Q. We will be attending the Chattanooga Tri-State Home Show this weekend. What advice may BBB provide for a productive review of vendors at the event?
A. Spring is quickly approaching, which means home show season is upon us and consumers are already in the process of planning for their upcoming home improvement projects. While attending a local home show can provide a one-stop opportunity to gather ideas and meet with potential contractors to hire, your Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers of the importance of doing their homework before making a financial and contractual commitment.
While attending the Chattanooga Tri-State Home Show and making plans to hire a home improvement contractor; BBB offers the following tips:
Familiarize yourself with the show's layout. Visit the show's website in advance and locate appealing vendors. Home Builder's Association of Greater Chattanooga, www.hbagc.net . Check for discounts and coupons being offered and research vendor's business review report at bbb.org. Look for the seal of BBB accreditation certificate being displayed in booths of BBB Accredited Businesses, as these companies meet and uphold BBB Standards. BBB will be at booth D28 and display a list of local Accredited Businesses.
Be prepared. Develop a list of questions for potential contractors so you don't overlook something, as it is easy to become distracted at a show. Recognize and keep to your budget while maintaining clear goals to avoid being pressured into making an impulse commitment on the spot.
Comparison shop. Collect information, marketing materials and ask questions. Engage with booth owners, obtain specifics on pricing and services and have a clear understanding of company policies and warranties. Consider creating a separate email address specifically for show correspondence to avoid overloading your personal email account.
Verify license and insurance. Always be sure that the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses and insurance to work in your city, county and state.
Avoid paying in full. BBB recommends limiting a deposit to no more than one-third of the total cost of the project and to also set up a schedule of payments based on the job's overall progress. Get all details of the project in writing in the form of a contract and request a receipt that properly accounts for any paid amounts.
Recognize your rights. In the U.S., under the Federal Trade Commission's Cooling-Off Rule, www.consumers.ftc.gov, contracts for goods or services in excess of $130 that are entered into at a seller's temporary location, can be canceled within three business days following the date of the contract. By law, the seller must tell you about your right to cancel at the time of sale. The seller also must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send if you decide to cancel).
It's important to remember that signing up for drawings and contests should be done only after careful consideration. You may be setting yourself up for annoying sales calls, frequent email offers and mailed advertisements by giving them your contact information. Ask about it before signing up for anything.
For additional helpful BBB tips and information on hiring a contractor, visit www.go.bbb.org/generalcontractors.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau in Chattanooga