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Hiring A Contractor

Quiz 1

Test Your Skills at Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor:

More homeowners are deciding to remodel and renovate rather than move. Whether you're planning to add a powder room or master bedroom with a fireplace and vaulted ceilings, checking out your contractor is a first step to a successful project. Before you sign a contract or make the first payment, take this simple test. It will give you a better idea of what you can expect from your contractor and the home improvement process.


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An advertisement in the "home improvement" section of the Yellow Pages is your assurance that a contractor is licensed and reputable




All states require home improvement contractors to be licensed.




Your state licensing agency can verify that the contractor you're considering has the appropriate licenses, if required, and that they're current.




Contractors should carry what type of insurance?

a. personal liability
b. worker's compensation
c. property damage
d. all of the above


Comparison shopping should be based on

a. reputation and price
b. reliability and experience
c. price only
d. a. and b.


When comparing estimates, make sure each one is based on:

a. the same set of plans
b. the same set of specifications
c. the same scope of work
d. all of the above


You should expect to pay for a written estimate for your project.




A well-written contract should include the contractor's name, address, phone and license number, if required. It also should specify:

a. the payment schedule for the contractor, subcontractors and suppliers
b. an estimated start and completion date
c. the cancellation policy
d. how change orders will be handled
e. all of the above


A change order is a written agreement to change the work described in the original contract. It could affect the project's cost and schedule




In most circumstances, oral contracts are as enforceable as written agreements. Oral contracts related to real property are an exception to this rule.




If you sign the contract in your home or at a location that is not the seller's permanent place of business, you have three business days to cancel the deal.




You should expect to make payments when you:

a. sign the contract
b. get a regular invoice weekly, monthly or at milestones
c. sign a change order
d. order a custom-made item
e. all of the above


Avoid making the final payment or signing an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work and have proof that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.




If you get a loan for your home improvement project, you should have the lender make the check out to the contractor.




If you use your home as security for a home improvement loan, and you don't repay the loan as agreed, you could lose your home.




15. True. The lender can take your home and sell it, using the proceeds to pay off the loan and any foreclosure costs.

14. False. The check should be made out to you. Otherwise, you lose control of the funds.

13. True. Lien laws in your state may allow unpaid subcontractors and suppliers to "attach" your home through a "mechanic's lien". That means the subcontractors and suppliers could go to court to force you to sell your home to satisfy their unpaid bills from your project. Protect yourself by asking the contractor, and every subcontractor and supplier, for a lien release or lien waiver.

12. E. All of the above.

11. True. The Federal Trade Commission's Cooling-Off Rule gives you three days to cancel the contract. During the sales transaction, the salesperson (contractor) must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send back to the company) and a copy of your contract or receipt. The contract or receipt must be dated, show the name and address of the seller, and explain your right to cancel.

10. True. Therefore, it's always best to get verbal agreements added to your written contract.

9. True. Remodelers often require payment for change orders before the work begins.

8. E. All of the above. The contract also should spell out what will and will not be performed.

7. True. Most remodelers will charge for the time they spend preparing a detailed written estimate. The cost of the estimate will vary depending on the scope and complexity of the project.

6. D. All of the above. If your remodeler suggests deviations, ask that they be presented as options.

5. D. Reputation, price, reliability and experience are the keys to a quality home improvement project. Price alone is never an indication of a remodeler's competence or ability to complete your project.

4. D. All of the above. Avoid doing business with contractors who don't carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you'll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.

3. True. You also can check with local building inspectors.

2. False. Fourteen states do not require licensing for home improvement contractors; 36 states require home improvement contractors to be licensed. Check with your state licensing agency or consumer protection officials to find out about licensing requirements in your area.

1. False. Anyone can advertise in the Yellow Pages. An ad should not be considered as an indication of the quality of a contractor's work. It's still best to get recommendations from friends, neighbors, and coworkers who have had remodeling work done. Contractors who are required to be licensed often list their license number in their ads. Check out the contractor with the Better Business Bureau and state and local consumer protection officials. They can tell you if there are unresolved consumer complaints on file. One caveat: No record of complaints against a particular remodeler doesn't necessarily mean no previous consumer problems. It may be that problems exist but have not been reported, or that the contractor is doing business under several names.