When the do-it-yourselfer becomes the direct-it-yourselfer and hires a contractor for the job, the price tag can get even bigger. Unfortunately, so can the risk.
According to the Better Business Bureau, (BBB) complaints against General Contractors rank as one of the top ten complaints tracked. And, if BBB grievances against General Contractors are added to those involving similar home improvement trades, they easily surpass Automobile Dealers as the number one source of consumer complaints in America today.
Finding a reputable contractor to take your place from house to home to castle may not be easy. To make sure your dream project doesn’t become a nightmare, the extra effort is worth it. Here’s what to watch out for:
INACCESSIBILITY: Communication is a weak point for many home improvement pros. But keeping you posted on job progress and being available to answer your questions is the mark of a real professional. If you have to leave several messages with a contractor to get a returned call, consider it a red flag and stay away.
UP SELLING: If you’ve asked a contractor come to your house about water damage, don’t let him talk you into a deck. Make sure he follows through on the task at hand first.
HARD SELL: If a contractor tells you his price is good for “today only”, keep looking. A good deal today should be a good deal tomorrow.
DOOR-TO-DOOR SALESMEN: Uninvited contractors that work neighborhoods offering to seal driveways or power wash roofs may not have your best interest in mind. Consider them uninvited pests.
PANIC PEDDLERS: Panic peddling is a common home improvement scam, especially when safety is involved. Chimney sweeps, for example, are famous for advertising a low cost chimney cleaning service to get their foot in your door. After a brief “inspection”, they’ll invariably find a fatal flaw in your chimney, which requires thousands of dollars of their services to fix. If a contractor tries this one on you, asks him to leave and get a second opinion from someone without a repair to sell, like a professional home inspector.
PAYMENT POLICIES: Contractors who call for cash up front, especially full payment, should be avoided like the plague. A small down payment is reasonable with future payments based on progress made on your project.
“NET” WORTH: Many manufacturers’ websites from flooring to bathroom fixtures – will give you exact model or design numbers with prices. By checking these out, you can specify the exact product you expect to be installed and avoid the risk of contractors utilizing low-cost substitutions.
If you have signed a contract – after reading it word for word – and then had second thoughts, there’s still hope. According to the Federal Trade Commission’s “Cooling Off Rule”, you may still have 72 hours to cancel the contract without penalty.