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Homeowners Beware: What to look for when selecting a Contractor or Handyman

By Greg Carpenter - Owner / Foreman of Simply Home, LLC

Before you decide to use a Contractor or Handyman there are some key issues you need to be aware of to protect yourself and your property.  What does "Licensed, Bonded and Insured" mean anyway?

Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) requires a license for anyone performing work on your property.  MHIC licensing assures you that a Contractor, Sub-Contractor or Handyman has successfully passed a test and verified their professional experience.  Contractor Licensing requirements and license verifications can be found at www.dllr.state.md.us/ or 410-230-6001.  Your potential Contractor should be able produce a copy of their license for your review. 

Ask to see a Certificate that shows you that the Contractor holds these two types of insurance in good standing.

Before the start of the project you need a signed contract and per Maryland law your Contractor can only ask for a deposit of 1/3 or less.

For projects that require a building permit, it should be obtained by your Licensed Contractor. Having the proper permits and inspections allows the building inspector regularly inspect the project to ensure it's being built in accordance with National and local building requirements. 

If the Contractor doesn't provide a written warranty statement you may never see them again if something needs to be adjusted or repaired. Proceed with caution with the Contractor who does not have the pride, commitment and confidence in the product he delivers to provide a warranty for it.

Sweat the details.  There is a good deal to be said for working with a company who will manage these and the hundreds of other details that come up during a project. A professional contracting company will usually manage all of these details and more as part of their total customer service to you

Your Contractor should discuss the ways in which they will communicate.  Your Contractor should be able to communicate with you by phone or email, whichever is your preference.  You should have a number available for after-hour emergencies. In short, you should be able to reach your Contractor when needed. Your Contractor should provide several references on jobs recently completed. Verify them!

When it comes to pricing of just about anything, the universal truth remains:  It always costs more than you thought it would. If the price is too good to be true... it might be.

No two bids will be exactly the same. It is extremely difficult to compare apples to apples when it comes to Contractor pricing differences. The best advice is to find a Contractor with a good reputation, a professional staff, and an ability to listen to what you want. You'll be spending a lot of time with the Contractor and his staff, so you want to feel comfortable. There are many "bad Contractor stories" where homeowners have hired a Contractor who provided the lower bid, only to have that Contractor abandon the project, perform poor quality work with inferior products, or go out of business in the middle of it.

I hope this better informs you on what to look for when selecting a Contractor or Handyman.

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