Friday, January 14, 2011

Tips for Hiring Landscape Contractors

Most home owners will hire a landscape contractor to perform work on their yard at some time or another. However, finding a trustworthy professional to do the work is important, since this person will have access to your property. Landscaping, especially patio, walkway and retaining wall construction can be costly, so it is important that the contractor you hire knows what they are doing and operates legally to avoid any potential problems. Still, many home owners do not know what to look for when hiring a contractor, so here is a list of key requirements home owners should keep in mind when hiring a landscape contractor:

1. Make sure the contractor is licensed. Any work over $300 is required to be done by a licensed contractor in the state of Maryland. Contractors should be able to provide you with their MHIC (Maryland Home Improvement Commission) license number. Tree service professionals in Maryland should have a Maryland Tree Expert license number. You can also look contractors up on the DLLR website and DNR website.

2. Insurance. Make sure your contractor carries liability and workers comp insurance when required. If any damages do occur, you want to make sure you are covered.
3. Check for complaints with the BBB. Search the BBB for complaints on a contractor, companies are given grades based on the number of complaints received. Only use companies with a grade of A- or better.

4. Get References. Landscape contractors should be able to provide you with a list of customer references that have had similar projects done. If a contractor is not willing to provide references, they either don't have experience, or don't have any satisfied customers.

5. Get a few quotes. Get a few quotes from different sources. Review the different policies and prices for the quotes. Remember, budget is important but it shouldn't be the only factor. You want a landscape contractor who is reliable and offers quality work as well. a good landscaper will be able to work within a budget. Also keep in mind that by law, contractors can only ask for a down payment of 1/3 the total price of the project.

6. Use a Contract. Contracts are their to protect you, the buyer, and the contractor. Make sure you have all the work to be performed written in a signed agreement. Review the details and ask questions about guarantees and customer satisfaction policies.

7. Follow Your Gut. If something seems fishy, it probably is. Don't get swayed by price cuts or fancy add-ons. You want to feel comfortable with the landscape contractor you are working with.

Remember, landscaping can be a large expense. In order to get the most bang for your buck, make sure that you hire a trusted professional.