Top 5 in Real Estate Network® Members are dedicated to providing you with the most up-to-date, helpful real estate information. This monthly newsletter, "Real Estate Matters," offers articles on a range of topics that will inform you in your real estate pursuits.

The Do's and Don'ts of Finding a Contractor

If you're looking to make a large home renovation, the first line of duty is finding a quality contractor. When remodeling your home, it's important to feel comfortable and confident with the contractor you choose, so it's ultra important to select a competent and reliable professional with a track record who can complete the job without hassles or negative consequences.

Here are a few do's and don'ts to help:

Do: Get word-of-mouth referrals. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for the names of established, local contractors in your area.

Don't: Simply turn to the internet or telephone book. Especially on the internet, the first professionals who turn up in your search have likely paid to be there - it doesn't mean they are high quality. Ask around, get references, and listen to your gut.

Do: Conduct interviews. Talk with each contractor, request free estimates, and ask for recent references. When dealing with several different contractors, make sure they’re bidding on similar project specifications and quality of work.

Don't: Go with the first contractor you speak with. Even if you really like them, call around to compare prices, speak with other professionals, and do your due diligence.

Do: Call trade groups. When all else fails, contact local trade organizations, such as the local builder association or the Remodelers Council, an arm of the National Association of Homebuilders, for the names of reputable members in your area.

Don't: Go with the lowest bid. You get what you pay for, and the lowest bid isn’t always the best. Make sure you understand why the bid is so low - sometimes they aren't including something another contractor is, or perhaps they choose lower quality materials.

Do: Associate with licensed contractors. Many states require contractors to be licensed and bonded. Contact your state or local licensing board to ensure the contractor meets all requirements and has a decent record. The Better Business Bureau and the local Consumer Affairs Office can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and how they were resolved.

Do: Check insurance information. Most states require a contractor to have workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance. Ask for proof of this insurance and get the name of the insurance company to verify the information and to ensure that all minimum insurance requirements are met. You could be held liable for any work-related injury if the contractor is not covered.

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