Think Ahead to Avoid Home Repair Rip-offs

Physician's Money Digest, April 2007, Volume 14, Issue 4

Almost everyone is good at something,and that's usually whywe're employed in our chosenfields. However, no one is good at everything,and for busy physicians, it maynot be cost-efficient to do your ownhousehold repair work. That's why youhire a plumber or electrician, a specialistin their field. But how do you know ifyou're getting a good deal, or just gettingripped off? A Bottom Line Secrets(www.bottomlinesecrets.com) articleoffers the following helpful hints forfinding the right person for the job:

•Plumbing. The best way to find aplumber is to get a referral. Real estateagents might be your best bet becausemany home sales have hit a snag due tointerior water stains, and agents wouldknow a reputable plumber.

Before hiring, check the plumber'sstate license as well as their certificateof workers' compensation insurance.Copies of these documents should beshown when you accept a bid.

If you suspect a plumbing problem,seek out a plumber before it becomes anemergency—last-minute service usuallybrings top dollar, and some plumberscharge triple on weekends.

Also, don't buy plumbing parts onyour own. You might think you'resaving money, but plumbers can purchasesupplies at professional discountsof up to 35%. In addition, aplumber might not warranty theirwork if you do the purchasing.

•Electrical. General contractors areyour best bet for getting a recommendationon an electrician, because theysee the electrician's work before it iscovered over by walls and ceilings andwill recommend someone they trust.

When considering an electrician, askif they have handled a job similar toyours. If so, make certain to check atleast one of their references to see if thejob was completed on time and withinbudget. If an electrician provides youwith an estimate, make certain thatrepair items—such as the cost to repairholes cut in walls—are listed.It's also a good idea to learn how toreset a circuit breaker or change a blownfuse, because service calls can costbetween $70 and $120 for the first hour.

•Locksmiths. Your local policedepartment is a good source for gettinga recommendation on a reputablelocksmith or alarm specialist. If youuse the Yellow Pages, make sure thelocksmith has a physical location at theaddress listed. Also, get an estimatebefore they start their work.

Before having an alarm systeminstalled in your home, check to see ifthe system qualifies for discounts onyour homeowner's insurance. For example,a monitored system should reduceyour annual premium by 15% to 20%.Most companies will insist you sign a 5-year contract to use their service, whichcould run $1500. And if you do have analarm system installed, make certain youreceive operating instructions and keepthem handy.