When your home exterior needs loving-care, the last thing you need is to find yourself knee-deep in a project with an unreliable home improvement contractor. Unfortunately, scams are all too common, with fly-by-night companies trying to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. Fortunately, with a little know-how, you can spot the scammers, recognize reliable home improvement contractors, and protect your home—and your finances—from unnecessary troubles.
Here are 8 warning signs that you may be dealing with a home improvement scammer.
Before the Home Improvement Work Begins
If you see any of these red flags in a contractor you’re considering, be wary. They can signal worse problems to come.
1. Comes knocking at your door right after a storm
Another tactic of dishonest contractors is to go through a neighborhood door-to-door looking for work, especially after a big storm has damaged many properties in the area.
Pro Tip: Great home improvement contractors are too busy helping people to go door-to-door in the aftermath of a storm. If someone is begging for work, it’s a sign they may be untrustworthy or unqualified.
2. Offers a free inspection you never requested
It’s one thing to call and request an inspection of your siding, roof, gutters, or windows. But if someone you’ve never contacted shows up offering a free, on-the-spot inspection, don’t fall for it.
Pro Tip: Never let anyone onto your roof, into your backyard, or inside your home unless you called them first to make an appointment. Fly-by-night companies use these opportunities to do damage, either accidentally or on purpose, and you’ll end up paying for the repairs.
3. Offers big discounts
If a contractor offers you a huge discount because they have “low-cost materials already on hand,” be wary. The materials may be inferior or damaged.
Pro Tip: Experienced home improvement contractors are skilled at ordering the right amount of materials for a job. They don’t need customers to buy leftovers.
4. Presses you for an immediate decision
Disreputable contractors may push you by claiming you have to act fast if you want to use them. If you’re getting pressure tactics, look for a different contractor.
Pro Tip: No one likes being pushed into a decision before they’re ready—and professional, reputable contractors respect this. They’ll give you time to do your research before you decide to begin a project.
After the Work Is Underway
Even after your home improvement project has begun, problems can still arise. And the sooner you act on those problems, the better it is for you and your home. Be alert for common scams like these:
6. Hikes prices unexpectedly
If your contractor claims that the price of materials has gone up since he gave you his price and then tries to make you pay the difference, push back.
Pro Tip: Most contracts list a firm, set fee for labor and materials, and your contractor should stick to it. The only time a price would normally change is if the scope of the project is altered to add additional work not called for in the original contract.
7. Tries to change payment terms
Another area where issues can potentially arise is in the payment schedule you agreed to. The contractor might claim they’re short on money and ask you to pay earlier than the contract stipulates.
Pro Tip: The contractor’s cashflow should never be the homeowner’s responsibility. To ensure your work is completed properly, stick to the terms of the contract, including the agreed-upon payment terms.
8. Brings in materials you didn’t agree to using
Unscrupulous contractors may try to boost their profits by replacing the costly materials you agreed to use with less expensive, inferior materials. Don’t allow it.
Pro Tip: Remember, this is your home and you have every right to protect it. Do walkthroughs regularly, and check materials against the contract you have. An honest mistake can happen from time to time, but a reputable contractor will happily fix it right away.
How to Protect Yourself when Working with a Home Improvement Contractor
So, what do you do if you suspect you’re dealing with a scammer? These four tips can help:
- Get references. Before hiring a contractor, talk with people who have employed them. Check out their online reviews. See if they have a positive rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
- Get a signed contract. Be sure everything is spelled out clearly, including fees, materials to be used, the scope of the work, and the timeline when it will be started and finished.
- Document everything. Track your home improvement project in a journal, noting what was done each day and any problems that arose. Take photos as progress is made. This will help clarify the facts if disputes arise.
- Bar the contractor from the site. If the contractor is being dishonest, don’t let him onto your property. Contact the BBB, the local building inspector, the state attorney general’s office, and/or a lawyer for help.
When it comes to a successful exterior home improvement project, who you choose to hire can make all the difference. Look for a trusted, proven home improvement contractor who consistently provides superior performance, professionalism, reliability, and flexible, personalized attention that fits your needs, style, budget, and timeframe.
At JD Hostetter and Associates, we believe you deserve beautiful exterior home improvements that you can have confidence in. Call us anytime at 317-517-7847 for a free home improvement quote for your home’s exterior.