Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How To Avoid Home Improvement Scams

If you’re thinking about hiring someone to work on your home, the last thing on your mind may be protecting yourself from a scam. But unscrupulous contractors – or people posing as contractors – can win your confidence and quickly disappear with your money.

There are precautions you can take to protect yourself against home improvement scams. Before you begin looking for someone to fix your roof or paint your house, consider the following tips:
Ask questions

Before you settle on what contractor to use, you should ask specific questions. If a contractor seems hesitant to answer the following questions, which may be a sign that you should avoid working with that person:
  • When will this project be finished?
  • How much is labor going to cost?
  • How much are the materials going to cost?
  • Will you be using new materials?
  • Can I have your contact information?
  • Can you provide references?
Make sure you get the name, phone number and address for references. A dishonest contractor will have no qualms with giving you phone numbers for his friends. When you ask for detailed contact information, observe how the contractor reacts. Professionals should anticipate that request and be happy to honor it.
Get a written contract

No matter how large or small the project is you need to get a signed contract. Your contract should include details like: project cost, a timeline, a schedule of payment, contact information and the contractor’s signature. The contract will create a legally binding agreement and allow you to sue the contractor if the agreement is not honored.
Listen for clues

Communication is always key when working with a contractor. Make sure the contractor seems attentive when you’re talking about the work you want done. And listen for phrases that may reveal ill intentions, like: “I need to be paid in advance,” or “I was in the neighborhood and noticed your roof needs fixed.” Scam artists will try to create a sense of urgency about work that needs to be done to pressure you into making a hasty decision.
Get more than one estimate

A good rule of thumb is to always get a second opinion when it comes to home improvement projects. It’s OK to shop around and get estimates from a few contractors. Find the contractor who offers use the best materials at the best price, with a timeline that works for you.

As you start looking for a contractor keep all  of these things in the back of your mind. Avoiding a scam doesn’t need to be confusing or time consuming. However, in order to not break the bank and get the best work, you should do a little research and shop around. Take your time and make sure you are hiring a qualified contractor.

Matt Herndon loves spending as much time as possible with his wife and three kids. When he’s not rushing from his son’s football games to his daughter’s riding lessons or his other daughter’s volleyball games, he’s busy checking things off his honey-do list.