Charlotte, N.C. -- What a weekend to be outside and get a jump on those spring yard projects.

But before you hire and spend, Consumer Reporter Bill McGinty has some advice so you can avoid that bad business headache.

Water features, large landscapes, patios, fire pits -- even pools -- whether you spend hundreds or thousands, do your homework on the people and businesses you hire.

“Billy” owns all natural streams and landscaping. His advice to you the consumer: references, references, and references.

Check them and if it’s a major job, go see them. Billy says as for payment structure, never pay everything upfront.

“I have a payment structure of one-third up front, one-third mid way thorough and after a walk around I ask for the final third," Billy says. "They are the boss, I want to make them happy."

That’s what the experts advise too. If you sign a contract, read it first and read it thoroughly. As they say, the devil is in the details.

Here’s Better Business Bureau President Tom Bartholomy with more advice on contracts for yard maintenance.

Tom says, “with those contracts, some of them have a clause in them that unless you specifically cancel it, they’re going to keep coming back.”

When we say do your homework, we mean reviews. Check Google and Yelp! but make sure it’s a verified review and not the business posting something good about themselves. We exposed that last summer with a company in Mooresville. is a good start, they independently verify reviews to make sure they’re real.