Scammers are always looking for new ways to deceive people to make a quick buck, and home improvements are a common target.
As the weather warms and home improvement projects start taking center stage, contractor scams start blossoming like weeds after a spring rain.
To help you know what to look out for in these scams, here are some of the most common home improvement scams and advice on how to avoid them.
The Door-to-Door Scam
Be careful opening your wallet to people who ring your doorbell! Scammers may show up at your home, claiming to be contractors or representatives of a home improvement company. They may offer to do work for a low price or even for free, alleging that they are in the neighborhood and have extra materials, so they’re happy to “do you a favor.” Or, they’re doing work at a house a street or two over and have the time to work on yours, too!
Cheap or free labor sounds amazing, doesn’t it? And it is – until you realize the “contractor” is not licensed or insured, uses subpar materials and does shoddy work. They may also try to get you to sign a contract on the spot, not leaving you any time to do proper research or get competing quotes.
In the worst variation of this scam, the alleged contractor will ask to be paid upfront in full, claiming they need the money to buy materials or cover other expenses. However, once they have your money, they disappear.
Stay safe: Never hire a contractor on the spot. Always ask for proof of license and insurance as well as references from previous clients. Also, never pay for a project in full before it’s completed.
The High-Pressure Sales Scam
Some disreputable home improvement companies use high-pressure sales tactics to get you to sign a contract. They may offer a special deal that is only available if you sign a contract on the spot! Unfortunately, though, these tactics are only a ploy to pressure you into making a decision before you are ready. They may also hide additional fees or charges in the contract, or promise things that they cannot deliver.
Stay safe: Never rush to hire a contractor. Don’t be swayed by limited-time offers, and always carefully read the contract before signing.
The 'As Seen on TV' Scam
In this home improvement scam, an alleged contractor tricks you into thinking a product or service is endorsed by a reputable source. They may claim that their product or service has been featured on a popular TV show or website, or that it has been used by celebrities. However, these claims are completely false or highly exaggerated. The product or service may not live up to its promises, or it may be overpriced compared to similar products or services.
Stay safe: Always do your research and read reviews from other customers on multiple platforms before hiring a contractor. Don’t assume celebrity endorsements or claims of popularity are legit without verifying them first.
The Insurance Scam
Scammers may claim they can help you get a new roof or another home improvement project covered by your insurance company! Maybe there was a hailstorm in the area "a few years ago" and you never noticed that it damaged your roof! Really, there was often no such event and this is really just insurance fraud, which is illegal and can lead to fines and jail time.
Stay safe: Always check with your insurance company before starting any home improvement project. Make sure the project is covered by your policy and that you understand the deductible and other terms of your policy.
Home improvement projects are exciting; getting scammed while renovating your home is not. Before getting too excited about a home improvement project, we strongly recommend that you get multiple quotes for a project and read your contracts very carefully. Ask questions and don’t hesitate to say ’no’ when you feel pressured!
If you need money for home improvement projects, CommonWealth One may be able to help with a great rate on financing through a home equity loan, line of credit or cash-out refinance on your current mortgage! It’s worth having a conversation with us!
If you’re thinking about buying a new home instead of renovating the one you're in, be sure to tune into our upcoming virtual Mortgage and Home Buying Q&A scheduled for this coming Wednesday, May 17 at noon. You can register to attend at www.cofcu.org/events.
If you can’t attend the virtual session, we’re always here to answer your questions. Just give us a call or stop into a branch to make an appointment with one of our helpful member service representatives!
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