Hiring A Reliable Contractor

August 2, 2005-- Posted at 3:35 PM CDT

Maybe you want to make some home improvements because the warm weather months are here, or maybe because you're thinking about selling while the real estate market is hot.Whatever the reason, you're going to be looking for a contractor -- and that can be stressful, given that contractor scams are often the Number One source of consumer complaints.

Senior editor Mari McQueen with the Consumer Reports Money Adviser newsletter says before you hire someone, get the terms in writing. In some states such as California, a written contract is required for any work that will cost more than 500 dollars, and McQueen says that's probably a good idea in general.

Also, beware of liens that could bite you if the contractor doesn't pay subcontractors or suppliers. You might protect yourself and your property by arranging to pay those people directly.

Finally, McQueen warns that you should never do business with a contractor who won't or can't provide references.

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