How To Hire A Reliable Contractor - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

How To Hire A Reliable Contractor

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PHILADELPHIA -

When the weather turns cold outside a lot of people turn their attention inside their homes.

Home improvement is a $500 billion a year industry in the U.S. That makes finding a competent and reliable contractor key to a successful project.

Carlos Landrau needed a $1,600 shower installation for his disabled son. The contractor didn't follow through with what he started.

"He even said, ‘we'll stay all night if we have to, just to finish the job.' And that same weekend, he never showed up," Landrau says.

One homeowner's contractor showed up, but gave her another issue. Monica Howard paid $19,000 of a $22,000 bill for a new awning on her Overbrook home that didn't come out as she'd hoped.

"If he can finish the work, good, it's okay. But if he can't do it I want my money back to get somebody to do it," Howard says.

Your home may be your most valuable financial asset, and that's why it's important to be cautious when you hire someone to work on it.

The first step is to know what you want. More than a third of homeowners find inspiration online. They're going to sites like Zillow Digs where you can browse photos for inspiration.

Personal finance expert Vera Gibbons says, "Show the contractor exactly what you want, what materials you like, what projects you like because otherwise they're going to give you what they think you want, what they think you like and that can end up being pretty costly."

Once you've talked to friends, family, and neighbors and separated the good from the bad, get bids from your top three choices and toss out the lowball.

"If someone's coming in several thousand dollars below the other guys, chances are they're going to be cutting corners in some fashion, they may be using cheaper materials, or they may start the project and then tell you mid-way 'oh it's going to be a little more expensive than we thought.'" Gibbons warns.

Every project should have a contract, and every detail should be included from a work timetable to the materials that will be used. Also include a time frame for fixing defects.

"That way if a dispute arises it doesn't go on indefinitely, so the contract has to be multipurpose, it's got to be all inclusive, all the fine details need to be spelled out in that contract," Gibbons continues.

How you pay a contractor is as important as how much. Don't pay more than 30% up front. Make periodic payments as the contractor completes certain portions of the project.

"Generally speaking on average there are going to be three payments. One at the start, one at the middle and then you want to dangle a sizeable portion of that payment to be paid out only when they complete the project to your satisfaction," concludes Gibbons.

Also on your contractor checklist: look for someone who is licensed and registered, has insurance, and has a clean bill of health from the Better Business Bureau and your state's Consumer Protection Agency.

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