Although there are many people and companies available to help homeowners begin to repair or rebuild their damaged homes, there are unfortunately as many, if not more, out there looking to take advantage of homeowners in need. Before you hire someone to work on your home, be sure to check their credentials first, even though you may be tempted to hire the first person that knocks on your door.
The first thing you should do is document all your damage using still pictures and video. It is best to have the most accurate depiction of the damage, so taking detailed notes will help as well. Next, contact your insurance company or broker. Understand what your policy covers, what your deductible is, and what the next steps towards repair should be.
Look to credible resources to find credible remodelers. Remodelers you have used in the past, or met with regarding previous projects can be a good source. In addition, use social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to procure reliable contacts from your personal network. Google searches can help you find remodelers in your area as well. At Design Build Planners, we have a list of Preferred Remodelers that are pre-screened and vetted by myself and my brother Neil Parsons. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) website has a list of remodeling companies in their network, as well as any certifications they may have. In NJ, the Division of Consumer Affairs has a list of Licensed Remodelers, and you can find out if there are any outstanding complaints.
Once you have someone to perform the work, make sure you get a written agreement that includes a minimum of the following:
- Scope of work to be done
- Materials to be supplied by the remodeler
- Materials to be supplied by the homeowner
- Estimated start and completion for the work
- Payment schedule including methods of payment accepted
- Methods to address changes in the scope of work and/or price
- Full company name, contact information, address, and license number
- For hourly repair agreements list: labor rates including sales tax, billing increments, mark-up on materials (if any) and estimated man hours.
You should also ask for a copy of their liability insurance and contact information to ensure the coverage will last beyond the expected completion date.
Be aware there are unscrupulous people going door to door, preying on people’s fear and desperation, and taking money from people in need. I, along with Neil are always available to listen to your situation, answer any questions you may have, direct you to a remodeler to best suit you, provide our contract/remodeler review service for you, or suggest other best possible steps for you and your home.