Now that spring has finally sprung in New Jersey, do you need to get some work done on your house?

Picking the right professional should be a process, so you don't end up getting cheated. While most contractors are honest and ethical, here are some tips you can use to help make sure you don't get sucked in by the minority.

Do your research

If you don't already have a relationship with a reliable contractor, take your time to find someone who will actually deliver the work they promise.

Doing an online search and going with the first link isn't always the best bet — anyone can pay to be that first link.

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs keeps a database of all registered and licensed home improvement contractors. Documentation may be listed under a company's name or the name of the individual contractor.

If you're not into scanning government websites, look to family and friends who've recently had repairs done on their home. If they're happy with the work, and the people who performed it, you'll likely be pleased as well.

Check on a company's complaint history, and how a company handled those complaints, with the Better Business Bureau serving New Jersey. The Bureau offers businesses an "A+" through "F" rating, and accredits businesses that uphold certain standards.

"We want to steer you away from an 'F' rating if possible," said Melissa Companick, president and CEO.

Red flags

If a contractor knocks on your door, looking for work, that could be a sign they don't have many customers.

Online searches at the links above should help you determine whether that door-knocker is reliable.

According to Companick, president and CEO of the state's Better Business Bureau, consumers should be weary of a contractor asking for full payment up front. Typically with these contracts, she said, there would be a deposit, and customers pay for the project in thirds.

The state requires written contracts for home improvement jobs that cost more than $500. Companick said consumers would be wise to get all details in writing, no matter the size of the job.

Be present

Once a contract is signed, try to stay informed on the project's progress. You want to be made aware of any potential delays or issues that would affect the scope of the project.

You can point to the contract when dealing with any issues involving cost. If there's a debate over safety, feel free to contact your municipality for a decision.

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