Think summer is the home improvement season? It may well be the season of home improvement fraud. As homeowners are gearing up with home improvement ideas and project wish lists, the number of fraud complaints does not stop. Whether it is poor performance or home improvement materials fraud, you have to keep your guard up to avoid the summer scams.
USA Today has reported that the latest home improvement scammers travel around the country, sometimes following storms and natural disasters in an effort to scam homeowners out of their money with shoddy home improvement materials, poor workmanship, or flat out theft. They estimate there are between 20,000 to 100,000 illegitimate contractors operating in the U.S. as “travelers” or “storm chasers”.
For simpler tasks, it may make sense to research free home improvements that you can do yourself, or to go through some home improvement training at your local hardware store. While it gives you a sense of accomplishment to complete your on projects, it also prepares you to talk about major projects with a hired contractor. Knowing how to do home repairs yourself can be a critical factor in sniffing out less than trustworthy contractors.
Regardless of your skill level, use the following tips to find the right contractor and avoid getting scammed.
1. Always make sure the contractor is licensed. Depending on your location, there will be different requirements for contractors to obtain their license. Make sure you are talking with someone that has fulfilled their obligations.
2. Check their references. Good contractors have worked with plenty of satisfied clients that are willing to give you their opinion. Ask for some references, and more importantly, call them to see what their experience was like.
3. Do not rely on just one bid. The rule of thumb is to get at least three bids for any project. That helps you determine market price and might give you some leeway for negotiation. If it sounds too good to be true, there may be a reason for it.
4. Check the contract for specifics. Make sure they outline the specifics of the project they are agreeing to undertake and that they specify a timeline. The home improvement materials might even need to be specified if there is any doubt about the project. Also, you need to insure that you have a specific end date in the contract.
5. Keep your deposit amount under 33 percent. Most projects should not require a deposit more than 25 to 33 percent. It gives the contractor adequate funding for materials and his labor costs, but it provides some protection for you. The final payment should be dependent on satisfactory completion, and not before.
Finally, go with your gut. If they seem to have all of the right answers, and the promise sounds too good, it just might be time to find a different contractor.