5 Ways You Can Protect Yourself from a Home Renovation Scam

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Warmer weather has hit most of the country, and it’s time to get outside. Flowers are beginning to bloom, people are starting to clean up their yards, and many people are making a list of things they want to accomplish over the next few months. The warmer weather often creates an ideal time to fix things around the house and outside.

Many of us cannot do these projects alone, and unfortunately some contractors are not entirely honest or trustworthy. There are many ways that someone can scam you while supposedly helping you with your home project, but there are also many steps you can take to lower your chances of being conned. As with anything else, completing research will increase your chances of finding a trustworthy and dependable contractor. You can also ask for recommendations, demand to have everything in writing, and avoid the most common home scams.

1. Seek out the help

Someone could conveniently show up at your doorstep and offer to do your work for you; however, you are probably better off seeking out the help instead. Someone who shows up out of the blue may be a trustworthy worker, but if you do your own research, you will have more piece of mind. Ask friends for recommendations, read reviews online, and compare services between different companies or individual contractors. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) recently warned New England homeowners to be careful of scams. The BBB suggests that homeowners should be especially wary of workers who offer a discounted price or show up at the door and say that they are working in the neighborhood.

Once you have a few companies or contractors in mind, you can try interviewing them over the phone to see if they will meet your project needs. When you are ready, you can pick a few to meet face to face.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

2. Pay the right price

There are probably several companies or individual contractors in your area who can help you with your project. It’s a great idea to get written estimates of prices, but the BBB warns that a cheaper price may mean lesser-quality materials. You can also consider nontraditional ways of getting your work done.

If you want to sand and refinish your deck, a friend’s high school son or daughter could probably do the work for a lot less than a professional. As long as you are confident and comfortable with the level of the work they can do, then you will save money. Unlike picking a contractor randomly from a list, or inviting someone who comes to your door to do the work, you will know the person doing the work. However, remember that if you hire a family friend, he or she will probably not have the license or insurance that a professional might have.

3. Ask for references

The BBB also suggests asking for references. You can find out about the quality of the work, if the budget was followed, and any other question you have that will help you decide. According to LocalHelpFinder.com, you should also ask if the contractor stayed on schedule, met the terms of the contract, listened to your needs, made corrections if necessary, and also whether or not they would hire the contractor again. Anyone who makes an excuse or won’t give you references is probably hiding something, and doesn’t deserve your business.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

4. Get everything in writing

In addition to getting the different bids in writing, you should also have a written contract. Make sure you carefully read through everything on the contract. According to Danny Lipford, writer for Today’s Homeowner, sometimes without a contract the worker and the homeowner will be working under different assumptions. To avoid this problem, the contract should include the scope of the work, the materials, the job duration, work practices, change orders, insurance (if applicable), and a payment plan.

5. Know what to watch out for

Some home project scams are more prevalent than others. According to HouseLogic, there are five top contractor scams to avoid. The first red flag is when someone asks for the money up front. Paying the contractor ahead of time allows the worker to do a poor job, or to simply bail on you completely. You’ve already paid the worker. You may have to pay some money ahead of time, but check to see what your state law is regarding how much you should pay. Also, avoid simply believing that what a contractor says will actually happen — get everything in writing.

A third scam to watch out for involves any contractor who tells you that there’s no need to get a permit. You should also watch out for anyone who gives you a low price and then suddenly claims that unforeseen problems caused the price to raise. Lastly, never buy materials from a contractor without finding out more information first.

There are many contractors who are dependable, honest, and hard working; however, home improvement is popular, so there will probably always be people looking to take advantage of homeowners. Make sure you take the time to find a trustworthy contractor before spending your money.

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