Homeowners should use caution when contracting services for home improvement projects

Rick Walz writes the "Consumer Advocate"

Rick Walz writes the “Consumer Advocate”

June is National Homeownership Month, an opportunity for U.S. residents to reflect on the importance of the home and its role in their lives. With a median asking price of $225,500 for a home, becoming a homeowner takes dedication, patience and smart budgeting. For many first-time homebuyers, closing the deal on their purchase is a time of celebration and gratitude. While moving furniture and solidifying paperwork might seem like the biggest obstacle to enjoying their new home, it doesn’t take long before they find their first major home improvement project.

Purchasing a home is one of the largest and most significant investments consumers make in their lives. It is essential to exercise caution when contracting services for home improvement projects to protect their investment. Use these BBB tips for both new and seasoned homeowners to help contract with confidence:

Receive at least three quotes. BBB strongly recommends that homeowners looking to contract services for any work receive at least three quotes from separate businesses before settling on a final decision. Receiving multiple quotes allows homeowners to have a solid understanding of pricing and services and contributes to their ability to have an informed conversation with their chosen contractor about the project’s price. Be sure to check BBB.org to find contractors you can trust.

Never pay the total project cost upfront. Even if the contractor offers a significant discount for paying the total cost of the project upfront, BBB always recommends staggering payments through the length of the project. Staggering payments allow the homeowner to inspect the work at specific milestones, ensuring that the work is completed to their satisfaction before releasing the next payment installment. Homeowners should avoid contractors practicing aggressive tactics or insisting on receiving full payment before beginning the project, and most deposits should range between 10-30% of the total project cost. Some contractors may require a more significant down payment due to the price of materials or other clearly communicated issues.

Understand licensing requirements. Depending on the type of work a homeowner wants, state or local regulatory agencies may require different licensing. In those industries that typically require licenses (electricians, HVAC, plumbers, pesticide applicators, etc.), spend the time to double-check the license is valid with the applicable agency. The contractor should be forthcoming in describing exactly how the homeowner can verify the license is active. Keep in mind that the homeowner may be held liable for work completed by an unlicensed contractor that does not comply with building codes or results in property damage.

Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ deals. As is common in any marketplace transaction, critically evaluate any deal that seems too good to be true. Trust in your intuition. Offering goods and services at steep discounts for a ‘limited time’ is a common tactic of scammers and con artists to encourage consumers to make immediate decisions before verifying the legitimacy of the business or individual.

For more homeowner information, visit BBB.org/HomeHQ, BBB’s online resource center for homeowners to understand the various aspects of home ownership and improvement or repair projects. If you see a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker.

Rick Walz is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana, which serves 23 counties. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Consumer Advocate: Choose your contractor with confidence

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