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Are you renovating a kitchen, adding a bathroom or doing some overdue repairs? Finding the right contractor for your job is important. You've heard the nightmare stories from friends and coworkers about the contractor, who takes the money, disappears and never returns to the job. Or the roofer, who shows up late, does poor work and overcharges the homeowner for shoddy work.  A dream renovation costing big money can quickly turn into a nightmare for many homeowners, but it doesn't necessarily have to. Most licensed contractors are competent, honest and hard-working, but avoiding some common mistakes will greatly reduce your chances of having a dream turn into a nightmare.

According to Angie's List, here are some of the top mistakes you should avoid when hiring a contractor (with some added commentary from our firm on each): 

1. Not checking their references.  It's important to check references and ask the right questions. Questions like - Did they do similar work for you? How long did it take? How long ago did they do it? Did you have any problems?  Did they listen to your concerns? Would you hire them again? 

2. Not trusting your instincts. If you have a bad feeling or something does not seem right, odds are something isn't right. Like the old saying goes: trust your gut.

3. You hire who you like. The relationship between a contractor and homeowner is very personal and people often hire who they have a rapport with. While that is important, it shouldn't be the deciding factor alone. Just because you like them does not mean they are qualified or the best fit for your needs. 

4. Not checking licensing and insurance. Always verify and ask for proof of licensing and insurance. You don't want to expose your homeowner's policy to claims. 

5. Paying too large of a down payment. Avoid large payments up front. It's better for you to put down a small deposit and work out a payment plan to pay as the work is completed. If a contractor asks for a large down payment, this can be a warning sign that the contractor is not financially stable. 

6. Not asking for a guarantee/warranty. Most homeowners forget to ask until it is too late. Always insist on a written warranty. It should provide what is covered and how long the coverage is good for.  

7. Choosing the lowest bidder. Choosing the lowest bid doesn't mean you getting the best value. Sometimes the cheap comes out expensive. 

8. Not reading the contract before you sign it.  Always read the contract before you sign it. Nailing down the project specifics, warranty details and payment schedule can help protect both the homeowner and the contractor. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, home purchases up are 29.7% this year.  With stronger home sales and relatively low interest rates, home remodeling will also be on the rise. With many homeowners in a time crunch, people often don't ask the right questions and don't do their research. Dodging these common pitfalls and effectively communicating expectations will set the groundwork for a successful relationship between you and your contractor. If you are unsure about the terms of the contract or agreement, be sure to consult with a lawyer in your circle of influence who can help you before signing anything or giving any money to a contractor. 

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Tannenbaum Scro, P.L.
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