Spring is here and many are looking to revamp their properties. Unfortunately, this is also the season for scam artists to prey on homeowners who may be interested in having their homes remodeled. There’s been a recent surge in home improvement scams, which is putting a lot of homeowners on their toes. This is a good thing, but it’s very unfortunate that they have to be. News reports indicate that homeowners are being burglarized by “inspectors” and getting ripped off by shady contractors. There are several ways that you can protect yourself and your home from falling prey to con artists posing as contractors and inspectors.
Here are a couple of ways that con artists work, so be on the lookout:
1) Offering financial assistance for home remodeling projects: You may find that some contractors are offering clients financial assistance with their home remodeling projects. It is very likely that this is a scam with high interest rates, fees and points. You may also get tricked into agreeing to take out a loan that is far more than what’s needed to complete the project. Some homeowners have been scammed into signing over their home to contractors or their associates.
2) Asking for cash upfront: This is one of the signs that a contractor is no good. If you have hired a contractor to complete a home remodeling project for you and he or she is asking you to pay upfront, you could be getting tricked by a fly-by-night contractor. Reputable contractors have credit lines that can be used to buy any materials needed for the project, so this should not be an excuse to ask you for money upfront. However, some contractors may ask you for a deposit, but it should not be more than 1/3 of the total project cost (materials + labor).
3) Shady handymen who were “just in the neighborhood”: You may get a knock on the door one day by a so-called handyman who was just in the neighborhood and saw that your house needed some work (roof, shingles, lawn, etc.). Be wary of these instances, especially if he or she is with a partner and/or has out-of-state license plates. Reputable contractors don’t solicit homeowners and don’t travel far for work. In these scenarios, it’s very common for them to do a fast and faulty repair job. Before you even notice, they have already been paid and are long gone.
4) Check references thoroughly: You want to make sure that the references you’re checking out aren’t just buddies of the contractor in question. Ask for an address, so that you can visit the client to see the work that was done and talk to an actual person.
5) Limited time offers: Door-to-door salesman for contractors love the phrase “limited time offer” because it nudges prospects to act quicker. You should always be given ample time to do research on a contractor and check around for competing rates. Any offer given to you today should still be available to you in the coming weeks.