12 Ways Homeowners Can Avoid Home Improvement Rip-Offs

We’ve all heard the horror stories: contractors who took thousands of dollars and then disappeared,home renovations that dragged on for months or work so shoddy it had to be completely redone.

These nightmare scenarios may frighten you, but if you do your homework, you can prevent yourself from being ripped off by a bad home improvement contractor.

“It’s beyond just finding the name of the person you want to use,” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, which provides reviews of contractors and other service providers. “These are big investments and can be highly emotional because it is your home.”

Many homeowners spend weeks and months planning their projects and then expect to hire a contractor in a few days. But if you want a good contractor, expect to spend anywhere from a few days to a few weeks investigating prospects and hammering out contract details.

“You should definitely research the company you’re getting ready to do business with,” says H. Dale Contant, president-elect of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and president of Atlanta Design & Build. “Make sure that the company is reputable. Double-check and double-check again.”

Spending time on contract details at the beginning of the process can save you headaches later. The contact should be extremely detailed, if possible listing products by name and serial number. It should include a timetable for completion of the project and a schedule of progress payments, as well as how you and the contractor will handle changes. Don’t be afraid to negotiate changes to the initial contract you receive from the remodeling firm.

“Don’t forget your gut instinct,” Hicks says. “If it feels like someone you’re talking to is not communicating well, that’s a big sign.” She warns that you should pay especially close attention when you first initiate contact with the contractor. “Watch the little things at the beginning because they might be indicative of bigger things later.” More here.

Man and woman looking at blueprints together

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