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Getting the Job Done : Selecting a Contractor for Home Modifications

Editor's Note: The following column is Part II of a two-part series. Part I "Show Me the Money: Funding Sources for Costly Home Modifications" appeared in the April issue.

We've all heard the horror stories of lengthy home repairs, surprise up-charges and untrustworthy contractors. If you're in need of a few upgrades to make your home more accessible, where can you turn?

The AARP says your local Center for Independent Living or a similar disability services organization. These organizations provide advice and referrals for evaluating the extent of modifications needed and locating a contractor to complete the work. Also, don't discount the advice of others who've been there and done that. Get recommendations from others with disabilities and their families.

You might also contact a builder's association to locate qualified home modification contractors. Home modification is considered a specialty, so you'll want to find a contractor who knows the ins and outs as well as the rules. A contractor that specializes in universal design might be the ticket; or look for a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS).

Before selecting a contractor, consider the following tips to make sure you get the most for your money.

  • Contact referred contractors directly.
  • Get at least three bids on what the work will cost.
  • List what you want done before contacting any contractor.
  • Call the Better Business Bureau to check out complaints filed against contractors.
  • Request references from all contractors.
  • Make sure the timeline to complete repairs is clearly outlined.
  • Get everything in writing, including the full cost of labor and materials and a contract.
  • The lowest bid may not always be the best. Review the estimates carefully and ask for clarification if necessary.
  • Ask for proof of liability insurance, a workmen's compensation policy and appropriate licenses.

In addition, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) recommends that consumers ask contractors the following questions before signing a contract:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?
  • Who will work on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?
  • What is your approach to a project such as this?
  • How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?
  • May I have a list of references from those projects?
  • May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?
  • What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?
  • Are you a member of a national trade association?
  • Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?

Sources

Sources

National Association of Home Builders
www.nahb.org
To find a CAPS designee in your area:
www.nahb.org/directory.aspx?sectionID=126&directoryID=188

National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI)
www.nari.org

National Resource Center on Supportive Housing and Home Modification
University of Southern California
http://homemods.org
(Includes a Consumers Corner section with documents and fact sheets.)

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This article originally appeared in the May 2006 issue of Mobility Management.

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