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How do you find a reliable contractor?

Who do you trust to work on your home when there are horror stories everywhere about remodeling projects gone wrong?

Finding a good contractor takes a little patience and a bit of hard work. Start with these 3 steps:

1. Evaluate your potential contractors carefully.

When you're discussing your dreams, you can also evaluate the contractor you're interviewing. Does he or she seem prepared? If the contractor isn't taking notes and measuring, you have to wonder how carefully he or she was listening -- and how valid the estimate will be as a result.

Make sure you ask what each contract includes. Does the contractor handle all permits? What happens if there's an unexpected issue? Do you foot the bill or is there a buffer built into the contract?

2. Check the contractor's paperwork.

The contractor you hire should be licensed, bonded and insured. A license guarantees that he or she has met the minimum requirements for the job with the state. Without a license, a contractor can't even get the permits for the job, and you could face fines if the city finds out about the work.

A bond means that the contractor has an agreement with a surety agency that will reimburse you if the contractor does a poor job. It also covers you if the contractor fails to pay a subcontractor as required. This can keep you out of a major legal hassle because you're responsible for that bill if the contractor doesn't pay.

Insurance covers you if one of the contractor's employees is injured on your property by providing workers' compensation benefits. Without it, you could be sued for compensation.

3. Ask for business references.

Get the names of some recent or current customers -- people who have fairly up-to-date information about your potential contractor. Also, ask for the names and contact information of some of your potential contractor's subcontractors.

Call the references and find out whether or not the contractor you're thinking of hiring does the work as expected and pays on time. You don't want to hire anyone who is struggling to finish jobs or pay the people he or she hires -- either indicates a problem that puts you (and your money) at risk.

If you make a mistake and something goes wrong, don't hesitate to seek legal counsel with experience handling construction disputes.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "18 Tips for Finding a Reliable Home Contractor," Teresa Mears, accessed July 21, 2017

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