Home Improvement Contractors – What Homeowners Should Know

With home improvement fraud and scams on the rise in the United States, homeowners must take the necessary precautions to avoid becoming victims of “fly by night contractors.” For those who still own their properties after seeing the rise in foreclosures across this Nation, it is incumbent on you the homeowner to do the following before you go in search of a Home Improvement Contractor.

Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) in most jurisdictions in the United States is regulated by City, State or County Agencies. For example, in New York City, Nassau and Suffolk County in New York, the Department Of Consumer Affairs regulates the operations of Home Improvement Contractors and Home Improvement Salesmen (HIS). These are representatives or sales people who negotiate contracts on behalf of Home Improvement Contractors (HIC).

There are basically three (3) stages of the home improvement process, namely: The Negotiation Stage; The Contract Stage and The Work In Progress and Completion Stage. In the Negotiation Stage, a homeowner should perform a “due diligence” on prospective Home Improvement Contractors and Home Improvement Salesmen, hereinafter referred to as HIC and HIS respectively. This is where you research and check to see if the HIC is a bona fide and legitimate operator. You start by calling the Agency that regulates HIC and HIS in your area. Ask HIC and HIS for proof of licenses, workmen compensation, general liability insurance, performance bonds, and references.

You should also check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) with respect to the reputation of such businesses. Check to see any history of complaints and how they were expedited. Make sure that the HIC/HIS has a physical business address, business telephone, fax, email address, website, etc. Beware of “fly by night contractors” that operate out of their trucks, vans, SUV. It is very important also for you the homeowners to get at least 3-5 free written estimates from HIC and HIS. Some HIC/HIS may charge a reasonable fee depending on the size of the job estimate. For example, those estimates that involves blue prints specifications, plans, zoning, etc. However, you should try and negotiate a free written estimate that expressly state in black and white prices, brand names, colors, designs, start date, completion date, etc. Keep in mind that “word of mouth” is the best recommendation. Get references from HIC/HIS and invest the time to check the jobs and speak to the homeowners directly. Ask questions!

In the Contract Stage, before you sign or execute a contract, make sure that you obtain copies of HIC/HIS licenses, workmen compensation, general liability insurance, performance bond (applicable for large projects), and inquire whether the HIC participates in a Home Improvement Trust Fund. This is a trust fund that the Agency requires HIC to pay into so as to protect homeowners from HIC who takes off before a job is completed. You are required also to make sure that all brand names, styles, colors, any oral promises (some high powered HIC/HIS will promise you the moon to get your signature), along with manufacturer’s and labor warranties to be expressly written in your contract. Most importantly, make sure that the HIC/HIS expressly put in writing a start date and completion date, along with giving you your right to cancel (recession rights).

Most contract laws allow you three (3) business days from the date of a contract to withdraw or cancel the contract without any penalty or obligations. So if you gave a deposit to the HIC/HIS, you are entitled to a full refund within a reasonable period of time not to exceed 10 days. Check with your jurisdiction to make sure of this right. With respect to deposits, some HIC/HIS may require a deposit upon the execution of a contract. Be very careful of HIC and HIS who ask for large deposits up front. Beware of HIC and HIS who wants cash or have checks written out to his or her name. Make checks payable to the Business name only. It is advisable to pay using a credit card. If the HIC is a legitimate operator, it is very likely that they accept credit card as a Merchant. However, the Rule is: Do not give a deposit more than what you can afford to lose. In other words, give a very, very small deposit. A bona fide, reputable and legitimate HIC will not ask for a deposit up front. Such HIC has credit accounts with Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other suppliers who will not rely on your money/deposit to buy materials.

If you are not financing the work through the HIC or a third party lender, it is recommended that you pay progress payments to the HIC. Progress payments are incremental payments. In other words, you pay as the work progresses. For example, if you are getting a roof job done, you may want to give a percentage down (one third of contract price) only on delivery of materials and start of work. Then you give another one third payment when the roof is completed and the final one third when the construction debris is removed from your property. It is advisable to hold back at least 10 per cent of the total contract price for at least 90 days to ensure that the work was done properly. For those homeowners who wish to finance their projects through the HIC or a third party lender, make sure that you do not sign any blank bank papers. You should also ask the HIC/HIS whether the amount you finance will cause a lien or second mortgage to be placed on your property. Make sure that the bank does a visual inspection of the work before you sign a completion certificate allowing the bank to pay the HIC.

Finally, the Work in Progress and Completion Stage; this is the most crucial stage of the work. The HIC is ready to walk away from your project, but you want to make sure that the work was done in accordance with municipal building codes and all of your manufacturer’s warranties, warranty on labor, etc., are given to you in writing. This is where you will be asked by the HIC or HIS to release final payment. If you finance the work, the HIC/HIS will ask you to sign a completion certificate which they will take to the bank to get a release of the funds at your permission. Some banks will do a visual inspection to make sure that the work was done. However, it is very crucial that you make sure that the Municipal Building Inspectors give a green light for your project. In other words, they must sign off on the job stating that all work was done professionally and in accordance with municipal building codes. Some jobs may require a certificate of occupancy (CO).

Make sure that you have this CO in your hands before you release final payments to a HIC/HIS. Last but not least, if the HIC hires Sub Contractors such as an electrician or plumber to do work on your property, make sure that they are paid by the HIC. Failure to pay them may result in the Sub Contractors filing a mechanic’s lien against your property. This is legal. While the work is in progress, make sure that the workers are on time on the site. A normal work day for construction workers are from 8:00 am to 6:00 PM. Some industrious workers will work until it gets dark. Beware of workers that show up for a few minutes and take off. There are many HIC who start 20 jobs and cannot finish one. Some HIC take from “Peter to pay Paul” and stall your job in the process. This is why it is crucial that you get a start date and completion date in writing.

If the HIC fail to complete the job within that time, you the homeowner may legally hold back money or charge the HIC for each day that elapsed. If your work is an exterior job that involves ladders, scaffold, etc., make sure that they are erected properly and reasonable standard of care is exercised by the workers. In other words, if a scaffold or ladder fall and injure a neighbor or passerby, they may have a civil claim or lawsuit against you the homeowner. This is why you must ensure that the HIC has proper insurance such as general liability insurance before they start work on your project. If you the homeowner permit the HIC to advertise their companies by erecting a sign on your property, you may request a discount on your contract for such favor.

I hope that this post will help you to select the right Home Improvement Contractor for your project, and most of all, you will not become a victim to the criminals out there who masquerade as Home Improvement Contractors.

Patrick Pearce is Founder, President and CEO for Southeastern Development & Consulting Group, Inc., a Florida Corporation.

Patrick Pearce earned his BA degree from the City University of New York and his law degree (JD) from Hofstra University School of Law in Hempstead, New York.

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How Home Health Agencies Are Beneficial

You may have some family members or elderly people who need attention and regular care and now you feel that the pressure to attend to their needs has become higher. If this is your situation, you are one among the millions of people who are in the same boat and who wish that they can clone themselves so that they can attend to the demands of their profession, their personal life and their responsibility to take care of a loved one.

One of the options considered by people in your situation include the use of home health agencies to provide the care giving services that you need for your family member. Before feeling guilty about allowing a stranger to take care of your loved one, you should first consider the benefits of having home health agencies to serve your needs.

1. The presence of trained medical personnel

The care and attention that is needed by an ailing family member is better addressed with trained personnel in the area of medical assistance and care. Home health workers are never deployed to work unless they have completed and passed the requirements of home health agencies. Thorough training and education sessions are conducted to better prepare them to attend to varying medical and care needs of patients.

Knowing that you have a trained medical representative in your home to attend to your loved one can remove all your worries. You know that immediate medical attention can be given during emergency situations.

2. Better interaction with other people for your loved one

Exposing your loved ones to medical personnel from home health agencies gives them the chance to talk and build some relationships that may be important at this point of their lives. They have the opportunity to interact and share their thoughts and emotions not only with you but also with the person or people who take care of them. This gives them the opportunity to broaden their sphere of influence and can bring a smile to their face. Overall, it can improve their condition.

3. Support for nutrition and prescription needs

With staff from home health agencies, you can trust that the right schedules of feeding and taking medicine are taken care of. You can also be assured of giving the right nutrition for your loved one. This in itself is a great help as you no longer need to plan for meals. This can already be handled for you.

4. Transportation assistance

When hiring workers from home health agencies, you can be assured of having somebody who can take your loved one to the doctor, to the park, to the grocery or anywhere without having to actually do it yourself. You can go on with your regular schedule and your loved one is being attended well. Transportation is a basic service that is given by home health agencies.

These are the benefits of having medical staff from home health agencies to help in meeting your needs to take care of your loved one. You will not be stretching yourself too thinly attending to the many concerns of your life as this part of your life can be handled by experts and you can be assured of the right attention that can help improve the situation.

This is an option to consider if you are getting too stressed because of this responsibility. Home health agencies are here to help in this area of your life.

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How to Use Organizational Assessments to Grow Your Home Health Agency

The home health care industry is growing rapidly and it’s only expected to rise in the coming years. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of home health and personal care aides will increase 70 percent from 2010 to 2020. To stay competitive in the industry, home care agencies must embrace change and continue to improve both their operations and their services. But before any change can be implemented, it’s imperative that your agency performs an organizational assessment to see exactly what changes are needed.

What is an Organizational Assessment?
An organizational assessment is an in-depth analysis of your agency. It’s typically conducted by a home health consultant and operates like an audit. The professional conducting the assessment will review all aspects of your agency, including your people, structure, operations, recruiting, training, revenue, compliance, and strategic plan. While some of the issues may be apparent, you will uncover hidden risks and problems that can be detrimental to your home health agency’s success.

Why Hiring a Home Health Consultant Matters
It’s difficult to be impartial about your own agency. A home health consultant can conduct an organizational assessment with the right level of scrutiny and emotional distance. Also, experienced consultants know all of the latest regulations, industry requirements, and best practices so they can fully assess every area that needs improvement.

Benefits of an Organizational Assessment
Many home health agencies avoid organizational assessments because of their perceived cost. Unfortunately, many agencies don’t weigh the cost of an assessment against the cost of leaving their liabilities undiscovered. In addition to improving efficiency and finding leaky revenue streams, an assessment helps your agency get into compliance with state and federal regulations.

As these regulations continue to change, an organizational assessment pinpoints areas where your agency needs to fix compliance issues. Failing to do so could potentially result in losing medical insurance reimbursements, licensing, or even facing legal problems down the road. Essentially, an assessment keeps your home health agency viable in an unstable economy–and that isn’t something you can put a price on.

An organizational assessment can also evaluate your quality of service. Knowing that your home health agency’s reputation is critical for your success, an assessment can identify any customer service challenges, help improve areas in which negative feedback has been received, and increase client satisfaction ratings.

Examples of Successful Organizational Assessments
An organizational assessment unearths opportunities to increase revenue, eliminate waste, and boost performance. Some examples include discovering:
• Why your agency has seen a dramatic decrease in referrals – You may find that an out-of-state home health agency has been illegally providing services without the appropriate licensing and authority to do so.
• You’re losing money on Medicaid programs – Improper management of a Medicaid program can increase your losses rather than revenue.
• Why your agency’s referral-to-conversion rate has dropped – You may uncover serious customer service issues that occur when the intake specialist is on break or off.
• Your agency is losing funds – You may find that your field staff is not obtaining interim orders to cover the span between the initial orders and the dropping of the RAP. Or, if you are a private duty agency, you may have aging AR that is not being tracked or collected.
• Performance issues – You may identify sales team members who are not making enough sales to cover their salaries let alone additional revenue.
• Training and education needs -Assessment of your staff’s skills may indicate that performance could be improved with education programs.
• Unnecessary positions – You may find that a staff position offers little value and can be removed to free up resources.
• Reasons for attrition – You may uncover communication or morale issues that are causing good employees to leave the agency.

An organizational assessment is a valuable tool to identify your home health agency’s weaknesses and areas of the business that are costing you money. But that’s just the beginning of the process. The next step is to create a strategic plan that puts you on the right path to growth.

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Home Improvements

Home improvements, renovations and repairs require great amount of skill and getting a good agency or contractor or skilled labor is a huge task in itself. Entrusting the job to an unskilled person or hiring the wrong man for the job can be a nightmare you would do well to avoid. You will end up with more on your hands to manage and your home will be worse off than before.

The home improvement business has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years from the ‘simple handyman’ services earlier. Home improvement agencies provide assistance and support in a great many areas relating to home improvement, home repairs and home renovation, each of which requires highly skilled craftsmen and services of the highest quality. Businesses that provide such services not only have to possess a high degree of knowledge concerning home construction materials and their durability, house plans, building engineering & electrical details etc., but also have complete grasp of geographical locations, climate & weather affecting particular areas, factors like pests and pest-control and several other minutely related points.

Some of the areas that home improvement services undertake to renovate or repair in a home may fall in the main area of the house or kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, attic or the roof and could involve improvement services like repairs and renovations in:

• Basements
• Baseboards
• Crown molding
• Cabinets
• Carpentry
• Countertops installation
• Doors / door frames
• Faucets and sinks
• Floor installations
• Painting
• Tiling

Handyman or Handyperson

The term Handyman or Handyperson is used to refer to a person with a wide range of skills to do minor repairs and corrections around the home. These repair tasks include overall interior and exterior maintenance jobs that classify under electrical, plumbing and other fix-ups. To put it simply, a Handyman can be relied on to do those simple, sometimes a little complex home jobs that can be categorized as DIY.

Somewhere along the way, to improve their chances of getting more projects and contracts especially when job markets were seeing a downturn and putting many out of jobs, a Handyman’s profile altered subtly. Where earlier they were paid workers mainly attending to simple DIYs, they progressed to more complex or skilled jobs like painting, remodeling, carpentry, furniture assembly, reinforcing and many more. They figured that it needed only a little more knowledge and willingness to undertake projects and learn-on-the-job.

Generally, a Handyman’s job is viewed as semi-killed, a low status job ranking below specialists such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers. However, the emergence of ‘home improvement agencies’ that have on their rolls skilled Handymen, that general perception is fast changing and they are being viewed as the “go-to-men”, technicians with a lot of job knowledge and multiple skills to handle a variety of home repair and home improvement tasks. With changing attitudes, they are being treated with great professionalism, better wages and perks, and safer working conditions.

The usefulness of a Handyman’s tools are best illustrated with this example of an Australian doctor who in the absence of an appropriate neurological drill, used a Handyman’s Drill for an emergency surgery to save the life of a 13 year old boy who suffered brain trauma.

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Home Improvement – Old Wine in a New Bottle

A home improvement project could be equally exciting and inspiring as building a new house. If you have outlived our home and want an exciting makeover of your old home then consult a free makeover agency for tips and service. Your home is a life time investment decision you might have spent all earnings on acquiring it. So now moving to a new place might sound interesting but it also involves fresh investment and planning. If you do not have enough funds for this big move then just start by improving your home to make it look better and comfortable.

Home Improvement agencies now-a-days can do a brilliant job on your Home. You tell them what you want and how you want to translate this new dream look to your apartment or home and they will do exactly what you want within your budget. These agencies have a competent team of creative people who knows their job quite well.

When you remodel your home you can opt for changing everything old, give your home a new paint and look very different from the old one. You can even plan for small alterations in construction, that tailors to the new look that your home will wear. When you remodel you also save the tax burden that you might have accrued on a new house and effort for legal validation for a new home. Look for the agent who offers you the latest designs for refashioning at the most desirable and competitive price.

The team of architects, painters, creative heads, carpenters and others from the Home improvement agency ensures a brisk overhauling in a smooth fashion optimizing the time and working out a budget that suits your wallet at the same time. From designing your floor plan to wall color shades, planning for ‘theme rooms’ to furnishing, finding the right accessories and gadgets, a home improvement basically targets at re-living in the convenience and luxury that reflects your personality and life-style.

Locating a sensitive team who knows your need

Look for agencies that value family ethics and understand the needs of your family. Your agency needs to be a competitive team that offers you an excellent house remodeling solution that substantiates your venture on a dream home improvement project. Your agency should be satisfactory in terms of timeline, price and quality they offer and the end result. Look for the Home Improvement sites and read the testimonials from other customers. Talk to them to get confirmed about your choice.

A typical remodeling involves assessment of the plumbing, architectural and electrical plans in originals. Designing and floor plan alterations, deciding of sundries and paints, reviewing the adequacy and safety of heating and cooling arrangements and room merging options are the few things that your agency needs to take care of.

Your agency will also plan for decoration and design of rooms, kitchen and bathrooms with the suitable gadgets and accessories. According to your specific need they will also plan for moulds and millwork, hand painted equipments and accessories including windows and doors, furniture that adds flair and panache to the rooms, decoration of the ceilings and walls that reflects a mark of hope and zeal in your new custom home.

Your agency should work in harmony with your concepts and their creation. After remodeling you should be able to have maximum storage space, some free space for your creative planning. Make sure that your home looks comfortable and inviting. The efforts should be conveying the story of how an old uninteresting house turned to a new comfortable living space. The improved home is intended to have the flavor of a new home that’s familiar yet different.

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