Improve your Chances for Successful Home Improvements

January 10th, 2012

Do you need to put an addition on your house?  Want to install central air conditioning?  Then you may be lured by home improvement ads. But don’t believe everything you see, hear, and read.  There are plenty of scoundrels out there preying on unsuspecting consumers.

Some signs of a shady home-improvement deal:

  1. Door-to-door solicitations.
  2. Discounts for finding other customers.
  3. Cash payments only.
  4. Unlisted phone number.
  5. Pressure for an immediate response.
  6. Entire payment required upfront.

How to protect yourself:

  • Ask LOTS of questions.  For example,
    • “How long have you been in business?”
    • “Are you licensed and registered with the state?”
    • “What type of insurance do you carry?”
    • “How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?”
    • “Will my project require a permit?”
    • “May I have a list of references?”
    • “Will you be using subcontractors on this project?”  (If yes, ask to meet them, and make sure they have current insurance coverage and licenses, if required).
  • Check references by calling some of the contractor’s former customers.  Ask them if they were satisfied with the project, if there were any unexpected costs, if they would recommend the contractor, and if you can swing by and take a look at the work.
  • Get the contract in writing and read it CAREFULLY.  If you don’t understand a term or condition, ask the contractor before you sign it.  Also, make sure the contract covers everything you discussed with the contractor.
  • Keep all paperwork related to your project in a safe place.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau or your state’s Attorney General’s office to see if any consumer complaints have been filed against the contractor or company.  But remember – just because you don’t find any complaints doesn’t necessarily mean the company’s in the clear.  It could also mean that no one has gotten around to complaining yet.
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