In the first part of this series, I shared with you some
ways to spot home improvement scams, including five methods bad contractors
will try to win your business:
Today Only Discounts
High Pressure Sales
Yes to Everything (Until they get paid)
the Image Game
If you have not read the article yet or would like a
refresher, you can find the blog post here: 19 Secrets to Smart Home Remodeling.
Before we take a look at some of the other methods these
unprofessional contractors use, let’s talk about some things you should look
for when you first start working with a contractor.
Four Key Points to
Look for When Working with a Home Improvement Contractor
If you can talk with each other, you can work out any
details that come up. Ask yourself this: when you leave a message, does he
return your call? Does he return a text or page promptly? Does he listen to
Nothing is more important than feeling like your contractor
understands your needs and concerns. If your contractor is so busy that he
can’t return calls or pages promptly, maybe it’s time to look for a new
When you’re in a discussion, does the contractor really listen to
you? I mean really listen. This is vital. You should always feel like the both
of you are on the same page. This can help to avoid miscommunication and costly
errors. This is a very important “secret” to a successful and
enjoyable remodeling experience.
Choose someone who will listen to you.
If you feel comfortable with your contractor, the chances
are good your project will run smoothly. Think about it. You’ve just invited a
stranger into your home. Do you find this person nice? Considerate? Personable?
A listener? Was he polite and courteous? Or did he make you feel that he wasn’t
interested? You will be working with this person for a matter of days, weeks,
or months depending upon the project you need completed. Can you stand to have
this person around?
If you feel your contractor is trustworthy, the likelihood
that a project will entail entrance into your home while you aren’t there is
good. Check his references. Keep in mind that the keys to your castle will be
given to your contractor. Can you trust him? Listen to your conscience.
If your contractor has a neat appearance, this is a very
good sign of things to come. This may sound silly, but it’s not. He doesn’t
have to show up in a coat and tie, but neatness does count. Is he clean? Is his
truck presentable, or falling apart? Is his truck permanently lettered and does
it contain his license number? If his appearance is neat, chances are good he
will keep your job – and your home – neat.
More Ways Bad
Contractors Try to Win Your Business
Now that we have covered some things you should look for in
a good contractor, let’s turn our attention back to how bad contractors try to
rope you in and some of the gimmicks they use to do so. We’ll pick up where
left off in the last article and start with number 6 on our list.
How To Spot Home
Improvement Scams – Part Two
Secret #6: Low
Balling the Price
Homeowners fall for this every day. A contractor comes in
and gives them a price lower than the competitors and wins the bid. But by the
end of the project, the price has been “adjusted” way beyond the
On a low estimate, you must ask yourself what is being left
out or what shortcut is being taken.
Here’s an example: One roofer priced his re-roof job $300
cheaper than anyone else. The homeowner wanted to save money and accepted his
proposal. After the job was completed, all the old shingles and nails were
still lying around the yard and the homeowner was having a fit. The contractor
told them that he had not figured the cleanup in his proposal and that was why
he could do the job so much cheaper than anyone else could.
One of the most common signs of trouble ahead is someone
offering to do work for much less money than others. Like anything else, you
can’t get something for nothing. Be careful of choosing your contractor based
upon the lowest price.
All homeowners are trying to make the best possible decision
when hiring a contractor to work with. But is price the only thing you care
about? What about trust? Certifications? Design experience? References?
If a contractor only competes on price, that should be a big
warning flag to you that they don’t – or can’t – deliver a quality job.
The real question is: do you really want the lowest bidding
contractor working on your dream home?
Always get a written proposal. I can’t tell you how many
contractors I’ve seen look at rather complex jobs, pick a price out of thin
air, scribble the figure only on the back of their business card, and give the
card to the homeowner. Show contractors that do this the door! You want a
detailed written proposal that shows what is included: exact materials, brand
names where important, cost, and the payment schedule.
Secret #7: Not Buying
It only costs about $200 for a builder’s license in the
state of Georgia.
Yet fly-by-night contractors can’t even scrape together $200 to make themselves
legitimate. Make sure your contractor is properly licensed. In the state of Georgia, all
contractors MUST be licensed. The State requires that it be displayed in the
place of business and that all contractors and their sales people must carry a
pocket license card. Anyone can say they are licensed. Make the contractor
prove it by either showing you the license or giving you a copy of it. Remember
to check the expiration date. Being licensed is the law. If a contractor cannot
produce a valid license, DO NOT HIRE HIM! If you have any questions or doubt,
contact the Georgia Department of Labor and Economic Growth.
Secret #8: Saying
“We Can’t Start Next Week”
Unscrupulous contractors know that any decent contractor is
booked up months ahead of time. So a standard game they play is to tell the
homeowner that they’ve had a cancellation and can start next week if they sign
right away. The poor homeowner falls for the sales trick and ends up with a
nightmare project. In most cases, the contractor is looking to get the deposit
and has no intention of showing up next week. Or worse yet, they’ll show up and
start tearing up your house only to leave it a mess for months.
If the contractor says they can start next week – BEWARE!
They’re either lying or they’re not very busy. Good contractors are busy, even
in a slow economy.
Will your contractor give you a reasonable estimate for how
long the project will take to complete? A good contractor will do this.
Remember, you want to hire a good contractor, not get a new roommate! Nothing
is more frustrating and irritating than a remodel job that drags on and on.
In this second part of our series, we looked at three more
ways unscrupulous home improvement contractors try to win your business. We
also covered four key points to look four in a good contractor.
In the upcoming third part of this series, we’ll continue
looking at the tricks of these nefarious and fraudulent contractors. Stay tuned