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11 Trusted Tips to Avoid a Home Improvement Scam

If you want to avoid being fooled and losing a lot of money, follow these tips.

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Home Improvement Scams

Each spring and summer, professional home improvement scammers roam the U.S. in search of victims. They often target people who live in areas recently damaged by weather events and older adults, offering deals on home repairs. Scams include using low-quality roofing materials, painting houses with cheap paint, and not doing quality work in the promised time frame. Follow these simple tips to avoid a major headache and being left with an ill-repaired home. Don’t miss the12 easy home improvement projects will double the value of your home.

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Research, Research, Research

Before you pick a company for your home improvement project do lots of research. A lot of online review sites have been created in the last couple of years that make finding a reputable company much easier. Researching previous customer opinions will provide potential customers a better idea of what to expect, says Dina Dwyer-Owens fromNeighborly, a community of home service experts. Confirm that a company has no complaints from theBetter Business Bureau, a reputable source for trustworthy businesses.

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Get a Contract

Demand a written contract that lists the specific work to be done, costs, materials to be used, start and completion dates, and warranty information on products and installation. Read the fine print carefully and do not permit work before signing it.

To avoid emptying out your pockets paying for endless home repairs, do thesethings that smart homeowner do once a week.

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Communicate

Make sure you establish a strong connection with your contractor before any work starts. They should know what your expectations are for the project and that those expectations should be outlined in your contract. Additionally, if the service isnt living up to expectations from the established agreement, its vital to speak about it with the provider. If the company isnt responding, isnt open to regular communication or is taking a long time to respond, it may be time to research and hire a new service provider, Dwyer-Owens says. Check out our tips for how to find a good contractor.

Be Cautious

Be extremely cautious of door-to-door salesman offering to give you to best deal on a home repair project. Take the companys information and tell them youll contact them if you need work done. If the salesman pushes you to make a decision fast, dont trust them. Always think over big decisions, such as home improvement projects, for at least a day. Be especially wary if the contractor drives a vehicle with no company name and phone number or with out-of-state license plates. Also, after youve hired a contractor make sure you know the specific time theyre planning to come and their name. Only let them in your house to do work if the information lines up. Read up on thesesecrets for successful first-time home buyers.

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Look Up the Problem Yourself

Many repair technicians will try to charge you for a bigger job than you need so they can make more money. If you know that something is wrong with your house, research how other people have fixed it online. A scam that George Strauch, owner ofGlass Doctorin Ramsey, NJ, sees a lot is people being charged for completely new windows when a simple solution was available. When the temperatures inside and outside the home vary drastically, many windows will build moisture on the inside, says Strauch. People believe that something is wrong with their windows and many repair technicians will take advantage of this, suggesting that either their windows are old, not sealing properly, or are cracked. Then, homeowners end up spending thousands of dollars on new windows that they didnt actually need.

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Get a Permit

This is a step that many homeowners skip because they think its a waste of time. To avoid a home improvement scam you should always require your contractor to pull a permit. By doing all work with a permit, the city will then provide inspections to make sure the work was done to code and by law, the contractor must fix any issues identified by the inspectors, says Zachary Rose, founder ofRose Architects. By skipping the permit process, you are at the mercy of the contractor and there is zero accountability for their work.

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Be Smart About Payments

Do not pay more than 25 to 33 percent of the total job cost as a deposit. Hold off on your final payment until the job is finished and you are satisfied with the completed work. Also, dont make a final payment until you receive a lien waiver stating that the contractor has paid subcontractors and for supplies. These arethings every homeowner needs to know ASAP.

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Always Pay with a Credit Card

Paying with a credit card will ensure that you have protection against scammers. Never pay in cash. Dishonest technicians will ask for money upfront and leave you with an unfinished job. If you pay with a credit card, your credit card company can work with you to dispute the charge.

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Price Match

A low price tag for a big project might seem tempting, but make sure you do your research first. Since lower prices may be offered due to cheaper equipment and a lack of experience, make sure to compare prices with other local businesses by calling to see what the average estimate of the job would be, says Dwyer-Owens. More times than not, paying a higher price will get the job done correctly and save you money in the long run. Watch out for these 100 home inspector nightmares.

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Check the Warranty

Jeremy Anderson, owner ofAire Servin Las Vegas, Nevada, encourages customers to always have their technician check the warranty on their broken item through the manufacturer. Many times, if the warranty is less than 10 years old you could have parts under warranty that you can get for free or at a discounted price. Some technicians may ignore the facts that the item is under warranty to make a little extra money.

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Contact Refrences

Always make sure to use a contractor with lots of experience that can provide you with trustworthy references. My rule of thumb is at least three references, and the homeowner must speak to all three prior to agreeing to any work, says Rose. If the contractor cannot provide references, that is a clear indication that they are new to the industry or that there is something fishy.

Next, check out these 30 ridiculous home improvement fails that will make you cringe.