(BBB)  The Better Business BureauThe (BBB) system in North America extends throughout Canada and the U.S. extends across the nation;  coast-to-coast, including Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico.Since the founding of the first BBB in 1912, the BBB system has proven that the majority of marketplace problems can be solved fairly through the use of voluntary self-regulation and consumer education.Here are just a few of the helpful tips contained in the BBB publication when hiring a home improvement contractor: *  Plan your project from start to finish; *  Be specific in explaining exactly what you want; *  Be sure to approve any architectural plans that are involved before the contract work begins; *  Compare costs before making a financial commitment; *  Discuss bids in detail with each contractor; *  Ask the contractor for local references and find out if he or she is a member of a professional remodelers association; *  Contact your Better Business Bureau to learn about the contractor's length of time in business and his or her responsiveness to complaints; *  Find out if a contractor has insurance covering worker's compensation, property damage, and personal liability; andCheck with state, county, or city housing authorities to ensure that a contractor meets all area licensing/bonding requirements. To order a copy of this BBB publication, contact your local Better Business Bureau or visit the Resource Library of Publications on the BBB central web site at

Home Contractors:  Tip-offs to Potential Rip-offs             

 Whether you are planning a small repair project, like repaving your driveway, or a more extensive project, like adding a family room to your home, it pays to look beyond the lowest bid when selecting a contractor. 
Right from the start, you can eliminate what are likely to be less-than-reputable contractors by considering a list of traits common to rip-off artists. Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau have found the following to be indications that a contractor may not be interested in satisfying customers:Solicits door-to-door: Be suspicious of contractors who attempt to gain business by visiting door-to-door. Good contractors do not need to drum up business by making “cold calls.” 
    •  Offers discounts for finding other customers: Good contractors rely on referrals from satisfied customers or word-of-mouth advertising for a large percentage of their customer base. They do not need to offer discounts in order to drum up prospective customers. Their good work does the talking!    •  Has materials left over from a previous job: It is not your lucky day when a contractor shows up on your doorstep offering a cut-rate price on a project because they have materials left over from a recent job at your neighbor’s house or the house “down the street.” This is a common ploy of fly-by-night operators or handymen who are based out-of-state and use their pick-up trucks as their place of business.    •   Asks you to get the required building permits: This could be a sign that the contractor is hoping to avoid contact with the local agency that issues such permits. Perhaps he is not licensed or registered, as required by your state or locality. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project.     •  Does not list a business phone number in the local directory: This can be a red flag indicating that the contractor does not have an established business presence in-state. Or, that he perhaps relies on a home answering machine to “screen” customer calls.     •  Pressures you for an immediate decision: A reputable professional will recognize that you need time to consider many factors when deciding which contractor to hire. You will want to check references; look into the contractor’s standard of work and his professional designations and affiliations; verify his insurance; check to see if he needs a license (and if so, that it is valid); get written estimates from several firms based on identical project specifications, and, contact the Better Business Bureau and local consumer protection agency to see if they have information.   •   Asks you to pay for the entire job up-front or demands only cash: Whatever the reason, never pay for the entire project upfront. Payments should be by credit card of check so that your credit card statement or cancelled check can provide proof of payment, if needed. Do not pay anything until after the first day of work, and then pay up to one-third. Make additional payments during the project contingent upon completion of a defined amount of work. Do not make the final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work and have proof that the subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.     •  Suggests you borrow from a particular lender: Do not agree to financing through your contractor or someone he suggests. Many people have been ripped off when they agreed to use the suggested lender; sign a lot of papers in a rush; and find out later that they had agreed to a home equity loan with a very high rate, points and fees. Secure financing on your own by shopping around and comparing loan terms 
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