I recently read a statistic that was crazy to me. The statistic was pretty general but included something we should all be aware of. The statistic said that older Americans lose over $36 billion annually to a range of financial exploitation schemes, including home improvement scams. While home repairs are a standard part of homeownership, they can open the door to scam artists seeking to prey on vulnerable older adults, or even unsuspecting younger adults. The good news is that there are ways to prepare yourself and not become a target of people who are out with malicious intent to separate you from your hard-earned money. This blog will go over ways to spot a shady contractor and ways to avoid getting into an arrangement with one.
Scammers use a variety of strategies to target people who need work done, from charging inflated prices and delivering substandard work, to using high-pressure tactics to sell services. Older adults are prime targets for this type of exploitation because they often own homes with equity, tend to be more trusting and may be less likely to report an incident. Younger adults may be the same type of victim except they are usually more involved in the process and less trusting. You would think that people out there that have the ability to do work wouldn’t want to put a bad name on their “business” but they do.
Ways to avoid scammers for contractor work on home repairs may seem like common sense, but they really aren’t. If you want a job done, then you look at the estimate, you may start looking for a cheaper way to do it, including finding someone who will do it cheaper. The best thing to do when you get an estimate, is to get more than one. If you have two contractors bidding for your work, they may lower their price a little just to win the bid. If they do, then the research process should begin. Most contractors make a living doing more than one job, right? So they should have some photos of past work as well as a good relationship with the person they did the work for. Someone who they have done work for should be able to give them a glowing recommendation. You can go as far as to ask for a reference right then and there, then call them. This will be a great tactic so that you don’t end up calling the guy’s brother-in-law who is pretending to be a client. This is a costly mistake to make if you don’t follow through.
I have had to contract work out for projects with foreclosed houses. One thing I did was first make sure they had a license. If they do, they are automatically more liable than the next guy. Licenses can be checked, and make sure you are talking to the guy with the license. Asking for I.D. shouldn’t be an issue if they are on the up-and-up. If a person has gone through the right steps to get their license, they are not ready to give it up by delivering substandard work. Someone with nothing to hide will accommodate your requests to get the job.
Once these steps have been taken and you have accepted the terms, there is still the process of preparing, doing the work, and paying. An upstanding contractor will not take the money for the entire job up front. This is not the way the process works. At the very most, a contractor is going to take the money that is necessary to buy the materials. Some contractors will simply ask for half to begin, half when the job is completed. The half and half method can be ok as long as the license and references have checked out but I don’t even recommend it then. I would ask that the contractor collect pay for the materials and leave as many of the materials on the site as possible. You should watch out for a contractor that buys $1000 worth of tile, but says they need to store it somewhere else. It should be discussed beforehand that the materials will be kept on site. Also, a good timeframe for the job should be established before work begins.
Now, I’m no expert, but these are things I have learned over the years. There are a lot of materials available to those who need work done, so make sure that you research before accepting someone. That could save you a lot of time, money, and heartache.