How to Spot A Home Repair Scam
Imagine something is busted around your home and it’s beyond your DIY talents. Time to bring in a contractor, right? The good news is that the vast majority of contractors working today are licensed, bonded and insured. In other words, they’re totally professional.
However, some scam artists prey upon homeowners who are in need of an affordable fix. Just because someone has a website doesn’t mean they’re a pro. Before you get taken in, take a look at these common home repair scams.
Imagine forking over thousands of dollars to someone you just met — you have no idea if they are trustworthy. That is what you’re doing when a contractor asks for a hefty sum to “get the project rolling.” On some level, it makes sense that they would need funds to pay for materials and rent equipment. Most states recognize this and set the limit at $1,000 up front or 10 percent of the job total, whichever is less. For the record, most professional contractors can rent equipment on credit.
The Bait and Switch
The bait and switch is the kind of scam that happens across many industries. You’ll see a terrific deal on a service like power washing or sewer line maintenance. It makes sense to take care of those kinds of issues, especially if you get a good deal.
Then, the service rep shows up to do the task but uncovers all kinds of problems. Cleaning out pipes could lead to replacing all those pipes. Power washing a driveway could lead to total repaving.
Here’s the deal: You don’t have to hire that contractor for anything other than what they promised to do. If they discover something else, bring in a second opinion before you fork over more money.
Making a repair on your home should bolster its value if the job is done right. A contractor in good standing should know exactly what kind of return on your investment you might be looking at. For instance, replacing a garage door could yield a return of almost 171 percent. That is information you can get backed up with data. If your new contractor is vague about the value of the work they’re doing, it could be a red flag.
Throughout the country, roaming contractors make their living by foisting unnecessary repairs and “upgrades” on unsuspecting homeowners. You’ll spot them right away because they’ll show up at your home unannounced and proclaim they are doing work in the neighborhood. They will point out something wrong with your property like a driveway that needs tarring and then offer you a sweet deal.
Don’t take it. These workers are often unlicensed and sloppy. Plus, there will be zero warranty for their work. Once you hand over any money, you’ll never see them again.
The key word in contractor is contract. You are making a contract with an individual to carry out a specific set of tasks around your home. Get. It. In. Writing. Any contractor who doesn’t spell out in written detail what they’ll be doing is not a contractor you should be working with.
Suppose you get a contract and the project gets underway. Things are looking great and the contractor suggests something extra. That’s awesome. Get. It. In. Writing. If they gave you one contract, then they can give you an amended contract. It’s not that complicated.
“We Don’t Need No Stinking Permits”
You are required by law to get a building permit for any major construction project on your property. This will actually protect you down the line when you try to resell your home. Any improvements that have been made that aren’t up to code will become a major headache for the resale or even a refinancing. The way you can guarantee it is up to code: With a permit that will be followed with an inspection. Much like the contract, a contractor who says you don’t need a permit is not someone you want to be working with.
Are you scared off your repair project? Don’t be. As mentioned above, plenty of legitimate contractors are working across the country. Start with a recommendation from friends and use the Better Business Bureau as research tool. Also, embrace your ultimate power of saying “No” to a shady looking deal.