Your Money: Spring brings out home-repair cons

It is spring, a time when many peoples’ thoughts turn to home improvement.


Whether you are planning a small or large project, it pays to look beyond the lowest bid when selecting a contractor. And, you should definitely refrain from considering a contractor’s Yellow Pages advertisement to be an assurance of the quality of work you can expect. The largest ad does not always equate to the best contractor.

In 2011, the BBB received more than 6,000 complaints against general contractors, which was up 11 percent from the previous year. The Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau have found the following to be indications that a contractor may not be interested in satisfying customers:

SOLICITS DOOR-TO-DOOR: Be suspicious of contractors who attempt to gain business by visiting door-to-door. If you are contacted, be sure to check them out with the BBB and obtain additional quotes. And never allow anyone to distract you while another person steals your belongings.

HAS MATERIALS LEFT OVER FROM A PREVIOUS JOB: It is not your lucky day when a contractor shows up on your doorstep offering a cut-rate price on a project because they have materials left over from a recent job. This is a common ploy of fly-by-night operators or handymen who are based out-of-state and use their pick-up trucks as their place of business.

ASKS YOU TO GET THE REQUIRED BUILDING PERMITS: This could be a sign that the contractor is hoping to avoid contact with the local agency that issues such permits. Perhaps he is not licensed or registered, as required by your state or locality. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project.

DOES NOT LIST A BUSINESS PHONE NUMBER IN THE LOCAL DIRECTORY: This can be a red flag indicating that the contractor does not have an established business presence in-state. Or, that he perhaps relies on a home answering machine to “screen” customer calls.

PRESSURES YOU FOR AN IMMEDIATE DECISION: A reputable professional will recognize that you need time to consider many factors when deciding which contractor to hire. Get written estimates from several firms based on identical project specifications, and contact the Better Business Bureau for a copy of the Business Review.

ASKS YOU TO PAY UP FRONT OR IN CASH: Whatever the reason, never pay for the entire project up front. Payments should be by credit card or check so that your credit card statement or cancelled check can provide proof of payment.

SUGGESTS YOU BORROW FROM A PARTICULAR LENDER: Do not agree to financing through your contractor or someone he suggests. Secure your own financing.





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