Updated August 2016
From rooftops to basements, no area of your home can be totally immune to a possible contractor scam. To help protect your home and your wallet, here are five tips to keep in mind when you’re hiring help for your home project.
Be leery of any contractor who approaches you unsolicited, says the Better Business Bureau. 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 help keep them busy without knocking on doors, so make sure to reach out to contractors you find through respected sources.
You can find dependable contractors in online listings, referrals from friends and family or organizations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. You can also search on the Better Business Bureau website to learn more about the contractor and check for a history of complaints, says Consumer Reports.
Also, be sure to ask your contractor for proof of liability insurance, licensing, bonding and any references, says U.S. News and World Report. A trustworthy contractor will typically have these handy and be more than happy to share them with you.
You may want to consider getting multiple bids on all of your contractor jobs to help ensure potential quotes are consistent and fair, says Angie’s List. And when it comes to price, the lowest may not be the best. If one bid is dramatically lower than the rest, you may want to get more information from that contractor to see if there are any extra charges that may get added later on and ultimately make that contractor more expensive.
It’s unconventional to pay for 100 percent of the work up front, says U.S. News and World Report. 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, says Angie’s List. Typical payment terms are about 10 percent up front and the rest upon completion of the work, says the Better Business Bureau. Also, it’s best to avoid paying in cash — instead, use a credit card or check so you have a paper trail.
Scammers have learned to target the elderly. Make sure your older family members are familiar with the common red flags. Also, if you’re older and living alone, it’s a good idea to run any home improvement projects by people you trust, says the National Council on Aging.
With a little research, you may be able to avoid a potential home improvement scam and find a contractor you can trust.