As more and more homeowners opt for improving  their homes rather than trying to sell it as it is in today’s soft market, there has been an increase in reported scams, incomplete or shoddy work, and payment conflicts.  In fact, according to the Better Business Bureau, the home improvement industry ranks among the top five sources of complaints each year, thus necessitating due diligence on your part in researching, verifying, interviewing, hiring, and working with contractors for your Tampa FL home.

hard hatFINDING A CONTRACTOR: 

To locate a reputable contractor who will deliver quality work on time and within budget, first ask friends, family members, neighbors, and real estate brokers for recommendations.  Other sources include www.angielist.com, a site which features reviews of improvement contractors written by actual clients, and www.freecontractormatch.com which will direct you to contractors by type and location.

VERIFYING CREDITIALS: 

Once you have the names of three or four potential contractors, check with your local Better Business Bureau to check on complaints against the firm.  You also need to confirm that the contractor is registered with the state and licensed and that he carries the required insurance.  In Florida, license information may be obtained from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) by calling 850-487-1395.  You can also check out a licensee by accessing the DBPR web site at www.MyFloridaLicense.com and clicking the Verify a License link. Any contractor working in your Tampa FL ­­­­­­home should have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage insurance, so don’t be shy about asking.

INTERVIEWING PROSPECTS: 

Questions which you should ask include the following:

  • How long have you been in business? 
  • What permit is required—and will you obtain it?
  • Will you be using subcontractors?
  • Will you (and your subcontractors) sign a lien waiver?
  • Do you offer a warranty on your workmanship and materials?
  • Will you give me references?  (Names, phone numbers, and even photos, if available.)
  • What are you working on now?  May I visit that site?
  • How have you handled customer complaints?

TALKING MONEY: 

In addition to requesting a bid for all expenses involved in the work on your Tampa FL home, you will also want to determine in advance the required down payment.  Some municipalities have a limit on the amount which can be charged; contact your local consumer affairs agency for this information.  In any event, you should not put more than 25% down, and you should never pay in cash! You should also insist on a reasonable payment plan and try to make those payments contingent on the completion of a certain amount of work.

Coming in PART II—drawing up a contract and dealing with problems.