1. Prices that seem too good to be true usually are too good to be true. Some "great deals" result from cutting corners, such as providing low-quality work or substandard materials.
2. Do not buy from an unknown company selling door-to-door. Some contractors have well-rehearsed door-to-door scams designed to quickly separate you from your money.
3. Resist the high-pressure sales technique. Some companies offer "today only" incentives to encourage the homeowner to make a decision on the spot. If a company tries to force you to make a decision before you can do your homework, they probably do not want you to inspect them too closely.
4. Be patient in the busy season. Many home service industries are seasonal. If a company in a cyclical business has very few customers in the busiest time of the year; there may be a good reason.
5. Avoid moonlighters. Moonlighting occurs when a dishonest employee steals a customer from his or her employer. To offer a lower price, moonlighters often avoid such things as insurance, taxes, licenses, and other overhead.
6. A company's sign in your neighbor's yard does not mean your neighbor was happy with the company's work. Some companies aggressively market themselves, and even the worst companies have a few happy customers.
7. Thoroughly check references. Before hiring a company for a major project, ask several references tough questions about quality, schedule adherence, cleanup, communication, and disagreement resolution.
8. Only compare apples to apples. If you are a bargain hunter and don't take the time to educate yourself about what you are buying, you may overpay by taking the lowest price.
9. Avoid business on a handshake. Reputable companies that sell large-ticket items insist on contracts.
10. Avoid large, up-front payments. If you make a large, up-front payment to a company that promptly goes out of business or skips town, you are out the money.
11. Never open an account at a local store in your name for a contractor or write a check directly to a paint store. If a contractor's credit is not good enough to open an account, the underlying reason for the poor credit is probably a good reason to stay away.
12. Do not help or lend tools to contractors. If you help or lend a tool to a contractor and the contractor gets injured, the contractor may be able to make a tort claim against you.
13. Avoid cash payments. Checks leave a paper trail. If you ever need to prove you actually paid a bill, a cancelled check is very useful.
14. Write the check to the company you hired, not directly to an employee. Some unethical workers steal from homeowners by convincing them to write checks directly to them or to a different company. After the money is stolen, the company that performed the work is still owed its fees and can rightfully put a lien against the homeowner's house.
15. Request lien releases on major projects. A lien is a claim made against a property by an individual or company that has supplied labor or materials and has not been paid. If the general contractor fails to pay a subcontractor, the subcontractor can legally place a lien against the homeowner's property. On major projects, or on any project where you fear a contractor might not pay the subcontractors, make the receipt of lien releases from the contractor and all subcontractors a condition of payment.
16. Never make the final payment before you are completely happy with the work and cleanup. Contractors are less interested in making you happy after they have been paid in full.
To schedule a prompt, free, no obligation estimate, call these local suburban Chicagoland numbers.