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In Good Hands: Hiring a Contractor to Renovate Your Home

By Sanjog Gopal Published 10/24/2007 | Real Estate

So you've decided that it's time to renovate, and you need to find a contractor to do the job. This can be tough, as  there are many shady contractors out there and if you aren't careful, you could end up paying through the nose for a botched job.

If you have never hired a contractor before, talk to friends and neighbors. They may have someone that they have dealt with in the past who would be a good fit for your job. Failing that, talk to homeowner associations, or look at local real estate forums on the internet. Stay away from people who come to you, as this is a warning sign of a sketchy contractor.

Once you have a few people in mind, you need to select one that has a solid reputation.

  Hard working, punctual, and skilled are some of the qualities to look for in a carpenter. How do you know if the carpenter you want has these qualities? Talk to past clients. Ask if the job was done on time, if it was done to expectations, and if they would hire this person again. Make sure that you talk to several people who had work done that is similar to your project.  Is it also a good idea to ask if you can see the work yourself.

Common practice is to get three references from a contractor before hiring them, but more is better. A reputable contractor will be happy to provide you with names of past clients. To be safe,  check with the Better Business Bureau as well, to see if there have been any complaints made about him or his workers.

Make sure that the contractor is insured, and that his license is valid and up to date. You'll also want  workers on the job to be insured and licensed. Otherwise, you'll be held liable if any accidents occur on your property.

Once you have hired someone, get everything in writing! You want expectations about time, costs, and design specifications all written down in order to prevent misunderstandings. You also want to have everything on paper in case something goes wrong and you need to go to court. Verbal agreements about the job don't hold much weight in court, so be smart by writing everything down.

Have the payment schedule included in the contract as well. Experts suggest that it is much safer for the home owner to pay as the work progresses rather than  on a time line. For instance, if you are renovating your entire home, pay a certain amount after each room is completed. Delaying payment like this  prevents the contractor from abandoning the job.

Because contractors are operating on your most important  financial asset, it is critical to get someone that is competent and dependable.  Check references thoroughly, and look at all paperwork with a critical eye. By taking these precautions, you'll ensure that your home is in good hands.

Sanjog Gopal is a Phoenix AZ REALTOR® whose extensive expertise and local knowledge of the Phoenix real estate market can't be beat. If you're thinking about buying or selling property in  Phoenix,  visit Sanjog at www.azresidence.com for more information.