How to Spot Home Improvement Scams

How to Spot Home Improvement Scams

Hiring a contractor to complete home improvements can be a frustrating and confusing process. While most businesses are comprised of professional, hardworking people, there are plenty of scammers out there trying to make easy money. Home improvement scams are nothing new, but they become more common place during economic downturns. The worst part is they usually prey on the most vulnerable. Here are some of the most common home improvement scams and tips to help you avoid them.

5 Common Home Improvement Scams

1. Take the Money and Run

Be wary of any contractor who asks for large cash payments up front. If you receive a request for more than a third of the money upfront, there’s a good chance it is a home improvement scam. Any reputable company will guarantee their work and accept payment in installments. The FTC recommends using credit card or check in case you need to contest charges down the line. Otherwise, scam artists could run off with your money before they even begin or finish the work.

2. The Ol’ Bait and Switch

This is one of the oldest cons in the book because it is one of the most effective. People love to get a great deal so many will respond to local advertisements and mailers. The customer is drawn in by a low starting quote only to have additional services added to the estimate. If you are not cautious, you could lose thousands of dollars to this type of home improvement scam.

3. Passing Off Liability

If someone comes knocking at your door, do your research before you agree to anything. Check for online reviews of their work and official websites to verify they have the proper permits, training and insurance. One common home improvement scam involves traveling contractors who offer cheap labor around the neighborhood. Even if you hire skilled laborers, you – not the contractor – will be liable for any penalties or repairs if they are not licensed. It’s better to stick with certified and transparent companies who guarantee their work.

4. Getting What You Pay For

One cliché that holds true is that you always get what you pay for. If someone is offering ridiculously low prices, then it usually equates to bad or minimal service. Also turn away anyone using substandard or discount products. Trying to save a few bucks now could result in costly repairs. If the offer seems too good to be true, then it probably is.

5. Bullied by Insurance Companies

Even when you have done everything right, insurance companies present another potential source of home improvement scams. Beyond the threat of con artists are the legal ways insurance companies deny valid claims. Be sure to review your policy so you know what to do when contesting it.

How to Spot Home Improvement Scams

The best way to not become a victim is to know how to spot a home improvement scam when you see one. If you have any red flags such as high pressure sales tactics, cash upfront requirements, or no written agreements, run. To help you vet contractors, always ask for references and check reviews online. Lastly, know the laws and terms of any contracts or policies you sign. In today’s digital world, there is a wealth of information online to help you choose the best contractor for your home repairs.

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Ways to Earn Extra Money

While the economy fluctuates, not everyone reaps the benefits when it’s in an upswing. In fact, more than half of the working population still lives paycheck to paycheck. If you are among the many that can’t seem to break free of this cycle, there are a number of ways to reduce your existing expenses and earn extra money.

Collectibles

Old toys, coins, precious metals, and antique furniture are some of the things that many people have either inherited or collected. If you’re short on cash, listing these items on reputable sites or finding a dealer or collector who is willing to buy them may help get you through a difficult financial time.

Crafts

With most things cookie-cutter these days, there’s a high demand for unique and original items. Online sites such as Etsy and eBay are just two examples of places where selling hand-made crafts can be profitable. If you prefer to mingle with people, flea markets, fairs, and crafts shows are perfect for getting exposure.

Yard Sale

A yard sale is something that can be hit or miss. However, if you have many desirable items such as baby clothing, furniture, artwork, and tools in good condition you can make a couple of hundred dollars in a weekend.

Part-Time Job

Life is full of demands and many people are simply short on time. However, if you are able to work a few additional hours each day you can pick up a part-time job. Many restaurants do deliveries and Uber and Lyft drivers are always in demand. Any one of these can provide you with an additional one or two hundred dollars a week.

Work From Home

If you are unable to leave the house, working part-time online will offer you a way to earn a few extra dollars from the comfort of your home. Tutoring, freelance writing, doing surveys and graphic design are just some of the legitimate jobs available online.

Reel in Your Spending

In some cases, you earn enough money but your poor spending habits prevent you from exiting the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. Buying a latte each morning, lunch every afternoon, and ordering take out several times a week for convenience is sapping your extra money. Making a conscious effort to change your habits and get smart with your spending will free up money you can use for more important things.

Stretch Your Budget

While your mortgage or rent may be something you can’t reduce, there are other household bills that you can. Take cable television, for instance. If you think about it, what are you really getting for a few hundred dollars each month? The same goes for your cell phone bill. Both of them are extremely high, but they don’t have to be. Shop around to make certain that you are getting the best deals available. You should also look over these bills to see where you can make cuts without sacrificing your level of comfort.

Bundle Services

For many years people have been saving money by bundling services. Insurance is one example of how you can save 20 percent or more by having a policy for your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance, auto insurance, and life insurance through one company.

Use Coupons

Coupons are not new yet many people still fail to use them. They have excuses like they don’t have the time to find and cut them out. It only takes a short amount of time to print your coupons and that time is well worth it when you save twenty dollars or more each week at the grocery store.

Life isn’t always easy with regard to your finances. There are many unexpected expenses that will continue to come along. However, if you tuck a few dollars away, shop smart, and spend your money wisely, you’ll make it through.

The 3 Accounts You Might Be Missing Out On

Having all of life’s pieces together, set up, structured properly, knowing your login to everything, remembering when to pay bills, how to shop for a car … It can all be quite overwhelming. There are a few basics that get skipped over, but are vital to having a comprehensive financial portfolio. While simple is usually best, it can also be a bit risky, especially once your total balances exceed the insured limit, if all of your money is held in a simple bank or credit union account. However, for most, that’s precisely where we’ll start:

  1. Set up a checking and savings account. While you might already have at least one of these, having both is important. Having a safe place for your money to flow into is important, for paying bills, getting cash, and having a base for the rest of your accounts in which to pull from. Setting up a credit union savings account is easy and takes only a few minutes, and gives you a separate place from your usual spending money to save for an emergency, vacation or general nest egg. It’s advisable to have 3-12 months of your salary saved in a safe savings account, just in case of a job loss or the need to take a few months off to reconsider your life’s path. It’s immensely secure and stress reducing knowing you have a safety net that can provide you a continued sense of self, regularity and maintained lifestyle should you need it. Depositing money into your accounts is as easy as setting up direct deposit through your employer, or scanning checks on a mobile app, in many cases. Having savings and checking accounts are foundational for most.
  2. Credit cards. While this may be a very taboo subject and suggestion, depending on which blogs and financial gurus you follow, credit cards can be very beneficial to have when used advantageously. Sure, there are high interest rates on carried balances, but there are also a host of benefits that come with some cards, such as travel insurance, travel benefits, cash back, extended warranty protection on purchases like electronics, and so much more. Using credit cards also gives the benefit of fraud protection, in many cases. As long as the balance is paid in full each month, there’s really no downside when used in an intentional and structured manner.
  3. Insurance. From renters and home insurance to car insurance, life insurance to medical insurance, having insurance can be costly to pay for up front, but is something that is beneficial to have, just in case something goes awry. Shopping around for the best policies and premiums that work best for your budget and needs is well worth your time, as having the wrong coverage is unchangeable and irreversible once needed in a situation. While some types of insurance are required, like automobile insurance and homeowners insurance, others are optional but are extremely beneficial to have to protect yourself, your family, your home, vehicles and possessions on the rare occasion disaster strikes. Take some time to talk to insurance professionals and do your research when signing up for insurance, so you understand fully what you’re getting.

Setting up basic types of accounts to create a strong and stable foundation for your financial health takes a bit of time up front, and is good to have a routine of evaluating annually or more frequently, to ensure everything is still needed and on track for where you are in life, and where you want to go, but it’s always worth it. Financial health is as important as physical health, as both are important for our longevity and happiness in life.