Be on the lookout for springtime home repair scams

When spring arrives, homeowners’ thoughts often turn to home maintenance, repair and renovation. And plenty of home contractor scammers are ready to take advantage of those thoughts.

Beware of the knock on your door from a contractor who offers you the opportunity to be swindled. Perhaps the homes in your area were storm damaged this winter and he proposes to come to your rescue with a quick, low-cost repair. Or he may claim to have just finished a driveway job nearby with a lot of paving material left over so he’ll do your driveway for a cut-rate price. He may even point out problems with your home that you’ve never noticed and pressure you with a today-only, special deal.

At any rate, it’s best to be in the buyer-beware mode if you get a contractor offer from out of the blue, via a visit to your home, a flyer on your porch, a phone call or an email.

Whether or not your home sustained damage from our recent winter, you may be in the market this spring for a home clean up, maintenance or improvement. Here are some pointers to hire the right contractor for the job:

  1. Research the contractor’s complaint history and rating. Check out the contractor’s phone number, website and Better Business Bureau rating.
  2. Ask the contractor to provide references for his last three jobs. Give his customers a call. If possible, also visit a worksite to inspect the quality of the work he’s done.
  3. Get cost estimates from at least two other contractors for the same job. Ask your neighbors and friends to recommend contractors they’ve hired who did good work for them.
  4. Make sure the contractor’s bid contains all the costs involved, including down payment, installation and material costs, any required building permit fees, etc. Negotiate a reasonable down payment and only pay in full once you’re satisfied with the work done. It’s a flagrant red flag if the contractor wants full payment upfront, especially if he wants it in cash. Only pay by check or credit card.
  5. Listen to your gut. If you entertain doubts about a certain contactor, hire somebody else.
Sources: news-graphic.com, PALawHelp.org, consumer.ftc.gov, nclnet.org and bbb.org