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Saturday, September 8, 2012

Tips on hiring a home contractor

Home repairs can be expensive but when you lack the knowhow to do it yourself or just don't want to get your hands dirty, getting an expert is a must.

However, we've all heard the horror stories of someone hiring a real bonehead of a workman, or worse a con man contractor that runs off with every penny even before that first brick can be laid!

To help you avoid these situations, the following are some tips to consider when hiring a trusty handyman to work on your house.

Get a licensed contractor

Getting a licensed and insured contractor is considered a “safe bet” in ensuring the repairs you're seeking will be up to standard and professionally done,” says Jamal Aziz, who admits to having done “extensive renovation work” to his house.

“It's also a good gauge to determine if the contractor is properly qualified and knows how to perform the job.

“It's also a big help if the contractor is insured, to cover for any potential damage that might be caused to the house, or if a worker gets injured during the duration of the work,” he says.

Jamal does point out that a licensed and insured contractor can be more expensive.

“Because of their credentials, they can demand top-dollar (ringgit) for their services. That's why a lot of people prefer to get a contractor that might not be licensed (on paper), but is reputable for doing good work at reasonable prices.”

Get good referrals and recommendations

Most times, people tend to hire contractors that have been recommended by a friend or family member.

“The best credential on a contractor's CV is, of course, the good work he's done and the referrals from satisfied customers,” says Frankie Liew, who has been a contractor for over 20 years.

Jamal says it's also important to ask friends or family members how the service was during the repair period.

“Was it professionally done? Were there delays? Was the price reasonable? These are questions you should ask before determining if the contractor is worth hiring.

“However, every job is different. If you can get multiple referrals for one contractor, even better. I have experienced satisfactory work from a particular contractor, but the person I recommended him to did not think too highly of the job that was done.”

Jamal also says if budget is an issue, one could try getting referrals on a few contractors, if possible.

“Some contractors are all-rounders, while others might be good at specific jobs.”

Know what you want

Once you've decided on a suitable contractor, explain to him your terms and conditions.

“You need to be specific on what you want or how you want it done. A contractor might suggest the most expensive items or fittings but if it's not within your budget, you should explain it upfront,” says Tan Chee Meng, who recently renovated his house.

“Also, don't be afraid to ask your contractor any questions that needs clarifying, such as cost, duration of the repairs or if he's done similar jobs in the past. The answers he provides could provide a gauge on the type of contractor he is.”

Have it in black and white

Many people take it for granted that once a contractor has been hired, all the terms and conditions agreed upon would be fulfilled.

“Things can always go awry. Though it can be a hassle for a lot of people, it's sometimes best to have the agreement in writing,” says former legal assistant Sam Cheong.

He says drawing up a contract would help protect both the contractor's and customer's interests.

“The contract should have details such as the tentative duration of the repairs, problems that may arise and how to rectify them. It should also have a clause on what needs to be done if there is a delay that is neither party's fault.”

Get a good deal

The biggest issue that arises when hiring a contractor is cost. The customer wants the lowest possible price while the contractor will try to maximise his profits.

“It's always best to check with friends or people that have done similar jobs to estimate how much it would cost. Obviously, if your contractor is asking for too much or too little, something is wrong somewhere. Unfortunately, most people are happy when it's the latter,” says Cheong.

“If your renovation is unusually cheap, your contractor could be cutting corners,” he warns.

Time of payment can also be an issue. Do you pay your contractor before or after he's completed the work?

“Most contractors usually ask for some kind of a deposit before the work starts. The balance is paid after everything is done. You should not pay everything to him prior to the job,” says Jamal.

“This is because the contractor might end up taking his own sweet time to complete the job or, worst still, run off with your money! I usually pay half before and half after,” he says.

By The Star

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