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How Smart Homeowners Avoid Getting Ripped Off By Contractors

by James Cummings on Oct 9, 2017

We all look forward to a perfect DIY job but even DIYers still need a professional for aspects of the job they can't-do themselves.

Whether you’re trying to remodel your living room or revamp your bathroom, Americans spend over $150 billion on home repairs and improvements annually, that’s a lot of money and scammers will try to take advantage if you don’t know what to look for.

Homeowners have recounted horrid tales about a renovation job that went south because the job took twice as long, the contractor demanded more money than was agreed upon or left a huge mess after doing a botched job on your precious home. While there are honest professions who will give you a good quote, keep to schedule and do an excellent job on your home, you have to be realistic about the bad eggs that give the trade a bad name.


8 steps to hiring the right contractor who won’t rip you off


The tried and tested method people used before the internet came along was to ask around from friends, neighbours and colleagues who had successful home renovations. Send an email or group message describing details with a price range and your expectations from the contractors and those who’ve had great experiences will link you up. Questions to ask include

  • How did you meet?
  • Why this contractor?
  • What type of work did they do?
  • Did the contractor stay within budget and finish on time?
  • Was there any issues encountered during the job?

Ask for licence

Every licensed contractor is registered to work in your locality. Go online and check your local licensing board online, to ensure the business is current and registered. Ask for proof of insurance so in the event of any liability that happens during the job you are protected from damages. 

Check insurance status

Generally, there are two types of insurance required for contractors – industrial insurance for workers injured on site and liability coverage to cover homeowners when a job fails. Your licensing agency should be able to furnish you with information about disciplinary actions and complaints against the contractor. This step is very important because if your contractor’s premium isn’t updated you might be held liable for unpaid premiums when accidents happen to the workers.

Ignore the temptation to hire uninsured contractors

 It’s a hard economy out there and people are always trying to save money on home improvements by purchasing premium equipment and hiring cheap contractors to help with installations. Most get away with it but for the unlucky few, here’s a rundown of what you risk:

  • No government help in a case of disorderly conduct
  • In some states, you will be held as de facto contractor and pay for any defective work when you sell your home
  • You might have to cover medical bills for accidents that happen on your job site

Ask for references and view tasks they’ve completed

The contractor should be able to provide three job references that confirm previous jobs and the time it took to complete it. They will most likely have a professional portfolio that includes images of their best jobs.

Read reviews

Yelp and Angie’s list are incredible resources where you can find reviews for local contractors. You can call old clients of a contractor you like and hear first-hand stories that are helpful when making a final decision.

Who will be handling the job?

Find out from your contractor if he plans to do the job himself or outsource to subcontractors so you familiarize yourself with the person before letting them into your home. It is a common practice among general contractors to subcontract specific jobs like vinyl siding or roofing to contractors with a specialty in that field.

Industry top experts often say subcontractors are an efficient way to ensure that a thorough job is done on your home remodeling. The contractor you hire only recruits the best hands for the job so you don’t have to worry about a substandard subcontractor.

Encourage multiple bids

Now that you have a list of qualified contractors narrowed down, ask them to submit bids to narrow down the most competitive offers. Compare what each is offering alongside the price and ensure they are all in the same line of work. An offer that is too good to be true shouldn’t be considered because there will be a catch somewhere or some will use add-on prices to increase the cost after you’ve signed a contract.

Contract must be in writing

The contractor you choose should not start working without a signed contract that features the cost, approximate state, and end dates, and types of items they will be installing. The more details you have in the contract, the clearer the job function will be.

In conclusion, do not pay the total sum upfront, not even when they offer a mouth-watering discount. Skip cash payments for credit cards and online payment options so you have a money trail to verify payments but if you decide to make cash payments get receipts to back it up.


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