Updating and renovating your property can make your house feel more like a home, but you can’t always do the work by yourself. Maybe you are a first time home buyer and are inexperienced in home renovation, or possibly elderly and can no longer handle the physical labor required for the project. Contractors know how to turn blueprints into reality. Scammers are always on the hunt to take advantage of homeowners with a dream, so watch out for these common home improvement scams that often take people by surprise.
1. Paying Most Fees Upfront
You’ll need to put money down to secure your contractor’s time and efforts, but you shouldn’t pay more than half to start your renovations. Front-loading contracts are often a sign that you’re dealing with a scammer because they’ll take most of your money and run.
They might also demand a significant fee upfront, drag out the project, and continuously come up with additional reasons to charge for more work than you originally agreed to.
2. Listening to Door-to-Door Solicitors
Contractors sometimes drive through neighborhoods as they leave a client’s property. They might stop by your front door and let you know that your home needs work. These people are often scammers who want to profit from worrying you, forcing you into paying them for work that doesn’t need to happen.
If you’re interested in their proposal, ask for their licenses to ensure they’re legitimate pros who mean well.
3. Accepting Limited-Time Offer Discounts
Scammers often used limited-time offers to pressure people into handing over money or personal information. Perhaps they knock on your door with a surplus of materials that need to be used or insist on immediate action before you have time to vet their credentials.
Legitimate contractors will take the time to work with you and finalize your plans with a contract and schedule that works for everyone involved. Avoid rushing into any house renovations that requires detailed planning and negotiation.
4. Signing Contracts With Vague Language
No matter what home renovations you decide to begin, the final version of your team’s contract should be highly detailed. Trusted professionals will outline every step of the process, including documentation of their insurance coverage, and describe the safety precautions they’ll take during the project.
In contrast, scammers will present a vague, short contract that looks official but doesn’t include necessary details, like how their insurance will cover accidental damage or on-the-job injuries.
5. Hiring Contractors Without Personal Licenses
Anyone can draft a form that registers who will perform the work during a renovation or property addition. It doesn’t prove that the contractor is trained in that field. Scammers won’t produce licenses for their industry because they haven’t passed the necessary exams to do the work legitimately. Ask for their licenses and prepare to report them if the contractor evades or denies your request. This can help protect other homeowners from getting scammed as well.
6. Pulling Permits for Your Contractor
Contractors always pull the necessary permits to begin construction. It makes them the legally responsible party for code compliance problems and safety issues.
Pulling the permits yourself could result in paying double the original fees if the local governing authority reviews a complaint and finds you responsible. It’s another way for scammers to do less work for more money without fearing legal penalties.
7. Using Only Your Ideas
You began searching for an experienced contractor because you can’t do your home improvement plans by yourself. You may need an expert plumber, electrician, or carpenter to ensure safe, flawless and long-lasting results. While discussing the house project with a potential contractor, note how often they suggest ideas or alternatives to your plans.
Professional contractors know what they’re doing, so they’ll quickly pull the plug on any ideas that might not be feasible. Scammers will tell you anything is possible for the right price. They’ll never question anything or recommend another idea because they don’t know what they’re doing.
Hiring a contractor who does poor work will only lead to headaches down the road, including potential legal and financial issues. If you feel that a potential hire is not armed with expert information, follow your hunch. Then, discuss your project with multiple contracting teams to see who knows what they’re talking about.
Watch for These Common Home Improvement Scams
After you’ve saved enough money to start your renovation or remodeling project, watch out for these common home improvement scams. Always vet your contractors by checking for the licenses and reading reviews from their previous clients.
If you can get several quotes to compare your options, you’ll hire the best people for the job and avoid losing money to scammers — or even just to incompetent professionals.
Guest article written by Evelyn Long is a Baltimore-based real estate writer and the founder of Renovated, a web resource for home improvement and market trends.