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BBB Trends: If you are going to one of the many home remodeling shows around, follow these tips

Better Business Bureau

Whether you are doing repairs, adding on to your home or renovating a room, you may decide you need help with that project you are finally tackling. Now is the time to plan projects for the upcoming year, and you might find yourself at one of the many home remodeling trade shows offered around the country. These shows highlight the latest must-have features to update any living space, and the options can be vast and exciting.

When attending a home show and making plans to hire a home improvement contractor, BBB offers the following tips:

Be prepared. Develop a list of questions for potential contractors so you don’t overlook something, as it is easy to become distracted at a show. Communicate your budget and goals to avoid being pressured into making an impulse commitment on the spot. Ask questions, and make sure you understand specifics on pricing, services, policies and warranties. Be aware that direct mail, email offers and telemarketing phone calls may increase if you provide your contact information at a show.

Research and gather information.

After the show, research your potential candidates at bbb.org, paying attention to complaint details and customer reviews. Also search for the name of the business online along with the words “complaint”, “review” or “scam” to find different results.

Get it in writing.

Always get estimates in writing, and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. The contract should include contact information, start and complete dates, a detailed description of the exact work to be done, any material costs, payment arrangements, and warranty information. Specify who is to obtain necessary building permits and who is responsible for clean-up. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract, and never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.

Verify licensing and insurance.

Close attention should be given to the type of insurance carried by the contractor, and proper coverage should be outlined for anyone involved with the project – including subcontractors.

Recognize your rights.

In the U.S., under the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off Rule, contracts for goods or services in excess of $130 that are entered into at a seller’s temporary location, can be canceled within three business days following the date of the contract. By law, the seller must tell you about your right to cancel at the time of sale. The seller also must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send if you decide to cancel).

Avoid paying in full.

BBB recommends limiting a deposit to no more than one-third of the total cost of the project, and to also set up a schedule of payments based on the job’s overall progress. Also consider paying with a credit card–this will provide some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.

Stay on budget.

Avoid impulse spending and stick to your goals. Steer clear of high-pressure sales tactics–don’t feel pressured to buy expensive items or services right away, as returns and refunds can be challenging. Save receipts and other purchase paperwork.

Plan for the future.

After your project is complete and your final payment made, request a receipt marked “paid in full.” Request a lien waiver, which is a statement from your contractor indicating that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid in full. Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.

For additional helpful BBB tips, visit bbb.org.

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