How To Select A Home Repair Contractor

Choosing the right home repair contractor is vital to help ensure quality service and affordable prices. Here are a few tips.

When something in your home needs to be repaired or replaced, you can always try fixing it yourself. But for the bigger or tougher jobs, you will probably need the services of a home repair service technician, one that works as a subcontractor. This type of worker typically knows the job better than the average homeowner, so it pays to hire someone who can do the work competently and quickly.

But how can you find a subcontractor that you can trust? Everyone has heard stories of the "one that got away," since there are many unscrupulous, fly-by-night contractors who will take advantage of the elderly, the disabled, or the naive person whenever possible. Here are a few suggestions for finding a reliable home repair contractor:

1. Check the telephone directory's yellow pages and the newspaper's classified ads. Both of these have sections devoted to handyman-type postings. You can also check with a major home supply chain stores such as Sear's or Home Depot to ask for referrals to contractors who will come and give an estimate for the work that you want to have done. Suppliers like Carter Lumber or local cabinet or flooring stores also may have a list of people that they recommend for the type of work needs to be done.

2. When you have a short list of names and telephone numbers, get on the phone to arrange a time for each person to come and give a free estimate for the job that you want done. When the contractor comes to your home, check several things during the visit:

-Is he prompt?

-Is he friendly?

-Does he have a professional (if work-spattered) appearance and manner?

-Does he seem to know what he is talking about regarding the job you want him to do?

-Does he seem trustworthy?

-Does he ask to be paid up front? At the very most, you should pay no more than a third of the total estimated cost, and that should be used mainly to purchase the supplies that will be needed, such as windows or tiles.

-Does he provide a written estimate?

-Can he provide references for past work?

-Do the terms and cost seem reasonable?

3. Check the person's references. Call the numbers listed and ask about the quality, cost, and time period of the work that was performed. Ask if the person has any cautions or concerns about the contractor. If possible, ask to drive by and take a look at the work that was performed.

4. Contact the Better Business Bureau. While this agency cannot offer a recommendation, it can tell you something about the number of complaints filed against the contractor and whether these have been satisfactorily resolved.

5. Review the estimate for the job that you would like to have done. Call the contractor with any questions that, when answered, will help you determine whether he or she is the person for this job. Get a feel for the contractor's approach and whether you agree with it. On points where you disagree, notice how the contractor responds to decide whether the two of you can work together to get the job done the way you want it.

You may have to go through this process several times with various contractors to find one that best suits your repair needs. Even then, things may not go as smoothly as you would like, but at least you have done your best. Taking steps like these can limit the amount of trouble you may experience in trying to find the most experienced and trustworthy person to do the job.

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