How to Detect a Home Improvement Scam: 3 Red Flags
After being scammed out of $92,000 from a Stoneham contractor, a Newbury couple should finally be getting back almost two-thirds of their money from their contractor after the contractor pled guilty to swindling charges. The couple will be receiving the rest of the money while the contractor is on probation for a year.
Sadly, the couple didn’t realize the contractor was unlicensed when they gave him a $20,000 deposit to tear down their garage and rebuild a new one as well as do some internal demolition. Not only did the contractor fail to start the project on time, but he also didn’t finish it. Even worse, the couple had to pay $1,800 a month for renting an apartment, besides making other huge, unexpected payments to the contractor.
This story doesn’t have to happen to you! Here are four common red flags suggesting a home improvement scam.
Be wary of anyone who knocks at your door for business, telling you that they’re working in your neighborhood. Ask them which neighbor they are working for? These scammers may add that they already have all the necessary materials and tools for your project, so make sure they prove it. Ask to see their truck and equipment. Besides roofs, other visible targets include those, such as siding, driveways, patios and decks.
Demanding an Upfront Payment
One of the primary clues of a scam is a so-called home improvement contractor asking for upfront cash or insisting you pay for the total amount for a job before it even begins. Tragically, many homeowners have handed over their money only to have a small amount of work done or even nothing at all.
While it’s common for a contractor to ask for a down payment for materials to get started on a job, the amount should be reasonable. In most cases, homeowners pay the remaining amount in stages with the last payment not being paid until a project is completed and when a customer is satisfied. In fact, there are some states that have laws limiting the amount contractors can request for down payments. To find out about your state laws contact your state consumer agency.
A Lack of Professionalism
Determine whether a contractor is really a professional. For example, when people are hard to contact or cannot give you a physical address, chances are, they aren’t professionals. Another hint is an unmarked vehicle or one with an out-of-state license. If you can’t find information on contractors at the Better Business Bureau, don’t hire them!
Other Considerations and Warnings
- Check to ensure any contractor who wants to do work for you has credit at local stores selling home improvement materials. If a contractor does have trade credit at a supplier, ask about their reputation.
- Don’t choose the lowest bid because usually there’s a reason for it. Consider that the quality of materials could be inferior, or there could be items or services that weren’t listed on the estimate. As a result, the lowest bid could mean having to pay much more than what was quoted to you.
- Be aware of your rights. In some states, customers have up to three days to cancel contracts for home improvement projects.
- Always check the credentials of contractors to be sure they have the required registration or licenses needed. Also, some states have funds for reimbursing customers who have judgements against even licensed contractors.
- Study a person’s body language. One way to suspect people are lying is if they don’t look you in the eye when talking.
- Ask as many questions as possible.
- Examine online reviews. On just about every site, including Facebook, Google, BBB (Better Business Bureau) and GuildQuality, NEWPRO has the highest rating and number of reviews.
It can be challenging to find the right contractor even in today’s world of online reviews. Fortunately, you can depend on the home improvement specialists at NEWPRO as we’re the most trusted home improvement company in New England since 1945. With offices in Woburn and Wrentham, Massachusetts, we provide New England homeowners with windows, doors, roofing, siding, bathrooms and walk-in tubs and have the best warranties in the business. Please contact us for a free quote that’s good for a full year, right down to the penny!