Home improvement scams are no laughing matter

I’m a fan of Tim Allen’s role as an accident-prone handyman on the 90’s hit TV comedy, Home Improvement. But in reality, hiring a good contractor isn’t something you just fall into. It helps to know the signs of a home improvement scam.

If you’re not into DIY projects, it might make sense to hire a pro. Finding a capable and reliable contractor is important — a home improvement project gone wrong can cost you more than money; it can lead to delays, subpar work, and even legal problems.

A good ad isn’t proof a contractor does quality work. Find out for yourself. Check with friends, neighbors, or co-workers who’ve had improvement work done. Also check out a contractor’s reputation on online ratings sites you trust. Get written estimates from several firms, keeping in mind the lowest bidder may not be the best choice.

How can you tell if a contractor might not be reputable? Don’t do business with someone who:

  • pressures you for an immediate decision
  • only accepts cash, asks you to pay everything up-front, or tells you to borrow money from a lender the contractor knows
  • is not licensed. Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and/or bonded. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area.
  • “just happens” to have materials left over from a previous job.

For more tips, check out Hiring a Contractor.

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