A woman homeowner is standing at her front door while talking to a door-to-door contractor.

Beware of Home Improvement Scams

From rooftops to basements, no area of your home is totally immune from the many home improvement scams that take place each year. Look for these red flags as you hire remodeling help.

Be Suspicious of Door-to-Door Contractors

Be leery of any contractor who approaches you unsolicited. They may tell you they just completed a job in your neighborhood, have materials left over from another job, or that they’re running a “one-day only” deal — whatever the story, don’t buy it. A reputable contractor should have enough business from advertising and referrals to keep them busy without knocking on doors, so reach out to contractors you find through reputable sources.

Find a Reputable Contractor

You can find dependable contractors in the phone book, through referrals from friends and family, or even organizations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Then, use a search engine or your local Better Business Bureau to learn more and check for a history of complaints.

Also, be sure to ask your contractor for proof of liability insurance, licensing, bonding, and any references. A trustworthy contractor has these handy and is more than happy to share them with you.

Consider Getting a Second Opinion

If a contractor completes one job and tells you he’s discovered another problem requiring immediate attention, consider getting a second opinion. The contractor may just be looking for more work. Also, get multiple bids on all your contractor jobs to help ensure a quote is consistent and fair.

And when it comes to price, the lowest isn’t always the best. If one bid is dramatically lower than the rest, get more information.

Don’t Pay the Full Amount Up Front

It’s unconventional to pay for 100 percent of the work up front. If your contractor suddenly insists on payment up front, it’s a red flag. Once paid, you may never see that contractor—or your money—again.

Make sure you receive a contract with details of the work to be performed and the costs involved. Typical payment terms are about 25 percent up front and the rest upon completion of the work. Also, it’s best to avoid paying in cash—instead, use credit cards or a check so you have a paper trail.

Educate Seniors on Scams

Scammers have learned to target the elderly because they may be home alone during the day and more trusting. Make sure you know about any work your older family members plan to have done and use this article as a guide. Also, if you’re older and living alone, it’s a good idea to run any home improvement projects by people you trust.

Though you might find some great deals on the Internet, think about following a personal referral from family or friends. If that’s not possible, check with your real estate agent or a moving trade organization to find local moving companies with a solid reputation and years of experience.

Protect Yourself Going Forward

Whether your remodeling job is a repair, improvement, or addition, you need to be sure that your homeowners insurance still adequately protects your dwelling, so it might be a good idea to talk to your insurance agent.

Recommended by the Editors: