Remodeling
While house hunting in Chicago, you and your spouse have found the perfect home. It’s well-situated close to a high-rated school district, it’s within a decent commute to your work and it has a nice pool and landscaped backyard that really made a lasting impression. The home will require some remodeling, but it’s not enough to stop you from moving in, and it’s available for immediate occupancy. Find out more in this section about the best ways to find a remodeling contractor, the questions to ask when interviewing a contractor and what to include in the remodeling contract. Also find out which remodeling projects in the Chicago region provide the best return on investment.

According to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) (www.nari.org), the remodeling market is a $275 billion industry and is expected to continue to experience significant growth. It is estimated that more than 1 million homes per year undergo major renovation or remodeling. In Chicago, there are many professional builders and remodelers to select from, and most are members of the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC), an organization of professionals in the residential construction industry.

WORKING WITH CONTRACTORS IN ILLINOIS
Beginning in 2000, the Home Repair and Remodeling Act (HRRA) has required contractors to complete three steps before the home repair or remodeling process can take place. First, the contractor must provide a written contract that states the total cost, including a detailed list of the necessary parts and materials to the homeowner. Second, he or she must also give the homeowner a pamphlet that has been prepared by the state of Illinois called “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights.” Finally, if the work is valued at $1,000 or more, the homeowner must sign the contract before any work is done.

In Illinois, a license to practice most construction contracting is not required. However, some local counties or districts may require contractors to be licensed or register, so check local requirements prior to starting construction. Additional permits also may be necessary.

Make sure to get all the facts about your contractor before hiring them. To learn important details about a builder or remodeler, call the Illinois Attorney General Homeowner Hotline at (312) 814-5094. The Chicago Better Business Bureau (BBB) is another convenient way to find information on various issues, such as previous homeowner complaints and the number of inspection requests at which an inspector confirmed a construction defect. Call the BBB at (312) 832-0500. The organization is available to answer questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Illinois Attorney General website (www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov) also offers a great resource to residents looking for information on a variety of home repair and construction topics, including common home repair scams, how to go about finding a contractor, contract guidelines in Illinois, paying for home repair projects, duties of the contractor and subcontractor and steps that can be taken by scam victims. This agency protects consumers and the legitimate business community by filing civil lawsuits under the Deceptive Business Practices Act and other consumer protection statutes.

CONTRACTOR SELECTION
At this point, you’ve had a chance to review the improvements and additions you’re interested in making to your home. Now, you need to begin the contractor selection process, which is the most important decision in a remodeling project. Nearly half of all projects signed by a remodeling contractor are the result of client referrals. An additional 22 percent of jobs are the result of word-of-mouth referrals. By following these guidelines, you will be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.

Employ a home improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through local organizations. Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers so their business will survive. Following are a few suggestions for finding local contractors:
  • Home Builder Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC). On the HBAGC website at www.hbagc.com, you’ll find a searchable database of member professional builders.
  • NARI Chicago. The website of the Greater Chicagoland chapter of the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI) (www. narichicago.org) offers a way to search for professionals by specialty. On the website, click on Find A NARI Pro and conduct your search.

When you meet with a potential contractor, ask for the following items:
  • Current copy of his license (Call or visit the comptroller’s website to verify compliance with the law)
  • Copy of the remodeling contractor’s certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage (Most states require a contractor to carry workers compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.)

When you solicit bids from several different home-improvement contractors, make sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in bids and beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others.

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