BBB Advice

by Stephen Mayer

Spring is in the air, and many homeowners will be looking to tackle that big project they’ve been putting off all winter.

Maybe you’re finally ready to build that deck you’ve always wanted. Maybe you’ve saved up enough to repair that leaky roof, or to finally remodel the kitchen. Whatever it may be, Better Business Bureau Northwest & Pacific urges you to use caution when hiring someone to help with your project.

Since the start of the year, we have seen an uptick in customers searching for general contractors to help spruce up their homes. Since January, BBB has received more than 72,000 local inquiries to general contractors — that’s up nearly 4,000 from last year. In Oregon, there were 20,278 inquiries by consumers looking for a contractor, showing just how big the demand is.

What’s more, in 2017, there were nearly 350 home improvement scams reported to BBB Scam Tracker across the U.S., resulting in more than $600,000 lost. While these scams typically targeted homeowners, contractors who hire subcontractors to help with their work can be just as vulnerable.

We encourage consumers to do their homework before they hand over their hard-earned money. Keep the following tips in mind as you begin your research:

• Check out licenses. Be sure to check if the business is properly licensed in your state. It’s also important that any business working on your home is properly insured. Find a trustworthy local business by searching for contractors with the BBB App at bbbapp.org.

• Ask for references. Request at least two or three references from the business’s last few jobs and ask questions about the quality of work, if it was within budget and on time, and to the customer’s satisfaction.

• Get multiple estimates. Before accepting an estimate, get at least three bids or quotes in writing. Don’t feel pressured to go with the lowest bid, as it might reflect the quality of materials.

To avoid losing money, look out for these red flags:

• The contractor doesn’t have a permit. A building permit is required for most construction and remodeling projects to ensure the work will be done to code. Any reputable contractor will get all necessary permits for the job and won’t try to persuade you to do it yourself. Remember, if a contractor is willing to cut corners here, where else might they?

• Payment upfront. Be skeptical if a contractor tells you they need a cash payment up front to purchase materials or rent equipment. A down payment may be required, but you shouldn’t have to pay for the entire project in the beginning.

• Door-to-door contractor. Beware if you come across a contractor going door-to-door offering their services. Never let someone into your home that you do not know, especially if they’re pushy. Instead, ask for their business card and close the door. You can research the company later to see if they are legitimate.

For more information on finding a contractor you can trust, visit bbb.org.

— Stephen Mayer is the Better Business Bureau marketplace manager for Oregon. He can be reached at 971-201-8528 or stephen.mayer@thebbb.org .

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