What you need to know before hiring a home contractor

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Before you build your new home, start a big renovation, or hire a handyman for a small job, you need to know how to protect yourself.

“You need the comfort that you’ve invested your money well and you’ve chosen the right contractor,” said Daniel Durden, CEO of the Pennsylvania Builder’s Association.

Here is a checklist to get you started:

“Immediately ask for references and don’t stop there. Let’s be blunt: no one is stupid enough to hand out bad references,” Durden said.

Be sure to check out a contractor’s previous work.

“If there is a neighborhood where that builder may have completed or worked in, drive by and see how things look now,” Durden said.

Get more than one bid.

“Never feel forced,” Durden said. “If a builder or contractor appears to be pushing a consumer into a contract, saying, ‘Well, let’s get this deal done today, I have to get you on the schedule or I can’t do it,’  you probably want to work with someone else.”

Check with the Better Business Bureau.

“They will have records, for example, if ABC Builders is complained about all the time and the complaint is always that they never finish the job, well that should be an indicator to you maybe you don’t want to hire ABC Builders,” Durden said.

Berks Homes, which recently partnered with Firefly Homes, has been in business for 40 years.

“This year we expect to build 100 to150 homes in this general area,” production manager John D’Angelo said.

When it comes to building a new home, make sure you are ready for the commitment.

“Generally, the process can take up to six months,” said Bryan Entrerkin, director of sales and marketing for Berks/Firefly Homes.

Before you sign a contract, you should ask if the contractor offers any warranties.

“Most builders are going to have at least a one-year warranty covering the second year structurally,” Entrekin said.

Ask if the warranty is in-house because some contractors and builders will subcontract their warranty program.

“There would be a third party, basically, that would be hired,” Entrekin said. “So you can have a house right around the Harrisburg area and you are talking to someone in Minnesota about a problem with your plumbing.”

When it comes to renovations or remodeling, make sure the contractor is following procedure.

“You want to make sure that person gets a permit and you know that the township is going to come out at the specific stages that are necessary for code to get inspected,” D’Angelo said. “There is nothing wrong with checking with that inspector and asking questions or going to your local township and following up with them.”

When the project is finished, make sure you are satisfied with the work and write down anything you want to have fixed before you sign off.

“So you are protected. Then you have that paper to go back and say don’t forget about this concern that I brought up to you or you can ask is this going to be addressed,” D’Angelo said.

There are laws to protect you, too. Anyone who is not a general contractor is required to register with the state attorney general’s office. You can find the online registry at http://hicsearch.attorneygeneral.gov/

“You can search on there and any home improvement contractor who has failed to register that’s a big red flag,” Durden said. “Being on the registry by itself is no guarantee of quality or anything else, but it’s kind of an indicator that at least this person is legitimately in the business.”

Finding the right person to do the job will require some work up front, but it could save you some legal headaches in the end. Remember, no matter how big or small the project is, get it in writing.

“Again, protect yourself with a contract. You’ve got something, worse case scenario the attorney general’s office or your lawyer can look back on and say we can enforce these terms,” Durden said.

Find more tips at https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/Consumers/Home_Improvement_Consumer_Information/

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