How to find the right licensed contractor in the San Diego area....

One of the most common questions I get from my buyers and sellers is "Do you know a good contractor?"  One of the upsides to this lousy economy is the abundance of good contractors begging for work.  Finding them has suddenly become a lot easier.   Check it out - they actually call you back now!   A couple of years ago, it seemed like you had to be an A-list celebrity to get one to so much as call you back.

So how do you find a good contractor?  Referrals are always the best way to go.  But let's pretend you cannot find a good referral from friends or family, or me (which is pretty difficulty to do because I have good resources for almost every trade you would want), for the type of work you need to be done.  This is what you need to do...
Before Hiring a Contractor....

Make sure the contractor has a sales tax ID number.

Make sure the contractor has a valid contractor's license.

Contractors with employees should be registered with Workers Compensation.

Find out if a business license is required in the contractor's local; if so, check to make sure they have one.

Check the BBB to see if any complaints have been filed against that contractor.

His list of references needs to be really long...   Even the terrible/horrible contractors have had a few happy clients along the way - or have family members who can play the part when you call.  The longer the list of references, the less likely it's rigged.

Make sure he works in the San Diego County area - to be more specific if you live in Chula Vista or Bonita, make sure he's close to your area.

He wants cash...  Never a good sign.

Make sure he/she drives a nice looking work vehicle ....  A rusted-out jalopy is not a good sign.   If he/she parks their car in the driveway and oil leaks everywhere, run for the hills.

When hiring a contractor make sure your contract is "specific".  Put the scope of work and details of the job in writing!

Verbal agreements are worthless should a dispute break out.  Therefore, although a contract might not be required by law, never hire a contractor without first obtaining a contract that outlines the project in specific detail.  This is called the Scope of Work.

The contract should be signed by both parties; the project owner and the contractor, (or all parties involved if some aspects of the work will be sub-contracted or services of another service provider professional such as an architect, designer, etc. will be required).

The contract should protect the interests of both the homeowner and the contractor.

If there is a dispute, try to meet the contractor half way....Remember, the contractor was hired by you to complete a project you are paying for, to your specifications; not the other way around.

If contract terms are not being met and discussing the situation doesn't bring desired results, send a letter outlining the problem and how you would like it resolved by certified mail to the contractor.  If the problem continues it may be time for outside intervention.

How to Lodge a Complaint

Check to find out what state, or local consumer protection services are available in your area. Also check to see if there is a dispute resolution program available.  And finally, visit www.nahb.org to discover whether or not your area has a Local Builders Association (LBA) that can lend assistance.

Also consider the following resources:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) - created in 1914, the FTC has been given authority by the USA Congress to regulate consumer protection laws and such things as truthful advertising and ensuring that business practices are legitimate. Visit http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm ; to download a complaint form, visit http://www.ftc.gov/ftc/cmplanding.shtm .

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) - find your local BBB by visiting http://www.bbb.org . The BBB assists consumers by providing complaint counseling or referrals to appropriate agencies and organizations. Helping consumers and businesses resolve over 2 million disputes annually, BBB conducted more than 3,100 investigations on companies using questionable business practices in 2005 alone. You can download a complaint form online.

The National Association of Consumer Agency Administrators (NACAA) - representing more than 160 government agencies and 50 corporate consumer offices in the USA and abroad. Providing consumer advocating services; helping to resolve problems and prosecute offenders. (To file a complaint, visit http://www.consumeraction.gov/state.shtml to discover what resources are available in your locality.)