How to Check Contractors References and Terms

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Talk with a few of the remodeler's former customers. If you visited with current customers whose job is in progress, call them back without the contractor present. They can surely help you to decide if the contractor is right for you. You may ask:

Can I visit your home to see the job after completion?

Were you fully satisfied with the project? Was it completed on time? Was anything you wanted left out?

Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project, and any problems along the way?

Were there any cost over-runs or unexpected costs? What were they?

Did the workers show up on time? Did they clean up daily? How about after they finished the work?

Would you recommend the contractor?

Would you do anything differently with the contractor?

Would you use the contractor again?

Understand The Payment Options in Advance

There are many payment options for larger home improvement, remodeling, maintenance and repair projects. You may apply for a home equity loan or ask the contractor to arrange financing for larger projects. For smaller projects, you should pay by check or credit card. Never pay cash. Whatever you choose, be sure you have arranged a reasonable payment schedule at a fair interest rate. Here are some additional tips:

Limit your down payment. Some state laws limit the amount of money a contractor can request as a down payment. Contact your state or local consumer agency or building department to find out what laws apply in your area.

Make payments during the project contingent upon completion of a pre-defined stage of the work. This way, when work does not proceed according to schedule, payments are delayed.

Don't make the final payment or sign a final release until you are satisfied all the work has been completed and know that the subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Lien laws in your state may allow subcontractors or suppliers to file a mechanic's lien against your home to satisfy unpaid bills. Contact your local consumer affairs agency for an explanation of lien laws where you live.

Some state and local laws limit the amount a final bill can exceed the estimate, unless you have approved the increase. Check with your local agency.

If you have a problem with merchandise or services that you charged to a credit card, and you have made a good faith effort to work out the problem with the seller and you have the right to withhold from the card issuer payment for the merchandise or services. You can withhold payment up to the amount of credit outstanding for the purchase, plus any finance or related charges.

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