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How to Hire a Contractor

We all know the economy is struggling. The Construction industry has been particularly hard hit. Many contractors are eager (desperate?) for work. So how do you decide which contractor is right for your job? Here are some tips:

1. Get recommendations. The best source of information about a contractor is from past jobs. Use your friends or co workers as a source of referrals. If you are unable to find recommendations from these sources, make sure you get several references from any contractor you are considering for the job. Call these references, and don't be afraid to question them extensively. Find out if you can look at other projects involving this contractor. Finally, make sure the contractor has a history with respect to the type of project you have in mind. A plumbing contractor recommended by a friend might not be the best choice for a new custom home.

2. Check the Contractor's State License Board, http://www.cslb.ca.gov/, to see if the contractor has any pending complaints or a history of punishment. You can also check to see if the license is current. Never use an unlicensed contractor.

3. Get Competitive bids: Nothing can drive the price down like competition. It can be amazing how different the bids are from different contractors on the same scope of work. Ask 3 of the most deserving contractors to bid on your scope of work. The results may astound you.

4. Get a written contract. Do not automatically agree to the form contract proposed by the contractor. Most form contracts proposed by the General Contractor are written from the Contractor's point of view. Don't be afraid to demand that some sections be eliminated or revised. Most importantly, read the contract! There are a number of "hidden" clauses that may not seem important, but are guaranteed to be important when something goes wrong. If the job is big enough to justify it, have an attorney review the contract and help to make sure you are protected. Paying a lawyer to help you now can save a great amount of money in the future.

5. Make sure the contractor is well insured. This usually means at least a $1m general liability policy. Consult your insurance broker if you want to make sure the contractor has the right coverage. Tell the contractor that you want to be named as an "additional insured" on the contractor's policy.

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