Q: What are some guidelines to follow when trying to find a contractor?
A: While hiring contractors recommended by friends is usually a safe route, never hire a construction professional without first checking him or her out first. If your state has a licensing board for contractors, call to find out if there are any outstanding complaints against that license holder. Also, call your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints on file.
If you are satisfied with the answers you find there, interview the contractor candidates. Ask what kind of worker’s compensation insurance they carry and get policy and insurance company phone numbers so you can verify the information. If they are not covered, you could be liable for any work-related injury incurred during the project. Also be sure that the contractor has an umbrella general liability policy.
If they pass the insurance hurdle, next check some of their references. A good contractor will be happy to provide as many as you want.
Finally, don’t let yourself be rushed into making a decision no matter how competitive the market may seem. Also, never pay a deposit to a contractor at the first meeting. You may end up losing your money.
Q: Where do I get information on remodeling?
A: Try these sources:
* National Association of the Remodeling Industry, 4301 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 310,Arlington, VA 22203; (703) 575-1100.
* “Rehab a Home With HUD?s 203(K),” published by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 7th and D St., S.W., Washington, DC 20410.
* “Cost vs. Value Report,” by Remodeling magazine, 1 Thomas Circle, N.W., Suite 600, Washington, DC 20005. $8.95 per copy; call (202) 736-3447 for credit card orders.
* “The Do-able Renewable Home,” by the Coordination and Development Department, American Association of Retired Persons, 601 E St., N.W., Washington, DC 20049.
Q: How do I find a home inspector?
A: In order to find a home inspector, Dian Hymer, author of “Buying and Selling a Home A Complete Guide,” Chronicle Books, San Francisco; 1994, advises looking for someone with demonstrable qualifications. “Ideally, the general inspector you select should be either an engineer, an architect, or a contractor. When possible, hire an inspector who belongs to one of the home inspection trade organizations.”
The American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI) has developed formal inspection guidelines and a professional code of ethics for its members. Membership to ASHI is not automatic; proven field experience and technical knowledge of structures and their various systems and appliances are a prerequisite.
One can usually find an inspector by looking in the phone book or by inquiring at a real estate office or sometimes at an area REALTORÆ association.
Rates for the service vary greatly. Many inspectors charge about $400, but costs go up with the scope of the inspection.