Take these steps to hire a repair person who’ll get the job done without draining your savings.

When I had my fireplace and chimney inspected by a well-known company, I was nearly certain those structures were intact. As a safety precaution, however, I’d scheduled an inspection with a fireplace and chimney inspection and repair company before using my fireplace for the winter.

After a thorough inspection, the worker had bad news: My chimney and fireplace both needed extensive repairs for safety reasons. For example, I needed a new firebox for $2,300. The liner needed to be repaired for another $3,000. In fact, just about everything needed to be repaired or replaced, according to the inspector.

The total cost: $17,000. “Don’t worry, we have financing,” he told me. There was no way I was going into that much debt, and I didn’t want my emergency savings to go up in smoke. Still, I  didn’t want my house to burn down, either.

So, I asked for referrals on my Facebook neighborhood page and hired a different company to inspect. That equally thorough inspection revealed a much different result: “Everything looks great,” he told me. No safety concerns at all.

If I had simply taken the word of company number one, I’d be out $17,000. Instead, I spent the winter cozied up with a blanket beside my perfectly safe fireplace.

Home repair rip-offs are common, but you can take steps to avoid being duped, overcharged or stuck with bloated costs or incomplete work.

Here are eight tips for avoiding home repair rip-offs.

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1. Get recommendations from family and friends

One of the best ways to find honest, reputable repair people, companies and contractors is to ask your coworkers, friends and family for recommendations of people they’ve hired. Another good source is your neighborhood Facebook page. Homeowners with good or bad experiences with a company or person are usually eager to share their horror stories or recommendations.

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2. Search online reviews

If I had performed a search on the company that estimated $17,000 in repairs, I would have found many other customers complaining about price-gouging and unnecessary repairs.

Skip the hand-picked reviews on the company or contractor website. Instead, do your own online search, typing the company’s or person’s name and “complaints,” “scam,” “rip-off” or similar terms in the search box. Look them up on the Better Business Bureau website.

Find out: Dust Off These 6 Home Items Now to Save on Repairs Later

3. Hire people who are licensed, bonded and insured

If you hire a handyman who falls from a ladder while working in your home, he may be able to sue you for his injuries. Someone who’s serious about running a reputable home repair or renovation business will be bonded, insured and properly licensed.

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4. Get estimates in writing

Not every job needs a written estimate. For example, replacing toilet tank components to stop a leak is a simple and inexpensive job. On more expensive repairs, however, don’t just seal the deal with a handshake and an oral agreement. Ask for estimates in writing and store them in a file to refer to when making your final decision.

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5. Get a second opinion

For bigger jobs, and even smaller repairs, getting at least two or three estimates can save a lot of money. Even if the work is necessary and estimated costs are comparable, you may find that you have more confidence in a different home repair business or contractor.

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6. Look up average repair costs

To get an idea of whether an estimate for repairs or renovations is reasonable, look up the typical project cost on Angi or another site focused on home repairs. For example, if you need to repair a few holes in the wall, the average cost of drywall repair is between $100 to $1,100, depending on the extent of the damage, according to Angi.

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7. Be wary of people who just show up

That guy who knocks on your door offering to trim your shrubs or paint your house and claims to be a handyman may seem nice enough. It’s possible he might even do good work. However, reputable home repair contractors and handymen don’t just show up at your door, looking for work to do on the spot.

Instead of hiring a stranger, ask friends, neighbors and your neighborhood social media group for referrals to workers who’ve already proven themselves to be honest, dependable and qualified.

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8. Never pay the full amount upfront

If someone wants you to pay the total amount upfront, don’t do it. Many contractors require a deposit to pay for materials and supplies, but that amount is usually no more than half of the total cost at most.

If a repairman leaves the job half-completed with a promise to finish it “later” but wants to be paid in full today, don’t give in. If he never returns, you’re out that money and will have to spend even more on someone else to finish the job.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC