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We’ve all seen news reports about fly-by-night contractors who took thousands of dollars for home improvement projects and disappeared without completing the work. And you might have friends or neighbors who thought they had hired a competent contractor, but the company ended up doing a shoddy job or going way over budget.

These types of horror stories understandably make some homeowners nervous when it comes time to hire someone to remodel their bathrooms or build an addition. Rest assured that most contractors are reliable workers ready to take on your project in a professional, trustworthy manner. To help you avoid scams and find a qualified contractor, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers the following six tips:

1. Stay Local
Local contractors are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers in order for their business to survive. Local firms can be checked through references, including past customers in your community.

2. Follow Local Building Codes
Another advantage to hiring local professionals is that they’ll know the local building code and permit requirements for your town or city. Building codes vary considerably across each jurisdiction and are known to change from year to year. Most structural work or footprint expansions require permits.

3. Check for License and Insurance
Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed, bonded and/or insured. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Most states require a contractor to carry workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Ask for copies of a contractor’s license and insurance certificate to ensure they’re current.

4. Check for Violations and Complaints
Check with your local consumer affairs office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no complaints on record for the contractor.

5. Compare Apples to Apples
If you solicit estimates from more than one contractor, be sure they’re working off the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in prices, and beware of any estimate that’s substantially lower than the others.

6. Always Check References
Don’t rely on a contractor’s personality or demeanor. If a professional doesn’t offer references, ask for them and follow up with a site visit or phone call.

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