The Better Business Bureau (or BBB) is a network of agencies who collect information about businesses within different communities. The goal is to help customers find honest businesses and avoid scams or disreputable companies. They track complaints against businesses and also keep data about how quick businesses are to resolve such complaints.
Since the summer and fall are the busiest times of the year for home remodeling, many homeowners are turning their attentions to home improvement. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of amateur contractors who do poor work or who accept payment without completing projects. Your local BBB chapter wants you to be savvy when it comes to hiring contractors so they’ve offered a few tips.
Check with your local BBB
Of course the local BBB chapter will be a great place to start. As you research potential contractors in your community, do a quick check with the BBB to see what his/her rating is. If there’s a history of unresolved complaints against that contractor, move on.
Get several estimates
Even if your shortlist of contractors passes the BBB test, it’s a good idea to get multiple estimates so you can have something to compare them to. Don’t automatically go with the lowest bid (or the highest) but be wary of bids that are significantly higher or lower than the others for no apparent reason.
Ask for references
The ultimate test for any contractor is how satisfied his/her customers are with the work. Talk to family or friends in your area that have used the kind of contractor that you’re trying to hire and see what their experiences were. If possible, go look at their completed work in person and be on the lookout for signs of shoddy work. Remember that any references provided by the contractor are going to be their very best work.
Ask for license and proof of insurance
Under no circumstances should you hire a contractor who isn’t licensed and insured. The license of course shows that the contractor knows what he/she is doing and insurance protects you in case there is any accidental damage to your property during the work.
Get a contract in writing and read it carefully
You should get a contract in writing before any work begins. Don’t just shake hands or enter into a verbal agreement. Having it all in writing protects you and the contractor. Of course, you’ll then want to take the time to read over the contract carefully before signing to make sure everything is agreeable.
Don’t pay in full upfront
Many contractors will ask for some portion of the cost up front for ordering materials. Some won’t accept any payment until the work is completely to your satisfaction. Either is fine but don’t pay in full up front. Payments should be tied to completion of different stages of the project so that the contractor can’t skip town with your money.