Repair and maintenance are the essential but unavoidable cost of owning a home. Most homeowners might be able to take care of minor problems on their own; however, issues with electrical wiring and plumbing will require the services of a professional.

The best home repair professionals will save you time, money and heartache. These steps will help you find a high-quality home professional.

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Before agreeing to receive any services from a contractors, it is important to ask questions. This is a business transaction. You are interviewing this professional to perform a service for you. View it as a job interview. The contractor is the interviewee and you are the interviewer.

Like any employment interview, asking the right questions will help you find a reliable professional. The answers to these questions will help formulate a clearer idea of the needed work and the philosophy of the service provider.

You should know the contractor's experience, background and expertise. Ensure that they are telling you the truth.

Sometimes contractors will hire others to perform jobs for them. You have a right to know who is in your home and on your property at all times. Ask who will be performing the actual work.

The contractor should have proper licensing. Most states require all general and specialty contractors be licensed and registered in the state where they perform work.

Verify the contractor has insurance. Ask to see the certificates. Also, the contractor should show you the proper permits before work begins.

GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING

You don't want to get stuck paying for unexpected expenses. Avoid this problem by requesting a written estimate before work begins.

This detailed estimate should describe all fees, expenses, and costs. It will avoid confusion or disagreement later.

Your written estimate will also tell you about the finished project. Will there be cleanup or repainting included in the project? Inquire about any additional finishing touches, such as wood trim or drywall restoration.

When a bid sounds too good to be true, cross that contractor off your list. When professionals are interested in getting the job, they will provide you with estimates that are unrealistic. After work is completed, homeowners will often find the contractor used second-rate materials or skimped on labor. It is vital that only quality materials are used during your project.

A low bid may also indicate that the contracter is unqualified or not licensed for the job. A written estimate will give you valuable legal evidence should a dispute arise. Save all estimates and receipts related to the project.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Once you have finished your interview/initial consultation, perform a thorough background check on the prospective contractor. Be certain the professional has all the certifications and business licenses required for the services provided.

It is always a good idea to ask for a list of previous clients. Contact the client to talk about their experiences with the contractor. Were the clients satisfied? The Better Business Bureau (BBB) will also inform you about the contractor's work history. The BBB can tell you if there is a record of formal complaints filed against the contractor and whether the complaints were resolved.

Remember this person is working inside your home with minimal supervision.

Finally, all professional contractors are bonded. They carry insurance against accidental property damage as well as personal liability coverage. If a contractor doesn't have this documentation, then keep looking.

WARNING SIGNS

There are specific warning signs you should know before hiring a contractor to perform home maintenance or repairs. These signs don't necessarily mean you are dealing with an irresponsible contractor. It simply means you should be extra cautious.

The most important sign is when a contractor uses pressure tactics to secure a contract. Contractors might intimidate the homeowner into making an immediate hiring decision. Wait until you feel comfortable.

Another red flag would be the contractor insisting you pay a large portion of the bill in advance. Pay the bill in portions as work is completed. Only pay the last portion when you are completely satisfied with the finished work.

Anyone who only accepts cash as a form of payment should be considered extremely suspicious. Always pay by check and get a detailed receipt.

Any contractor or worker who appears at your residence uninvited should be considered very suspicious.

It takes time to complete these steps, but it will be worth it in the long run. By taking time and following these guidelines, you can be confident that the repair job will be completed to your satisfaction.

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