How to Recognize and Avoid Spring Home Improvement Scams

Spring is the season for home improvement scams
Credit.com contributor Beth Kotz tells us how to spot a home improvement scam.

Spring is the season of renewal, and promises of warmer weather after a few long months of dark, dreary winter. Bright sun and flower buds are a breath of fresh air as well as a reminder to start planning outdoor projects. Be wary as you begin to start, however, as it’s also the beginning of the season for home improvement scams and rip offs.

In the spring, unscrupulous contractors are guilty of traveling to scam unsuspecting homeowners. They do so in the springtime because they can credibly claim that properties have been damaged by severe winter storms and are thus in need of their services. Even though many fall victim to these dodgy fraudsters, you can safeguard yourself by following a few simple precautions.

Be especially wary if you're approached at your home by supposed contractors. They may inform you of a special deal they're offering, tell you that your house currently poses a safety hazard or state that they just happened to be in the area and would like to pick up some extra business. The types of work you might be solicited about include:

  • Chimney inspections and repairs
  • Driveway paving
  • Roofing
  • Landscaping
  • Ductwork services

Never agree immediately to any project pitched to you by workers who stop at your house and offer their services. Instead, take down their contact details and references, and then follow up on this information. Call their references, and check the organization's standing with the Better Business Bureau and any consumer protection agencies that operate in your area.

If the work they're interested in completing for you requires special licenses or registration, contact the appropriate department of your state's government to make sure that all the relevant paperwork is in order. Investigate whether or not the organization carries the proper levels of insurance and bonding; otherwise, you may be liable for any injuries or property damage that occur on your premises.

Even if you determine that a company is legit, don't rush to hire it for your assignment. It's best to request quotes from at least three organizations so that you can compare prices and discover if anyone has been telling you lies. Insist upon a thorough written estimate and contract before you commit so that there won't be any surprises later on.

When it comes to paying for your home improvement project, try to negotiate as low a down payment as possible. Aim to pay no more than one-third of the total cost upfront. Cash transactions leave you with little recourse in case something goes wrong, so you should pay with a check or, better still, a credit card. This way, you'll have a record of all money involved in the deal.

All of these precautionary measures take a certain amount of time, and trustworthy contracting enterprises understand this. Those who try to pressure you into quick agreement with a proposal are likely to not be all that they're presenting themselves to be. They may intend to take your money and then deliver shoddy work or just flee immediately without doing anything at all to improve your residence.

Senior citizens are frequent targets for untoward home improvement shenanigans. They may not be aware of the resources available for gauging the reliability of a company, and they're usually reluctant to report being the victim of a scam because of embarrassment. Discuss these matters with your elderly family members to ensure that they're aware of what to watch out for.

Home improvements can be a wise investment in not just your comfort and happiness but also in the resale value of your building. Any positive returns you're likely to see will quickly go down the drain, however, if you fall prey to unscrupulous criminals. Use your common sense and do your homework to avoid this fate befalling you and your home.


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