Tips for Finding the Right Contractor for Your Home

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Every homeowner must understand the economics of home ownership. If you own a home, it’s important to be aware of the cost of basic repairs. Well over a third of American homeowners have absolutely no idea how much a contractor might charge for their services. Indeed, most homeowners don’t even know how to hire a contractor.

The price of home ownership is that sooner or later, something will break down and need repair. Then, just as soon as you fix one problem, another one will soon present itself. I have a neighbor who constantly complains to me about breakdowns in his home. He is then prone to hiring uncertified, non-vetted contractors who make his original problems worse.

It can cost around $7,000 to install a new roof, although this is a conservative estimate for such prices. My neighbor hired a guy who was knocking on doors, looking for work, who said he was a roofer. Without developing a formal contract, getting references, or itemizing labor costs, my neighbor hired the random guy who knocked on his door.

It goes without saying what happened next. The contractor didn’t know what he was doing, got in over his head, and didn’t finish the work. Then the contractor asked for even more money to finish the work. My neighbor ended having to sue the contractor. If my neighbor had hired a certified, licensed, and referenced contractor, he would have saved a lot of money.

My neighbor spent a lot of money on lawyer fees and repairs fees. He then had to hire new contractors to clean up the mess that the original door-to-door contractor made. Home renovation and repair work is usually not cheap. However, it is always much cheaper to do it right the first time than to pay a professional to do it right later.

The best way to mitigate most home repair estimates is to recognize the differences between small-scale and severe problems. There are times when you need to hire a general contractor. Additionally, there are times when you just need to hire a repair person.

Like when you need someone to replace drywall, a sink, toilet, or a fence. Or, paint the house, clean out the gutters, and other seasonal home-related odd jobs. Such simpler home repair projects don’t require certification, licensing, or specialized skills. Although you should vet repair people, or get references, you probably know more than enough such people.

If you need to have major repair or remodeling work done on your home, work that can take weeks or months, then you need a professional. Like remodeling a kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom, electrical wiring work, replacing a roof, new plumbing systems, and so on. Then you need the help of a general contractor. General contractors are kind of like work managers who will hire experts to conduct all necessary work.

General contractors should be licensed, certified, have a business and references. They take care of all necessary permits and building ordinance paperwork with local authorities. Such contractors draw up contracts and usually require a deposit, or some percentage of full pay, upfront to start work. You can then negotiate additional payments with the contractor, according to work milestones.

Ask neighbors and friends if they know good contractors. Research online, but make sure you can vet their work via references or testimonials. Or, you can ask for such information. Also, don’t just hire the first contractor you come across. Get three or four itemized bids and make the best choice suited to your needs. You can also refer to HomeAdvisor or Angie’s List, which are websites that can provide contractors in your area.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Beware of contractors who knock on doors looking for work. Good, experienced contractors never want for work. Beware of any contractor who wants you to take care of the permits or who demands full payment up front. Hiring a contractor is a process that demands research, evaluation, and good judgment. Your home is a big investment, so never settle for less than a professional.

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