What You Should Know Before You Hire A Home Improvement Contractor

Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) and Home Improvement Salesman (HIS) are required by law in almost every jurisdiction in the United States to be registered and licensed. Licensing procedures are generally done by Municipal or local agencies of the respective State. For example, HIC and HIS are licensed by the Department of Consumer Affairs in New York City.

As you might be aware, many of these Home Improvements Contractors and Salesmen are “fly by night” operators who misrepresent and fraudulently swindle millions of dollars from innocent home owners every year. Many of whom run and operate their scams out of their Vans, Trucks and SUV instead of a physical business address. Many years ago, the home improvement trade was referred to as the “Tin Men” industry where high powered salesmen sold aluminum sidings to homeowners with over 500-1000 per cent mark ups in many cases. Many of those same homeowners ended up with huge second mortgages, mechanic liens and foreclosures in many cases against their properties.

If you are a homeowner making plans to renovate or improve your properties, these are some tips on how to select or chose the right Home Improvement Contractor for your next project. First and foremost, ask HIC and HIS for proof of license, business card showing address, phone number, website, email addresses, etc. Their licenses should be imprinted on business cards. Next, ask for references or testimonials. Try to get at least 3-5 references and make sure not only to call them, but go over and look at the work that was done first hand. Visual inspection is always crucial in deciding on a project. Most importantly, get at least 3-5 written estimates from other HIC/HIS and compare prices. It is never recommended to sign a contract on the spot with any of these high powered salesmen. Take time out to think about the quote or estimate, compare prices and most importantly, call your local municipal or agency to verify that the HIC and HIS are legitimate. It is also a good idea to find out if the HIC you are contemplating to do business with carry what is called a Home Improvement Trust Fund. This is a fund that each HIC is required to pay into so if a homeowner gets scammed, he or she can seek restitution directly from the Agency that licensed the HIC or HIS. Last but not least, try not to give a deposit during the execution of contract. Give yourself that 3 days cancellation right that you are entitled to, so you can think about the transaction or offer. If in any case you are required to give a down payment or deposit, give a very small deposit (less than 10 per cent) if possible. Always keep in mind, never give more than you can afford to lose. If the HIC or HIS is legitimate, they will not ask or insist on getting a deposit up front. They should be credible enough to have accounts/credit with Suppliers such as Home Depot, Lowes, etc., to get materials delivered to your property. Beware of HIC or HIS who desperately seek huge deposits up front. Some of them will demand that you write the check in their names or give them cash. Do NOT do it. That is the first sign to detect an illegal operator. You should write the check to the Company or use a credit card. If they refuse, you should show them the door or call the Police.

In conclusion, let me recommend that you seek a progress payment plan with your Contractor. In other words, you pay them as they go along based on your approval, and most importantly, the Municipal Building Inspector’s approval. You do NOT want to pay a Contractor until or unless the Inspectors give a green light certifying that the work is done professionally and in accordance with local building codes. Ask your Contractor to allow you to hold back at least 10 per cent of the final payment, or better yet, the total contract price for at least 60-90 days after completion, so as to make sure that the work was done correctly. Just imagine getting a roof done for example, and only to find out after a heavy downpour that your roof leaks. Many Contractors do not come back to repair their shoddy workmanship when they get paid. Hold back some money! If you financed your project through a bank or third party lender, get that finance company involved. Make sure that they do a visual inspection of the job that was done and also sign off with the job before they release final payments to the Contractor.

Home Improvement Stores – An Overview

Thanks to the popularity of home improvement programming on television, the last boom in the housing market and an influx of home repair magazines and media, the home renovation retail business is absolutely thriving. After watching how-to design programs on television and reading how-to articles in design magazines, homeowners are rushing out for paint, lumber, wiring and anything else they need for their next weekend project.

Another factor contributing to the surging interest in DIY home improvement are the costs of labor and contractors. As the expense of hiring help goes up, homeowners are increasingly likely to take on a project themselves, thus sending them to their local hardware retailer to stock up on needed supplies.

These same local hardware stores have gone from small shops to major, national retailers with huge chain networks. Examples of some of the larger home improvement stores include Lowe’s Home Improvement, The Home Depot, Home Hardware, Canadian Tire, Ace Hardware, Do It Best and Fred Meyer. These retailers can be found almost all over the United States and continue to expand into Canada, Europe and Asia.

The Best and Biggest Home Improvement Stores

As the largest in the country, The Home Depot is the hardware retailer of choice for the United States. Headquartered in Georgia, The Home Depot employs over 350,000 people and operates over 2,100 stores all over the world, including China. Second only to Wal-Mart for retail power in the United States, The Home Depot is the giant of home hardware supplies.

Lowe’s is the second largest hardware and home renovation retailer in the United States. Focusing their business model on service, Lowe’s takes aim at retaining a local store feeling. The Lowe’s chain began in North Carolina in 1946 as a single store and now operates over 1400 stores in the U.S. The chain is looking to expand into Canada and Mexico.

Another competitor that focuses on customer service and local emphasis is The True Value Company. By concentrating on quality service and extensive how-to programs, True Value is attempting to win over customers from large competitors like Home Depot or Lowe’s. True Value is also unique because it operates as a cooperative, meaning it is owned by its members. Essentially, it is a member-owned wholesaler and therefore is often able to deliver lower prices.

Finally, there’s Ace Hardware. A leader in global sales, Ace Hardware is also a cooperative, meaning most of their stores are owned and operated by a local dealer who owns a financial stake in the larger company.

3 Home Improvements That Are Cheaper in the Winter

Everyone is looking for ways to save money these days, even avid home improvement lovers. If you’re pinching pennies, this might not be the time to install those granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, or expensive home additions. However there are some home improvements that have to be done, either to help with the energy efficiency of your household or just because old systems have worn out.

Because winter is traditionally a time for hunkering down and staying in, people often don’t think of doing home improvements. This is exactly what makes prices excellent on services that can be offered no matter what the weather is doing.

While some work is definitely seasonal (no one wants to get up on your snowy roof to install solar panels in the winter!), others can be done year around.

Here are three jobs you might want to have done before spring comes around:

1 Install a Wood or Pellet Stove at the End of the Season

If you’ve been thinking about cutting back on your reliance on city-provided electricity or natural gas, a wood-burning or pellet stove may be an option. This is especially true in rural areas or places where wood, pellets, and even corn (many pellet stoves can burn corn) are readily available.

The best time to buy a new stove like this is at the end of the winter. Most people buy in the fall, when temperatures are just starting to drop, and they pay a premium! If you look for a stove at the end of the winter or early spring, you’ll be able to find good deals. This is also the best time to buy next year’s pellets or firewood!

2 Install a Home Security System

Although “home security” doesn’t necessarily have a season, installing cameras and alarm systems are things people don’t usually think of doing when snow drifts are snugged up to the side of the house. Professionals who work in the installation business still need work though and as long as the weather isn’t too bad, they can mount cameras and set up alarm systems.

If you’ve said no to home security systems in the past, you may be surprised at how affordable security cameras, home security dvr systems, alarm systems, and the like have become for homeowners. The technology has improved a lot too.

Because business is often slow in the winter, you can often find better deals than during busier times of the year. Installation and monitoring companies compete with each other, and there isn’t usually a lot of difference between what they offer, so make sure to comparison shop for the best rates.

3 Get Your Flooring Replaced

If you’ve been sick and tired of your stained carpets for a long time, winter can be a good time to find deals on carpeting, laminate flooring, hardwoods and the like. While the materials won’t necessarily be a lot cheaper this time of year, the installers who are scrounging for business are often willing to provide discounts.

Since flooring is installed indoors, even those deep drifts of snow won’t matter.

If you wait until summer, you’ll be competing with all the other folks who get the home improvement itch when the sun is shining. Winter is a great time invite contractors out to make estimates.

Home Based Business Opportunity – The Initial Decisive Period and Your Action Plan

In any home based business opportunity, if you want to survive, grow and flourish in your home business, you should build a strong foundation for your business during the start-up phase. This initial period is very crucial for the success of your home based business opportunity.

How dedicated you are to your business and how you prioritize your business activities during the start-up period will have a strong bearing on the survival of your business venture. Therefore, you need to devise a concrete action plan to achieve your long-term objectives.

If you want to see yourself positioned on the pedestal of success in the future, you need to prepare yourself to take some calculated risks, make informed decisions, work out novel ideas and take on your competition with an energetic approach.

Given below are some priorities that should become the integral part of your action plan in the initial years of your home business opportunity.

Remain calm and focused:

It is very important to remain calm and focused in the initial period of your business, especially if you have suffered some previous setbacks. You should know that not all of your decisions will yield the desired results. You need to remain flexible and prepared to make changes, if necessary, to achieve your desired business goals.

You need to be prepared to put in the necessary effort and time to make your business successful; however, it should not be at the cost of your mental and physical health. Recharge your energies from time to time by giving yourself periodic breaks and vacations, even if it is simply an overnight trip to some restful place that you enjoy going. This is important to sustain a positive outlook and to maintain your energy so that your business has a good chance to prosper.

Be your own spokesperson:

You may be required to talk to the people about your venture at social gatherings, at family get-togethers or any other events where you get the chance to meet and socialize with other people. People that you meet at these occasions could turn out to be your next potential sales opportunity.

This word-of mouth form of marketing for your business opportunity can turn out to be your best marketing tool and is generally much cheaper than any other type of conventional marketing.

Take stock of your business on a daily basis:

Constant focus on your business goals and administering changes when necessary is what sets a successful business person apart from a staggering business person. You should regularly assess your progress and commit to fulfill your objectives that you have set for your business venture. As your business grows, set new benchmarks and make every effort to achieve them.

You should evaluate, on a daily basis, your current business activities vs. newly identified activities that may become necessary to promote your business in a successful manner. This constant review will help you to identify problem areas and to devise strategies to make improvements.

Be active and enthusiastic:

In the initial start-up period, you will no doubt face many questions and concerns about your business attitude and skills. If necessary, you may need to seek out specialized training in these areas to fortify your ability to manage your business. You should always seek to learn new management techniques and technical skills to improve your personal posture in managing your business. Through hard work and perseverance you should be able to improve people’s perception about you and your business.

Get yourself an effective website:

To promote your business venture you should get a domain name and a website. This is critical to the success of your business and the cost is quite reasonable in today’s market. Once you have them set up you will need to seek out someone who can help you with your search engine optimization (SEO) of your website. This simply means getting your website noticed on Google, hopefully, on the first page. This is one excellent way for you to generate traffic for your business.

These are just a few of the things that you should give serious consideration to when setting up your business plan which is by far the most important thing that you can do to help ensure your success for your home based business opportunity.