Q: My senior parents want to make their home safer and easily accessible. How do we find qualified builders who will do a good job?

A: It seems a bit counterintuitive, but it is actually a good time to find bargains from highly qualified builders. Most good contractors have been able to stay in business throughout the current downturn, and many less qualified builders have left the scene. Contractors will offer price incentives at this time in order to gain your business, so it pays to shop. Be sure the builder you select has a good track record, references and a current valid contractor's license.

As with most skilled professionals, a good builder can be reliably located through your own community network of referrals. Local alliances on aging or senior services providers are often a good source. Also, the National Association of Homebuilders website offers a state-by-state directory of builders who are Certified Aging In Place Specialists. These certified builders and remodelers have training in the unique problems of home construction for aging and can offer good value for the money. If you choose to engage an architect or interior designer to help plan your project, they will be able to refer you to builders that they have deemed reliable.

When you are selecting a builder it is also important to determine if the prospective contractor is sensitive to the emotional stresses that owners and residents can feel during construction. Feel free to ask questions before hiring, and trust your instincts. A good rapport with your chosen builder is an important ingredient in surviving, and even enjoying, the remodeling process.