real estate, Title Insurance New York

Spring has Sprung: Rules for choosing the right building contractor!


Some common mistakes made when choosing contractors, home improvement specialists and home builders!

In conjunction with an improving economy, the uptick in the housing market and the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy in parts of the region, more and more people are dealing with contractors whether in new construction, home improvement or in some other type of remodeling.

Choosing the right one is of course critically important for so many reasons, not the least of which is the maintaining of ones sanity.

Therefore, knowing some of the potential mistakes commonly made by consumers before the process even begins is imperative in order to avoid the pitfalls.

I recently had the opportunity to listen to a presentation given by the owner of Long Island, New York builder, Atlantic Shores, who has been in the business for over 30 years through good times and bad and who has seen and heard it all.

He spoke about those things a consumer needs to ask, needs to think about and needs to consider before signing on the dotted line.

This is the Top 10 list he presented of what the common mistakes made are and how to avoid them!

Choosing The Lowest Bidder

According to Consumer Reports – The biggest mistake consumers make is “being seduced by the price alone.” Would you hire the cheapest surgeon in town to operate on you or a member of your family?  There is a saying, “Some of the most expensive work you will ever pay for is cheap work.” Consider that your home is your biggest investment, and you should always think long-term when it comes to doing remodeling and also consider the effects saving a few dollars now will have over 3, 5 or 10 years of living there. “Some contractors use low quotes to win the job, then jack up the price later”, says New York Assistant Attorney General Nick Garin. Your most important tool in evaluating the cost of a project is the value of what you are getting for your money. Low prices are usually a trade off for cutting corners in materials, workmanship or warranty. Remember that most average paint jobs, tile installations or other aspects of the project can look good when completed, the true test is how will they hold up over the next 18 months, 5 years, 10 years?  Did the painter use a proper primer or just paint over things ensuring in a year the paint will begin to peel? Did the tile setter install the proper under-layments or just tile over the problem, ensuring the grout will begin cracking next year? These differences are usually the difference between a lower and a higher estimate.

Not Getting It In Writing

Insist on a written contract. The contract should be dated and include your name and address, as well as the contractor’s name, address, phone number. It should also contain a detailed description of the project, (the scope of work) including plans, materials, sometimes model numbers, quantities, colors, and the approximate starting and completion dates. It also should outline how changes in work orders will be handled and the notice required for cancellation.Finally, specify a payment schedule. The contract should allow you to schedule your payments at different stages tied to completions of specific aspects of the project. Have a final payment due upon completion and your satisfaction.

Too Large Of A Down Payment

Avoid contractors that require large down payments. A small deposit to schedule the work is fine, 10% is standard. If a company needs a large down payment this can be a warning sign that all is not right. Stable companies don’t need their customers down payments to pay for materials or worse to pay for company overhead. Other warning signs, being asked to write a check to the contractor personally instead of to the company, or being asked to pay cash.
No Guarantee

This is one of the most forgotten questions for customers. You wouldn’t buy a new car without a warranty would you? Ask about the warranty and ask if it is in writing. Never accept a verbal warranty of “If something breaks, don’t worry, I’ll fix it.” a verbal warranty will be worth the paper it is written on. Always insist on a warranty in writing. The warranty should clearly spell out what is covered and what is not and how long the warranty is good for. A one year warranty is the minimum you should expect, two years is better.
Not Checking References

A good contractor will be happy to provide you with dozens of written references. When speaking to the contractor’s customers, ask such questions as:

  • Did the contractor keep to the schedule and the contract terms? 
  • Were you pleased with the work and the way it was done?
  • Did the contractor listen to you if you had a problem, and seem concerned about resolving it?
  • Did the contractor willingly make any necessary corrections? 
  • Would you hire him again? 
  • Would you recommend him to others?

You may also wish to check the contractor out with your local building department, trade association or union, local consumer protection agency, consumer fraud unit in your city or district attorney’s office, and the Better Business Bureau. Call these organizations to see if they have information about the contractor you are considering. 

Ask the contractor for the address of his or her business location and business telephone number, and verify them. A contractor who operates a business out of the back of a pickup truck with a cellular telephone may be difficult to find to complete a job or fix something that has gone wrong after the last bill is paid.

Not Knowing What You Want

Sounds silly doesn’t it, but not really. If you don’t know what you want, you might not like what you get. Also, if you change your mind and change the job halfway through, the contract – the price will change also (Hint: it won’t get cheaper). Know as clearly what you want done as possible. You don’t have to know the details of each and every facet of what you want done but you do need to have a good idea of the broad things you want. Changes midway will keep increasing the price, especially if completed sections of the project have to be redone.
Not checking a contractor’s insurance coverage.

If a contractor says he has insurance coverage for himself and any workers, he should be happy to show you documentation from the insurance company. Don’t expose your home owner’s policy to claims for contractor negligence. With home owner’s insurance rates climbing all over the country the last thing you need to do is have to make a claim for no reason when a simple verification of your contractors insurance could protect you from it.Ask about their General Liability Insurance. A one-million dollar policy is now considered standard. Make sure he requires the same coverage from any sub-contractors that will be working on your home. Sub-contractors without insurance won’t be covered under the general contractors insurance and will default back to you.Ask about Workers Compensation insurance. Without it if the contractor or any of his employees get hurt on the job site they can go after you personally to pay for medical bills. Imagine the nightmare of a debilitating injury, you could lose your house for innocently asking someone to work on it.
Not Insisting on Lien Waivers.

Anyone who works on your house should provide you with a lien waiver that waives their claim to future payments for the project. Typically a general contractor will provide waivers for all the workers and for the businesses that supplied labor  for the job. You don’t want to pay the final remodeling bill, yet leave yourself liable for payments to a subcontractor or a lumber yard.
Not Asking Questions About Their Professional Affiliations

Well established companies are affiliated with professional organizations such as the Better Business Bureau and industry related organizations such as the NKBA (National Kitchen and Bath Association), NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry), or NAHB (National Association of Home Builders), In all cases, these organizations only attract conscientious contractors interested in bettering the industry and in weeding out unprofessional contractors. In order to become a member, the contractor’s background and references are thoroughly investigated. While a new contractor may not be a member of any professional organizations, it is highly unlikely an established contractor would not be a member of at least one, unless there is a reason that he cannot join.
Not Ask Questions About How They Work

I can’t stress how important this information can be to you,  ask questions such as how do they perform their work, what time do they start, how will you protect my carpets, how will the trash and debris be handled, do you work straight through a project? The answers to these questions will give you a clear picture of what type of contractor you are dealing with. 


Not Asking Questions About Their Experience With Similar Work As Yours?

The time for a contractor to experiment or get on the job training is not on your project! The more experience a contractor has with the work involved in your project the smoother, less delays and possibly cheaper you can expect your project to be executed. Ask the contractor how many times he has completed projects such as yours. What issues does he believe he may run into during your project? What procedures does he have in place to eliminate problems that might surface during the completion of your project?

Information source


At Hallmark Abstract Service our pledge to clients is to make each and every interaction and transaction with our firm as seamless, painless and productive as it can be.

We accomplish this through the level of service we provide, the attention directed to every detail of a transaction, our quick turnaround times and finally through our extremely conservative pricing on non-policy related fees. These are just some of the things that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn their business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment and we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours!

Mike Haltman, President

516.741.4723 (O)

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC

Corporate philanthropy, hallmark abstract service, Long Island

Hallmark Abstract LIFFC Corporate Sponsors and Donors! (As of April 29, 2013)

As many of you may be aware, Hallmark Abstract Service president Mike Haltman is training to climb into the boxing ring for charity in the 10th Anniversary Edition of the Long Island Fight for Charity (LIFFC)!

The goal of this effort is to raise as much money as possible for the three fantastic charities that LIFFC supports which are; The Genesis School, Long Island Community Chest and the National Foundation for Human Potential.

Needless to say, any amount that individuals contribute, whether $5, $25 or $500, is greatly appreciated and extremely important if the fundraising goals of LIFFC are going to be met.

In addition to individuals, however, many corporations have listened to the story of LIFFC and jumped on board as both Hallmark Abstract Corporate Sponsors and Corporate Donors.

While many more names will be joining these ranks in the near future, we would like to take the opportunity now to recognize these companies along with providing links to their websites.

If anyone needs the products or services that these extremely generous and philanthropically oriented companies provide, please show your appreciation and support by giving them your business.

For any companies who might want to learn more about LIFFC, the charities, the support and promotion provided to sponsors and ways you may be able to get involved, write Mike Haltman at and we can set-up a call or meet in person to discuss the many options that are available.

To donate or learn more about the LIFFC now, visit this link.

Get involved today!

Corporate Sponsors and Corporate Donors!

  1. Crestwood Camp and School
  2. Viana Hotel and Spa
  3. Resorts World Casino
  4. Chicago Title
  5. Sharp Research Corp.
  6. The Andrew Hotel
  7. Sazerac Whiskey
  8. Mcallan Scotch
  9. City Connections Realty
  10. Waters Crest Winery
  11. Expose Your Business
  12. Billsboro Winery
  13. Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa, Reno, Nevada

It’s not too late to get your company onto this list!

marketing, Networking

A guide to perfecting networking techniques!


As part of our continuing effort at Hallmark Abstract Service to provide our clients and friends with what we believe to be useful information, this article examines ways to master effective networking.

It’s been discussed here before that, no matter what business we happen to be in, we’re constantly networking in order to grow.

But, as critical as networking may be, entering a room full of people can at times be both daunting and intimidating potentially leading to the deer in the headlights phenomenon!

The following article written by Hannah Fleishman will hopefully provide thoughts and techniques that may help to make networking less stressful and therefore, much more productive!

How to Master Non-Awkward, Effective In-Person Networking

Remember the good ol’ days when we found jobs through ads in the daily newspaper? Hard to believe, especially considering the fact that70% of jobs are found through personal relationships, according to John Bennett, director of the Master of Science at the McColl School of Business.

Whether you’re trying to develop your personal career or forge new business relationships, making offline, personal connections has become even more critical as online social networking becomes the norm. “Networking” is a buzzword that many of us have a serious love/hate relationship with. Sure — we all want to expand our network by meeting new people in our industry, but actually meeting them can feel like a middle school dance all over again … a painfully, painfully awkward middle school dance.

The web has given us ways to navigate around uncomfortable networking. According to Performics 2012 Life on Demand Survey, 40% of people feel more comfortable engaging with people online than in person. While reaching out to new people may be much less intimidating when we’re sitting behind a screen, face-to-face networking is an extremely valuable skill to hone if you want to build strong relationships with potential investors, managers, employees, partners, mentors, clients, etc. This guide will help you navigate those uncomfortable face-to-face networking situations so the next time you step into a room of potential connections, you’ll be as cool as a cucumber and ready to dive right into relationship-building conversations.

How to Master 6 Challenging Face-to-Face Networking Situations

1) When You Ask Yourself, “Wait, What Am I Doing Here?”

Next time you’re going to an event, ask yourself: “Who do I want to meet, and why?” Certain event registration platforms like Eventbrite show the event’s attendee list on the registration page. If a guest list like this is available, take a moment to scan it. See a person or company on the list you’ve been hoping to connect with? Look up the guest’s LinkedIn profile to learn a little bit more about them so you can seek them out at the event. I’ve met tons of great people at events who have since become familiar faces at industry events. Are these connections unimportant? No. But do I wish I had spent more time seeking out more purposeful connections? Yes.

Let’s say you’re the CMO of a successful lawn-mowing business. Your business could benefit from finding a new source of potential customers, so you figure a great way to do that would be to start building some co-marketing relationships that you can use to reach a new audience of potential customers. If this is the case, you may want to consider spending some of your time at the event seeking out people whose business is complementary to yours — perhaps a home improvement vendor — with which you can build relationships that lead to possible co-marketing opportunities.

Do you want to spread awareness about a new project you’re starting? Do you want to meet an industry leader who can become a valuable mentor? Do you want to find potential new hires for open positions at your company? Having a clear goal in mind will make networking less ambiguous and lead to more effective connections. 

2) Not Knowing How to Start a Conversation

Broaching a big or small group can be intimidating, but with the right approach, you can join in on an existing conversation or start your own successfully. Ease into the evening by introducing yourself to one person who is also flying solo and looking for someone to talk to. Read up on industry news and trends beforehand so you’ll be prepared to spark conversation and ask for their thoughts on topics that are interesting to both of you. This is especially important if you’re attending an event outside your industry. I once helped organize a marketing and technology event with many sponsors, including a law firm. At first, they were hesitant about connecting with an audience outside their area of expertise. But by checking out a few prominent blogs and scanning industry news, they felt much more confident to meet marketers, and they made some valuable connections that night.

Your first connection at an event is your gateway to meeting more people. Maybe they came with friends they can introduce you to, or maybe you’ll decide to break into bigger groups together. Whoever you approach first, relieve some of the awkwardness with informed, relevant conversation starters to get in the swing of things together. 

3) Introducing Yourself to Someone Who Is a Way Bigger Deal Than You

We sometimes walk into networking events with high hopes of meeting the CEO of a company we admire, or the author of a book that kick-started out career. We’re so thrilled to be in the same place as them, but suddenly, you spot them across the room and become nervous, awkward, and who knows — maybe even a little bit sweaty. So how can you successfully strike up a conversation with this mini-celebrity from your industry’s People magazine without making a total fool of yourself?

First and foremost: Make sure you have purpose. Butting into their conversation to tell them you love their work or admire their approach to business will not invite stimulating conversation. In fact, it’s more likely to evoke a simple “thank you.” Consider what it is about this person that resonated with you, and tie it in to your work, projects, or philosophy. Approach them with confidence, introduce yourself not as a fan, but as an equal (because you are), and say something thought provoking that they can relate to, like, “Your applications of inbound marketing for nonprofits was helpful for me at my last job, but I’m transitioning into a job in the pharmaceutical industry. Would you change your inbound marketing approach if you were me?” Remember that you admire this person because you respect their thought leadership; give them a chance to admire you, too, by sparking an interesting and relevant conversation. 

4) When Conversation Loses Steam

Often, we meet someone and exchange our name, company, job title, and where we grew up in about three minutes. Then we smile, look at the ground, and say something like “I love your shirt.”


When the small talk is up, it’s easy for the conversation to go south. I’ve learned to avoid this by making them the topic of conversation. I was on the verge of an awkward silence at a networking event once, but when I referenced a project I was working on I was met with a genuine “Tell me about that.” I was not only impressed by this person’s casual cue for me to keep talking, but I was instantly intrigued by them, too.

You may be thinking, how can I make connections if we just talk about them the whole time? And to that I would say: showing genuine interest in another person can say more about you than talking about yourself could. Besides, if a person doesn’t reciprocate the behavior and encourage you to tell them about yourself afterward, then they probably weren’t a valuable connection to begin with. Next time a conversation is flailing, ask for them to elaborate and you’ll find talking points you’ll be able to expand on and run with. 

5) When You Want to Ask for Something Without Scaring Someone Off

The highlight of networking events we all fantasize about is leaving with a concrete exchange that will move our business or career forward. Maybe it’s a job offer, getting an investor on board, locking down a recommendation letter, or landing a client you’ve been after for months. Whatever the highlight, it isn’t going to fall in our lap. We can play all the right cards to set us up for a the big moment, but a time will come when we need to put ourselves out there and firmly express what we want. How can we do this without sounding aggressive?

Consider your answer to the classic job interview question “Why should we hire you over the other candidates?” You come up with a true, succinct, humble, and exemplary answer of why you are the right person for the job. Your approach to getting what you want from networking isn’t all that different, except it’s important to express your flexibility. In her book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg references a time a woman approached her asking for a job by asking what her core business problems were and how she could fix them. This combination of flexibility and confidence in getting the job done is a brilliant way to frame your next big ask. Be firm on what you want, but be clear that what you want is mutually beneficial.

6) Exiting a Conversation Gracefully

It’s important to remember that networking isn’t like speed-dating. The goal isn’t to meet as many people as you can — it’s to make valuable connections. While it’s important not to rush through conversations for this reason, there are times when we need to jump ship. Whether you’re chatting with someone who won’t let you get a word in or someone who is wasting time whining about their boss, you should still be polite when ending the conversation.

If there’s a lull in conversation, say “Please let me know how that project goes, I’d love to see it and hear how it turns out.” This will show you were engaged, and though it ends the conversation in the moment, they won’t feel offended. Or, ask them “Have you seen anyone from [company name] tonight? I’ve been meaning to chat with them.” This will kindly express that it’s important to you to expand your network. In the future, if you need to get out of a torturous conversation, end the discussion in the moment, but keep it feeling open-ended for the future. 

Following Up Strong

We sometimes meet people at events that spark our interest even though we don’t have any projects, mutual friends, or upcoming events to connect with about. But you never know who you may want advice or guidance from in the future. To build a strong relationship, it’s always good to strike while the irons hot. Chances are, you got their business card or can find one of them via social media. Follow up with a personal tid-bit from your conversation; they will appreciate the gesture and remember you in the future.

I once met the CEO of a small video marketing firm at an event. Though I do not work in video, I felt we connected during our conversation. He mentioned his son had just become a freshman at my alma mater. I followed up via LinkedIn telling him how nice it was to meet him and to let me know if his son had any questions about starting at college. Shortly after, he put in a great word with my then-boss about meeting me and told me to reach out to him in the future. Following-up with a personal connection helps you differentiate and solidify the relationship.

Plan on attending a networking event soon? Leave awkwardness at the door by walking in with full confidence. Whether wearing your favorite shirt, listening to “Can’t Touch This” on the way out the door, or being on top of your industry news puts you in top form, remember the outcome of the evening is up to you.

At Hallmark Abstract Service our pledge to clients is to make each and every interaction and transaction with our firm as seamless, painless and productive as it can be.

We accomplish this through the level of service we provide, the attention directed to every detail of a transaction, our quick turnaround times and finally through our extremely conservative pricing on non-policy related fees. These are just some of the things that our clients have come to expect from us!

And that’s why we continue to earn their business, time and time again!

Call or email us today to set-up an appointment and we will come to your office, learn about the nuances of your practice and explain to you the way that we approach ours!

Mike Haltman, President

516.741.4723 (O)

Hallmark Abstract Service LLC