Q&A / 

Construction contracts can be very complex or they can be simple. The best ones I have seen contain easy to understand language and are written as a person talks. The sentences are short, concise and clear. You know exactly what is going to happen. You can get into trouble with contracts if they become long, complicated and wordy. In fact, some contracts are so goofed up that they actually contain conflicting statements!

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One of my editors asked me to write this particular column. We were together with several other people in the press lounge at the National Association of Home Builders Show in Dallas, Texas. One of the people in the group needed to hire a contractor and asked me exactly how to spot a pro. Once I finished answering the question, the editor said that she wanted me to write a column about the same subject.

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There are many, many different trade magazines. Virtually each aspect of building and remodeling has its own. For example, there are ones that cover just concrete, brick, heating and cooling, roofing, tile, etc. There simply are not enough hours in the day to read all of them!

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The following contractor questions may make a few of you uncomfortable. You may gulp at trying to ask them. Well, before you give up, I want you to close your eyes and imagine $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 of your money just vanishing in thin air. If you hire the wrong contractor for your job, this is a distinct possibility. I know, because I get numerous e-mails each week from people who have been cheated by bad contractors.

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Homeowners across the nation are victimized each and every day by builders and remodelers who really don't know what they are doing. These builders and remodelers are often referred to as non-professionals. While that is true, very few people that I have come into contact with have ever discussed the root of the problem. Unfortunately, many problems occur long after the contractor is gone.

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When it comes to building and remodeling, both homeowners and remodelers/builders have a wealth of information from which to choose. There are countless magazines, books, periodicals, technical journals and trade association literature to stay informed. All it takes is a little initiative on the part of an individual who wants to learn.

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Probably the most frequent question I am asked is "How do I spot a professional builder or remodeler?" When selecting a contractor, ask questions. A professional will not dodge a question. He or she will answer each and every one. The anxiety that you are feeling should diminish with each answer. If not, something is wrong. The answers that a professional will offer should help to make you feel more comfortable.

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Jobsites are different with each contractor. Some are neat and very safe while others are not. New home builders need to walk through their job site often. Read my tips on what to look for about how your home is being built. If you don't like something, talk to your contractor right away.

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New home builders won't scare you off if you consider adding the right provisions in your contract. Specifications will keep your contractor from bullying you into accepting his poor workmanship. Contract law attorneys can help with the contract and save you from stress.

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