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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