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Homeowner Alert: Avoid These Home Improvement ScamsJuly 2nd, 2014 by
Home improvement scammers rely on uninformed homeowners who are willing to hire them without doing research first. Keep reading to learn about some general tactics that homeowners should be aware of as well as some specific scams that disreputable contractors often use to make a quick buck. Check back to the EBSCO Research blog this Friday for a comprehensive overview of the three most common warning signs you’re dealing with a shady contractor.
Door-to-Door Sales Tactics
One of the most common home improvement scams that homeowners encounter begins with a knock at the door. The person will explain that he noticed some damage on your roof when he was making repairs to your neighbor’s roof, or he may explain that he has some extra materials left over from a previous job and is willing to give you a discount on any repair work you may need. On the surface, this may seem innocuous, but homeowners should be leery of any person who approaches them in this manner. This type of sales tactic can put unwanted pressure on the homeowner to make a hasty decision without having the opportunity to research the issue or the company first. Typically, reputable contractors rely less on door-to-door sales and more on referrals. If you are impressed with a salesman’s presentation, then research the company and get additional bids before making a decision.
Paying Up Front
Some contractors will ask homeowners to pay for the entire project up front, which is a major warning sign that something is wrong. Typically, homeowners pay for the project in stages—about one-third of the total cost before the project begins, another third during the middle stages of the project, and then once the job is complete, the rest of the balance is paid. Experts recommend that homeowners familiarize themselves with the regulations regarding home contracting projects in their state. Instead of paying in cash for the project, use your credit card to pay for the job. This not only provides a paper trail for the authorities, but it also increases the chance of receiving a refund from your credit card company if the situation goes south.
The “Special Deal”
In order to entice homeowners into hiring them for a project, contractors may offer a “special deal” with an expiration date that is rapidly approaching. Homeowners who rush into signing a contract in order to secure a “special deal” may pay for their rash decision down the line. Experts stress that it’s very important to thoroughly research the individual or company before choosing a contractor to perform the work—no matter how great the deal seems.
The Devil Is in the Details
Before beginning a major home renovation project, a home contractor should supply the homeowner with a proposal that meticulously details the work that will be performed. The plan should include the expenses for the project along with blueprints showing the final changes that will take place. A detailed proposal isn’t necessary for smaller projects, but a contractor should be able to answer any specific questions and note any possible additional expense that may arise during the course of the job.
Driveway Sealing Scam
Sealcoating an asphalt driveway extends the life of the driveway by protecting it from the elements, oil, and salt. Because the coating doesn’t last forever, experts recommend that homeowners reseal their driveways every three to five years after the initial sealing. Homeowners with asphalt driveways may encounter scammers who will offer to apply sealcoating to their driveway right there on the spot. The problem with this proposal—besides forcing the homeowner to make a quick decision without researching the contractor—is that scammers will often coat the driveway with watered-down sealant or even motor oil. Homeowners should contact a reputable contractor if their driveway needs to be sealed.
Chimney Cleaning and Repair Scam
Chimneys are an easy target for scammers because it’s hard to check for issues in chimneys, and many homeowners are not informed about chimneys in general. Chimney cleaning scammers will charge unsuspecting homeowners for inspections that are not performed. Or, upon inspecting the chimney, they will suggest or even scare the owner into making unnecessary repairs. Experts recommend that homeowners familiarize themselves with the service that’s being performed. The contractor should leave behind evidence of the service performed or provide visual evidence of damage before proceeding with expensive repairs.
Roofs are another easy target for scammers for the same reason. Roofs are an area of the home that can easily be ignored until there’s an issue, and homeowners are strongly advised to leave any roof work to a professional. Roofing scams are very prevalent after major storms because disreputable companies can convince homeowners that their roof has sustained major damage. The company will then perform work that’s not needed, or the homeowner could be left with an inferior job that requires additional work to be performed by another contractor. Both scenarios cost unsuspecting homeowners valuable time and money.
Research is a homeowner’s best defense against home improvement scams. Before hiring someone, determine if the contractor is licensed to perform the work needed, has a good reputation, and has performed the work for other homeowners. Using Home Reports/Best Pick Reports will quickly weed out the scammers and help the resourceful homeowner find a high-quality contractor.
Sources: Consumer Reports; FOX Business; IN.gov; KTM Roofing; National Association of the Remodeling Industry; US News.
For more information on our sources, please contact us directly.