verify the information. If the contractor is not covered, you could be liable for any work-related injury that takes place during the project. Also check to make sure the contractor has an umbrella general liability policy.
  • What if the job is botched?

    If you are displeased with the results for obvious reasons, keep after the contractor to make the needed repairs. When that fails, contact your local consumer protection agency. Make sure you have a copy of the contract, receipts showing payments, and photographs of the work.
    Although it has no legal authority, you also may want to contact the Better Business Bureau, as well as your state’s Contractor License Board. And you can take the contractor to Small Claims Court to recover amounts usually under $2,000.

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