Toilet overflowing? Roof has a leak? Crown moldings in your future? When something goes wrong on your property, the first reaction is to dig out a dog-eared contractor's business card or flip through the phone book for the nearest man with a hammer. However, choosing the right contractor, who is properly licensed, takes a little more effort. Although the temptation may be great to hire a company with no track record just because of the bargain price, this kind of corner-cutting can cost you big money in the long run.
You want a licensed and bonded crew that will give you a fair shake on the price and guaranteed quality on the work. In addition, the licensed professional is careful of who he or she employs for the subcontracting jobs and will do their utmost to protect their own name and reputation with top quality workmanship. On the contrary, the unlicensed contractor may not even be trusted to finish the job after receiving the deposit and could not care less if the work was done to city code specifications and safety regulations. When seeking out a contracting professional, remembering these three simple steps that can save you a lot of grief:
1. Check The License Number.
Sometimes the contractors come to us before we summon them, with leaflets on the porch and business cards dropped through the mail slots. These contractors are your local crews trying to drum up a bit of business, which is OK, as long as you verify that they are licensed. The license number may or may not be valid, and it's up to the customer to check with the state contractor's licensing board. This process takes less that a minute when you visit your state's license verification website and type in the number. The results are instant and if the license has expired or was revoked, no best bargain sale price should woo you in. No thanks.
2. Check Consumer Complaint Boards.
So you have found a legal contractor with a valid license, bonding and insurance. Remember that they are supposed to have that, so don't be too quick with the accolades. The real test of the company's veracity is to fish out any compliments or complaints that have been posted about them. Angie's List is a good resource to evaluate a contractor's services, with honest feedback from paying customers just like you. Your consumer research can be done in less than an hour and it's always good to know who you are letting into your home.
If you have a big job to be done, the best advice is to get several estimates before you commit to a contracting company. Be sure that the final price includes labor and materials and it is made clear in writing the amount and due dates of deposits and balances. When a home owner overshoots the budget, this can result in a payment dispute, in which most cases, the contractor will prevail through a court case or mechanic's lean on your property.
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