Spotting Scams and the Inexperienced with Home Remodeling Contractors
Every industry has its share of scams and con artists. The remodeling industry is no exception. However, spotting scams and the inexperienced with home remodeling contractors is relatively easy provided you know what to look for.
One clue is that we tend to get a gut feeling if someone is trying to pull one over on us. But what about when someone isn’t intentionally trying to scam us? There are honest contractors that are either inexperienced, incompetent, or both. They may mean well, but their lack of skill or knowledge or inability to be able to complete or manage your project correctly can be just as devastating as the work of a truly unscrupulous contractor.
In other words, it’s not always the bad guys you need to look out for. There is a big difference between being willing and being able.
Let’s look at some of the things to look out for.
“High-Pressure” Sales Tactics
With the remodeling business becoming more and more competitive each year, many contractors resort to high-pressure tactics to get you to sign on the spot without your best interest in mind. You should never feel pressured into deciding about choosing your contractor. Walk away.
Unusual Payment Terms
Beware of the contractor who asks that you pay for the entire job upfront or asks you to pay in cash. A professional contractor will present an equitable, mutually acceptable payment plan, usually based on the progress of your project.
If you can’t verify a contractor’s company, name, address, and phone number, it’s a sure bet that trouble lies ahead. Many of these fly-by-night contractors are called “pick-up truck” builders. These guys don’t have verifiable businesses and are mobile enough to pack up and leave your job without a trace. A verifiable address is a must.
Hard to Reach
Anyone can miss a call, but if you find that your prospective contractor doesn’t consistently return your calls, beware. Any remodeling project will have things come up that require prompt communication between you and your contractor. You want your contractor to be available to you when you have concerns. It is critical that you feel that your contractor is easy to reach and open to communication.
The “Price Reduction”
This scam occurs when you say no to or show a bit of reluctance to the initial offer and in response the salesperson offers a lower price for the exact same work. Substantial reductions in price without changes in the scope of work or specifications could signify that the contractor is trying to get a higher price for something that is worthless, to begin with, and is just trying to save the sale. If you and the contractor negotiate different materials, methods, or circumstances that clearly have an impact on the cost, this would be fine. Otherwise, the price should be the price.
No Contract or Proposal
Insist on a thorough contract or proposal with a defined scope of work, clear specifications, and detailed terms. By doing this, you will substantially increase your chances of being satisfied. It is best not to take anything for granted.
In addition to the benefits that come from knowing what to expect, if a contractor takes the time necessary to compile a detailed document, there will be far fewer unforeseen issues and misunderstandings, which will result in less stress for you, and your project will move along much more smoothly. If there is ever a misunderstanding, chances are it can be easily cleared up by referencing this critical document.
Incomplete Specifications or Unclear Terms
Pay attention to the “Scope of Work” and “Specifications” sections of the contract or proposal. This is the part of the proposal that defines exactly what work will be completed (the scope of work) and exactly what products or materials and which methods are going to be used (the specifications). Every project should have clearly written specifications. Not just vague generalities.
Shoddy or Incomplete Workmanship
By far, this is the most widespread scam of all. To address the potential for shoddy workmanship, I recommend following up with references until you are 100% satisfied that your contractor will provide the level of workmanship you expect. Awards are another area that can validate a contractor’s commitment to quality workmanship. Simply do not take someone’s word for it.
In our company, we recommend (and sometimes require) that prospective clients contact our references, and if available visit one or more of our past projects so they can see firsthand examples of our work. You’ll have a much better sense of the quality of work you can expect.
The Contractor Asks That You Get the Required Permits
Some contractors may ask that you get the required building permits. If well explained, this could be to your advantage in certain cities, due to the way they have set fees for construction permits. Or, this could be a signal that he is either unlicensed, the work is outside the area in which he is licensed, or he is not able to get a permit due to improper or inadequate insurance coverage. The contractor may also not be in good standing with the building department.
In any case, a reputable contractor will discuss the permit process with you and typically obtain a permit, if your project requires one. When a contractor obtains the required building permits, you are more likely to have things done according to the applicable building codes. Also, check your homeowner insurance policy to see if it requires that a permit be issued on any major remodeling project to be properly insured.
The Schedule or Time Frame Seems Too Good to Be True
If the schedule you’re quoted seems too good to be true, it just might be! A contractor who knows his business will give you a realistic work schedule/timeline. Don’t be lured by the contractor who promises an overly optimistic completion date.
The Contractor Doesn’t Warranty His Work
Believe it or not, in some states, there is no law that requires a remodeling contractor to warranty his work. However, warranties are essential to any remodeling project. A good contractor will comply with the standards set forth by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.
The National Association of Home Builders performance guidelines helps determine whether a contractor’s work requires corrective action in cases of dispute. Most professional contractors know about these guidelines and may refer to it in their warranty. They can provide you with a copy. Remember this: Contractors committed to quality workmanship and client satisfaction warranty their work at least one year and many offer two years or more.
The Contractor Appears Unkempt and Disorganized
A disorganized contractor means a disorganized project. Pay close attention to the details. Look for clues that the contractor has it together. You want your project to be organized – that starts and ends with your contractor.
FREE CONSUMER AWARENESS GUIDE
Learn about spotting scams and the inexperienced with home remodeling contractors with our consumer awareness guide. Our guide, “10 Things You Must Know Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor” will help you know what to look for when finding the right contractor so that you can be completely satisfied with your remodeling project. This booklet was written so that you will be empowered to make the best decision for your home improvement and remodel. You can have the experience you desire for your home improvement project with the right contractor for you by requesting this free e-Book here.