Buyer Beware!!!  With a slow economy there are plenty of contractors eager to take your money.  So here is the good, bad and ugly signs that you can watch for when you're interviewing any home improvement contractor. good-300x138 They have a good reputation in the industry. Friends and neighbors rave about the work they had done. They know how well he plies his craft, and if they're willing to put their reputations on the line by recommending them.

His business card includes an address and a place you can visit.  A tradesman who provides a physical address that's in your community is far less likely to disappear on you than someone whose true locale is hidden behind a post office box. Many people are posing as contractors and have not made an investment for the future to serve you. Visit their business.

His list of references is a mile long. Even terrible contractors have had a few happy clients along the way - or have family members who can play the part when you call. The longer the list of references, the less likely it's rigged. Call a handful and ask about their experience.

bad-300x131 There are some good-but-quirky tradesmen who exhibit the following traits. Think twice about hiring them unless every other indicator looks terrific.

He drives a rusted-out jalopy. A bucket of bolts that leaves an oil slick in your driveway doesn't bode well for the attention to detail or fiscal stability of the person driving it. The truck does not need to be new but should be neat and clean.

He wants cash. Even if you don't care that he's shirking his taxes by taking cash (or a check made out to cash), consider what other costs he may be cutting - like licensing fees, insurance bills and skilled crew members. Never write a check to cash.

He doesn't provide a cell number.  If he doesn't want to give out that number, it isn't because he's conserving his minutes - he doesn't want to be reachable.

ugly-300x129 If you see any of these signs, don't hire the guy - even if you've had good luck working with him before.

He wants to skip the permit - or have you apply for it. Any major improvement project legally requires a building permit, which means that inspectors will check the work. If a contractor wants to go without a permit, it means he'd rather not have anyone looking over his shoulder (other than you, but let's face it, you don't know what to look for)

He solicits business door to door and pressures you. A paving contractor rings your bell to say he just did a job in the neighborhood, has extra materials and will cut you a rock-bottom deal if he can work on yours that afternoon. Sounds great, right?

Trouble is, you have no idea who he is or if he's going to do the job right. And if that new pavement starts cracking three weeks later, you'll never get him back to repair the damage.  If you are solicited door to door, Check out references and remember if a deal is too good to be true, do not bite.

He seems sleazy. Ultimately, you have to feel comfortable letting this person into your home. Clearly, you're not going to hand your house keys to someone who flips a cigarette butt into your azaleas or leers at your 16-year-old daughter.

But if he doesn't look you straight in the eye or you just have a gut feeling that something might be amiss, go ahead and cross him off your list. --------

The Very Good.... American Metal Roofs (AMR) of Michigan Logo frank-farmer