by Angie’s List Staff
Homeowners are ready to jump back into home improvement in 2011, and their timing couldn’t be better as contractors say they’re still willing to cut prices to get business, according to the latest Angie’s List surveys.
“Contractors offered big discounts in 2009 and in 2010, but many homeowners held back for economic reasons. But our members say they are ready to spend,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local service companies.
Ninety percent of the Angie’s Members responding to a January 2011 survey say they plan to spend, on average, 5 percent of their homes’ value making improvements and repairs. In a separate poll of contractors rated on Angie’s List, also conducted in January, 80 percent of the home improvement specialists said they were willing to drop their prices in 2010 to get a job. Only 43 percent were willing to drop their prices in a similar 2008 survey.
“As demand increases, contractors are going to pull back on those discounts,” Hicks predicted. “If you’re among those planning to remodel this year, don’t put it off. Not only are you risking your discount opportunity, you might find the best contractors in town are too busy to get to you.”
More than half of the companies who offer discounts said they would discount up to 10 percent, but nearly a quarter of others would cut up to 20 percent.
“Consumers should never hire based on price alone,“ Hicks said. “But it’s definitely a factor in the hiring decision, and one worth exploring.”
The economic climate in 2010 caused 37 percent of respondents to postpone remodeling plans. This year, Angie’s List members say they plan to invest an average of $17,500 on home improvements. Specifically:
* 59 percent want to update or improve their home
* 22 percent plan to make repairs
* 9 percent are looking to increase the resale value of their homes
“The best approach to preserving your home’s value is to first address any repairs that can’t wait before taking on improvement projects,” Hicks said. “Adding insulation or doing a kitchen or bathroom remodel are great investments, but they won’t do much good if you have a mold issue in your attic or crawlspace or don’t fix a leaky pipe under your sink. Be sure you have the resources to cover both your desired project and any unforeseen repairs that inevitably will come up throughout the year.”
Angie’s List 5 tips to hire good contractors and avoid the unqualified ones:
1. Avoid door-to-door solicitors and those who only accept cash payments, offer discounts for finding customers or pressure you to make a quick decision.
2. Verify the business is licensed to operate in your area.
3. Ask the contractor you want to hire for several references from happy customers who’ve had worked completed — and check them. Visit the job sites if possible.
4. Never sign a contract containing blank spaces.
5. Get at least three different estimates for your job. And get it in writing – documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong. If you have to pay for it, be sure the fee comes off your final bill if you hire that contractor. Also, ask for a guarantee on an estimate. A good contractor will be willing to guarantee their price for 30 days.
If you run into problems:
1. Let the contractor know you’re unhappy. Ask him or her to take specific action to remedy the situation.
2. Follow up with a letter. Keep records of all written correspondence as well as receipts, canceled checks and credit card statements. If a business requests documents, send a copy, never an original. Keep a log of all conversations, including the date and time of the call, what was said and who you spoke with.
3. Report suspected unethical or illegal behavior to the proper authorities
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