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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Starting a Small Business In These Difficult Times

Ever since the government urged businesses to close down because of COVID-19, the unemployment rate has gone up. But did you know now is the perfect time to start a business? People need supplies and retailers are feeling overwhelmed. If you can meet the needs of those customers, they’ll become loyal to you even after the pandemic ends.

Use the following strategies to get your startup and running:

  1.   Find Capital

The first thing you need to start your business is financing. Create a sound business plan and take it to potential investors. Some banks may still give you loans if they think your business idea is good. Do your research so that you know everything about the market and how your product will satisfy your customers. Consider the competition and make accurate financial projections. Make your business plan as detailed and as clear as possible so that investors can trust you with their money.

  1.   Take Advantage of Government Incentives

The Federal government created a stimulus package to help small businesses that are struggling during these tough times. Find out what incentives the government has put in place to help startups. Such services can help you save money when getting your business off the ground.

  1.   Get Insurance

Since you’re not sure when the difficult times will end, you need to shield your business from risk. Having business insurance for your startup is as important as malpractice liability insurance to a practicing physician. Protect your workers with worker’s compensation and your business from risks such as fires and theft.

  1.   Market

Marketing helps your business reach the intended target. However, the marketing mistake that startups make is advertising to a general audience. If you want your efforts to be successful, you have to be very specific. Narrow down your target market and make it as small as possible. You’re more likely to make sales if you personalize the message for a small target market.

  1.   Start Small

Instead of going big from the get-go, start small and build your way up. Even if you understand the market, customers are unpredictable. You may not reach your sales target during the first three months due to low traffic. To shield your business from huge expenses, you can start by operating from your garage or home office. Then, when the orders become too much to handle in such a small space, you can move to a bigger office.

  1. Leverage on Technology

Thanks to technology, information is everywhere. Take advantage of the resources around you to gain a competitive edge. Install software that will help you manage the business accounts and orders. Use technology to make your business more efficient – machines are better at calculations. Use online analytics to check on the effectiveness of your website. Take advantage of digital marketing platforms to reach more people.

  1.   Have a Backup Plan

Create a backup plan of what you’ll do if you don’t meet your sales target during the first year. Make sure that you have saved enough money to keep your business running for at least half a year. Keep an eye on cash flows and consider negotiating for the best deals with suppliers. Since things are bad, try to make them understand that you may need more time to repay debts. That way, you’ll have more money to deal with more urgent business. Although it’s risky for you to start a business during these difficult times, it’s not impossible. Right now, people need essential supplies. Use the above tips to take advantage of opportunities in the market.

During these uncertain times, there is a lot to consider and you can feel overwhelmed. Please see this article on BetterHelp for further information on ways to combat any anxiety during the pandemic.

How to Get Access to Virtual Tours and Events

Free Virtual Tours and Events

Due to the public safety measures in places, many of us have had our summer vacation plans disrupted. Despite the closing of public spaces, some very resourceful and tech-savvy people have found a way for you to still enjoy world class virtual tours and events. This means that we now have access to the most loved galleries and landmarks around the world. The public can now tour some of the most famous sites and museums absolutely free. Here are ten amazing virtual tours and events that you can enjoy from the comfort of your own home.

Museums

One major factor in my travel planning is the local museums. I always set aside a few days to immerse myself in the art, history, geography and culture of my destination. I had planned to mark another bucket list item with a visit to the British Museum this summer. Even though my travel itinerary has been indefinitely postponed, I can still peruse their extensive artifact collection. The tour includes photos and an interactive inventory for you to browse without worrying about closing times.

Another benefit of virtual tours and events is that I have the freedom to spend as much time examining the exhibits as I please. When I’m studying the masterpieces in the Louvre, no one is rushing me to the next display. I can also absorb the information and timelines of the fossil records as I explore the archives of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Best of all, there are no lines or crowds to contend with.

Astronomy

For the more scientifically minded crowd, NASA has published all its images online as public domain. You can search images, listen to audio, or watch videos discussing information collected using research satellites. If you decide to take a break from scanning the skies, you can return to Earth with virtual tours and events of NASA Research Center in Langley, Virginia. It’s also an excellent tool if you need resources to supplement you children’s science education.

Cultural Landmarks

As a student of history, cultural landmarks and ancient sites are my top priority when traveling. However, many of these locations are inaccessible until further notice. Thankfully, there are a number of sites that have published free virtual tours and events for these tourist attractions. You can now meander the subterranean tunnels of the Roman Colosseum or stroll along the expanse of the Great Wall with a few clicks. If you have more time to dedicate to the experience, you should consider a virtual reality trek and tour of sites like Petra. Once remote wonders of the ancient world are now at your fingertips.

National Parks and Zoos

Those who lead an active lifestyle and love the outdoors are especially suffering under quarantine. If you are aching to get back to nature, there a few online resources where you can take in the beauty of America’s national parks. Thanks to modern technology you can traverse the sequoia forests and famous peaks of Yosemite National Park. You can then continue on to the craggy canyons and iconic geysers of Yellowstone National Park.

Animal lovers can also enjoy the open-air habitats of the San Diego Zoo with live streams. You can observe the animals without combating weather and large groups of people. While it still remains the most visited zoos in the world, it is now available for people around the globe.

No matter where your interests lie, there are tons of virtual tours and events available online. Check out this complete list of free tours and resources to help you plan your next virtual vacation.

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