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Need a contractor? Good luck!

November 5, 2010

Why can't I hire this guy?

I have had a lot of compliments about my column lately. I accept them, but I need to come clean. Even though I usually come up with the general idea, my wife, Kerri, is the writer in the family. I throw some chicken scratch on paper and she makes my column look great. Another area where my wife takes the lead is with our house. My home improvement skills are terrible. I can take a 15-minute project on the home, spend three hours, get myself extremely frustrated, and make it a major problem for someone else to fix. Kerri loves homes, so naturally she is drawn to HGTV, the home and garden channel. One show she likes is “Holmes on Homes.” In this show, carpenter extraordinaire and host Mike Holmes fixes houses that have been destroyed by negligent contractors who leave the homeowners broke with a halfway finished or completely destroyed house. For the lucky ones on the show, their home eventually sees a happy ending. However, there are a lot of people out there who lose thousands of dollars to people they thought they could trust to work on their homes. A home is the largest purchase many people make. When people invest in a solid home and take the steps to keep the home in good upkeep, it can appreciate in value over time and be a great asset later in life. If you use your home as a piggy bank to cash equity out of every couple of years and do not invest in keeping your home up, then a home purchase can be a curse instead of a blessing. Writing about how to hire a contractor is a little deviation from my normal topics, but your home is a huge asset in your financial portfolio, and therefore you have to protect it. I checked out the “Holmes on Homes” website, which gives some good advice on hiring contractors. I have included a few tips, which I share below. Note, while these are specific to contractors, they also can be applied to hiring anyone who handles your assets — your financial advisor, real estate agent, et cetera. • First and foremost, make sure you have the money to do the project while keeping enough money in your savings for anticipated large expenses and emergencies. Obviously if the roof is caving in or the basement is flooded, you do not have much of a choice.

• Do your research before you hire a contractor. Ask for references, and call them. Also call the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been any reports against him/her.

• Remember that good contractors are in high demand. If you call a contractor and do not get a call back right away, that is not necessarily a bad sign. It may mean he or she has a lot of work and is well worth the wait. Look around several months before you want the work to begin. Good contractors are usually booked at least two to four months in advance. Bad contractors are always available right away, because they are not in demand, or they are willing to bump their current project to get started on yours. The same contractor probably will bump you in favor of his latest customer.

• Get several bids. Skilled contractors may charge a small fortune, but you may want to pay more for their quality and business ethics. Be aware of very low offers — they could indicate the contractor lacks experience to properly quote the job, let alone know what it takes to do the job properly. Or, it could mean he or she plans to take shortcuts to do the job cheaper than the competition.

• After you have hired someone, get everything in writing. This does not necessarily mean you can easily get your money back if the work is not finished or is unsatisfactory. However, going over a contract with a professional will show you whether this person is someone you can work with or not. Also, the contract should include a proof of insurance.

• Make sure you have a paper trail for the money you have paid your contractor.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 8, 2010 9:32 am

    I love your articles!! I wish I would have had this when I bought my house. You sure do learn a lot!!! 🙂

    • November 9, 2010 9:03 pm

      Thanks for reading. We’ve been burned a couple of times. I hope things are going well in Cozad!

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