Dreaming of home improvement projects in the new year? You’re not alone – many homeowners are deciding what improvement project to tackle next. As the housing market continues to strengthen, homeowners buying or selling homes are focused on curb appeal or updating new spaces, which makes now a perfect time for remodeling. In fact, a majority of U.S. Homeowners (75.5 percent) are planning one or more home improvement projects by early 2014, according to a recent HIRI Sentiment Tracking Study.

“Home improvement projects were on the rise in 2013 and I believe the numbers will continue to increase in 2014,” said Dennis Stemmle, president of ServiceLive, a free online home improvement service that connects people to quality contractors. “Hiring an experienced contractor helps homeowners get the job done right the first time, giving them peace of mind and avoiding additional costs associated with mistakes.”

Stemmle said hiring a contractor can be nerve-wracking for homeowners, who have heard too many horror stories of contractors abandoning half-completed projects, doing inferior work, or grossly misjudging costs. To avoid contractor trouble and to find a reputable contractor who will save you time and money, Stemmle suggested asking these six questions before you make a hiring decision:


1. What is your business history?


A contractor needs to have the proper licenses and permits, so be sure to verify the person entering your home is legally able to complete the project. Also ask how long the company has been in business and where it is located. If a company is inexperienced or located far away, you might find the service inadequate. To save time and make it more convenient for consumers, ServiceLive offers a six-point background check on each of its contractors so customers can feel confident about who they hire. This is a standard procedure in many places, including the Minnesota background check that has become part of everyday work life in some states.

2. How much is this going to cost?

Get an itemized budget containing all costs associated with the project up front. You might eliminate the highest bid to save money, but don’t necessarily go with the lowest one. If the estimate is too low, you may find the project was completed with shoddy workmanship or cheap materials.

3. Do you have any references?

Always ask for references. Make phone calls and visit past projects that are similar to the one you are planning. This is a great way to learn if there have been any past issues with the contractor.

4. Who will be working at my house?

When it comes to hiring a professional for their project, 67 percent of homeowners surveyed by Houzz & Home rated a “personality I can work with” as being very important. Many homeowners are surprised that the contractor they interviewed and hired isn’t the person actually doing the work. Ask who will be working at the house and if jobs are subcontracted. ServiceLive, for example, vets contractors down to the individual worker so that there are no surprises.


5. What is the timeline for completion?


A timeline is more than just a guideline; it should be a legal and binding agreement. Make sure the time-line has a specific start and end date, including checkpoints along the way.

6. How am I protected?

Warranties are a huge benefit of hiring a contractor over doing the work yourself. A one-year warranty is standard. Find out what guarantees and warranties the contractor offers before signing the agreement. Also, verify that the contractor is licensed and insured to work and get proof before starting a project.

“ServiceLive only recommends experienced, honest and efficient contractors who have passed a rigorous background check and are bonded. The service takes the guesswork out of hiring a contractor – consumers can trust that we’ve already asked all of the important questions so they don’t have to,” said Stemmle. “With the right contractor you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.”

To start a free search for quality contractors in your area, visit www.ServiceLive.com.


This article is courtesy of Brandpoint.