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Home Modification: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

Sometimes the words "home modification" dredges up fear in a homeowner because of the unknown. Many homeowners or their family members begin to worry and ask themselves, "How am I going to pay for this?" Some worry about how to manage a subcontractor or even how to find a qualified contractor who can do the work. Modifications done well can be a game-changer for people who want to safely age in place. However, the opposite is also true and can leave you worse off than before the modifications.

No wonder so many older adults have delayed preparing their home for their elder years. The effect is that many homes today are ill-prepared for the aging adult's needs. So, how do you find a qualified contractor and what do you need to do to ensure you get the right person on your team? Ask for recommendations from trusted sources. Check out work that the company or person has done for others. In Tennessee you can verify contractors through their online system.

The state also recommends, that you always check the following:

  • Status of the license

  • Expiration Date to see if the licensee is properly licensed

  • Name of the licensee

  • Type of license issued

For example, all licenses in Tennessee look the same; therefore, make sure the person acting as a “Contractor” has the Tennessee license that says contractor on it and not an “Auctioneer”; “Land Surveyor”, or “Fire Sprinkler” license from another Division."

Get three bids for work to be done when you have been quoted a large sum for the project. While the first bid may be the best, it isn't always the best and you may find that prices can vary widely for the work. Before doing any major remodel or modification make sure you have all the proper permits in place. Work that requires a permit and done without one can cause you a lot of headaches further down the road especially if you wish to sell the home and move to downsize or for other needs.

Another important tip is do not pay the contractor all the money up front. Many an unsuspecting consumer has paid a large sum of money up front to a contractor who says that the money is needed to buy materials or to obligate the contract only to find out that the contractor is long gone with the money. The work never got started and you are out a lot of money. A contractor may ask to pay for a job at certain points or percentages of completion. This is may be a common practice in your area for large project. If you have had an especially large job, you may want to have a third party verify that the work has been done correctly and to your satisfaction. This might be a home inspector, another contractor or other building professional who will charge a fee for the verification.

Finally, make sure your contractor or subcontractor has, at a minimum, a general liability policy and ask the contractor to have a certificate of insurance (COI) issued to you that shows you as additional insured. If you have questions about insurance, speak with your homeowner's insurance agent about what you should have in place before work begins on your home.

Taking the time to check, review or have your attorney review a legally binding contract, and plan should lead to a good outcome when you have a modification done for your home.

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