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Protect yourself from Unscrupulous Contractors (Part-1)

You must have heard about the ‘National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud’ (NCPHIF). If not, search for it online: you will come to know that it has been set up to help homeowners protect themselves against home remodeling and renovation frauds.

Americans spend over $200 billion every year on home improvement. That much money will always lure the sharks.  The truth of the matter, however, is that there are more good and honest home remodeling contractors than crooks. But it is the bad ones who make the news and create fear among homeowners.

There are a number of things you can do to protect yourself from unscrupulous contractors. Here are a few important ideas for you.

Vital tips

  • Decide on the nature and scope of the remodel.
  • Have a budget in place.
  • Consider the timelines and the insurance options that may be available.
  • Spend time researching contractors and make a shortlist of those who appear to be the best.
  • Contact them and ask for reliable testimonials.
  • Once you are satisfied of their background, provide all the project details, and ask for estimates.
  • If you are asked for additional information, provide only what is relevant to the project, and nothing of a personal financial nature.
  • Do not provide the contractor with any personal information about any family member.
  • Ask all the questions you want to. Be cautious of a contractor who resents your questions or does not give you clear answers.
  • Do not choose a contractor based on cost alone. The lowest bid is often not the best one.
  • Know the lien laws before beginning a project.
  • Beware contractors who offer quotations that are too good to be true. Discuss the figures with trusted friends, who have some experience in such matters.

Pressure traps

Being pressurized is an easy way to make mistakes. Do not accept magical offers that come your way unasked. Such people who entice you are usually desperate for business. You need to ask yourself why. Would a good and reputable contractor act that way?

Be careful of “free” home inspections from unknown or unverifiable sources. This is a well-known trick to trap you into repairs and renovation that you do not need. Never let yourself be pressured into signing a contract. Take as much time as you need, and if required, consult a lawyer. If you are told a “special offer” will lapse in one day, it is an offer you can do without.

Find a reputable contractor

Every contractor will surely present an edited high profile; it may be true or not. There is only one way to evaluate the honesty of a contractor and the quality of work promised. That is to ask for reliable referrals.

After getting the contractor’s okay, contact the people s/he has worked for in the past; hear what they have to say. If possible visit them and have a look at the work completed. Of course, some customers can be unreasonable and will bad mouth a contractor who has done nothing wrong.

So, it is better not to expect every referral to be unequivocal in praise. However, at least 90% of them should be happy with the work that was done for them.

The next blog post will deal with a few more things you can do to protect yourself from home remodeling frauds.

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