Chicago, IL – February 18, 2009 - Three sure signs that Spring is coming: lovers in the park, robins in the yard and homeowners planning fix-up projects. If your plans include using a home improvement contractor to help with the fix-up and repair, the Better Business Bureau recommends three things to successfully start a project: request two or three different companies to submit bids for work you want, don’t automatically pick the lowest offer, and make sure all bids are based on the same set of specifications and materials to be used.
“When reviewing bids and contracts, be sure to read all agreements, guarantees, and instructions before signing,” said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois. “Don’t be pressured into signing an agreement before you are ready and you understand all terms and conditions.”
Bernas cautions that consumers should never sign a blank or partially blank contract. “Make sure all oral promises are put in writing. Be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later,” he said.
The BBB explained that typically a down payment of one-third of the total contract price is made with additional payments made after completion of each phase of work; final payment should not be made until work is completed and you have inspected the work.
Consider the following tips from the BBB before signing a home improvement contract:
- Get all estimates in writing.
- Never sign a contract with blank spaces or one you do not fully understand.
- You have three business days from the time you sign your contract to cancel any contract if the sale is made at your home.
- If the contractor does business under a name other than the contractor’s real name, look them up with the Secretary of State or at www.bbb.org.
- Homeowners should check with local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.
- Determine whether the contractor will guarantee his or her work and products.
- Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance.
- Do not sign a certificate of completion or make final payment until the work is done to your satisfaction.
- Homeowners should know who provides supplied and labor for any work performed on their home. Suppliers and subcontractors have a right to file a lien against your property if the general contractor fails to pay them. To protect your property, request lien waivers from the general contractor.
You may consider using the BBB’s FREE online service called eQuote to obtain estimates, proposals or general information from BBB Accredited Businesses. For more information on contracts and finding businesses you can trust got to www.bbb.org.