Sadly, when it comes to a set of morals contractors often seem to be on the same level as used car salesmen, ready to take advantage of you and drain your wallet whenever your back is turned. Not all of them are like that though; in fact, there are plenty of honorable, trustworthy and knowledgeable contractors out there. You just need to know how to find them.
So before you go off on a wild goose chase, here are some things you need to be on the lookout for. If you run into any of the situations listed below, watch yourself, as you could be dealing with a sleazy scammer.
1.) They ask you to obtain permits. No, no, no, that is not your job, that is their job. Regardless of what they say, you are not responsible for obtaining specific building permits. They are, and if you have any doubts you should call your state’s licensing board for verification.
2.) They come to you for work. A good contractor doesn’t need to solicit work door-to-door. By word of mouth alone they should have plenty of business. And if they claim they are just “starting out,” do you really want an inexperienced contractor working on your house? The answer is no, you don’t.
This also goes for contractors offering you a discount if you’ll agree to use your home as a demonstration or example to future clients. An experienced contractor should already have plenty of these “demonstrations.” Send them packing and find someone who really knows what they’re doing.
3.) They ask for cash or expect you to sign on the spot. Your home is probably the largest single purchase you will ever make, so there is no reason whatsoever that you shouldn’t read all the fine print in every contract that comes your way. In fact, you should be having a real estate lawyer go through most of your contracts. If a contractor feels uneasy about you taking your time or having someone else look over your agreement, ditch ‘em. It’s most likely a scam.
4.) They aren’t listed. Every contractor should be listed in the phonebook, period. Regardless of what reasons they may have, if they don’t have a public listing in the phonebook find someone else who does.
5.) They sound too good to be true. This may seem obvious, but so many people fall for it that it simply has to be listed. If they are making promises that seems a bit out of the ordinary, like exceptionally long guarantees, they are most likely blowing smoke up your…well, you get it. Most contractors have similar guarantees because they are all using similar material and techniques. Someone claiming to have “cutting edge” knowledge or materials is just plain full of it.
In short, make sure any contractor you go with has proper licensures and certifications, a long list of references (which you absolutely have to look into), as well as a legitimate business set-up. That includes a number in the phone book and various payment options and plans.