Real NEastate: How not to get ripped off by a contractor

Q: My real estate agent has suggested some home improvements to help me sell my late father’s home faster, since it is very outdated. I am afraid of getting conned and putting out money before I get the money from the sale. How can I make sure the person I hire does the job and doesn’t charge me too much?

A: Here are 10 tips for hiring a remodeling contractor so you won’t get burned:

  1. Get at least three written estimates.
  2. Check references. If possible, view earlier jobs the contractor completed.
  3. Check with the Chamber of Commerce for complaints.
  4. Be sure the contract states exactly what is to be done, and how any changes will be handled.
  5. Make as small of a down payment as possible so you won’t lose a lot if the contractor fails to complete the job.
  6. Be sure that the contractor has the necessary permits, licenses and insurance.
  7. Check that the contract states when the work will be completed and what recourse you have if it isn’t.
  8. Ask if the contractor’s workers will do the entire job or whether subcontractors will be involved.
  9. Guarantee that the materials to be used meet your specifications.
  10. Don’t make the final payment until you’re satisfied with the work.

Be sure you have the contractor agree to clean up after the work — you don’t want to be saddled with the chore of disposing of leftovers. Also, remember that in many instances you can cancel a contract within three business days of signing it.

Stacey McCarthy is a real estate agent with the McCarthy Group of Keller Williams. Her Real NEastate column appears every Wednesday on NEastPhilly.com. See others here. Read other NEast Philly columns here.

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