Every year, trusting homeowners are scammed out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they hire unlicensed contractors and scam artists to perform home improvements. Being able to identify the signs of a scam and knowing how to find a reputable contractor can help you protect yourself from fraud. If you're thinking about making a home improvement sometime soon, whether it's a remodel or home repair, these tips can help.
Signs of a Scam
Before seeking help from a contractor, know the signs of a scam. Many scams are formulaic, so identifying a scam artist becomes easier if you know the red flags.
- You feel pressured to make a decision. A good contractor will always give you time to consider your options; they will not make you feel powerless to say no.
- The deal sounds "too good to be true." All contractors must be paid for materials, labor and overhead costs. While there will be cost variations from one professional to the next, be wary of any contractor who dramatically undercuts the others. A contractor who charges dramatically less may be planning to raise the cost in the middle of the job, or may not perform the work they say they'll do.
- The contractor is from out of state, has a temporary address or lists a PO Box as their address. You should be able to contact your contractor after the work is done, to hold your contractor accountable for any problems. A contractor who does not have Florida address or a brick and mortar location is a risky hire.
- The contractor wants the entire project cost up front. Most contractors will charge around half of the total project cost up front for the purchase of materials, but a contractor or remodeling company who wants more than 50% of the initial cost before beginning construction may be having financial problems or could be using your job to finance other projects.
- Contractor uses alarming language, claiming the work must be done right now. Scam artists use fear tactics to convince homeowners they must act quickly. A contractor who appears out of the blue and claims your home is in dangerous condition may not be telling you the truth. Get a second opinion, or a third if you need one.
How to Find a Reputable Contractor
Take charge of your home improvement or repair! Don't wait for a scam artist to show up at your door; contact reputable contractors in your area and get multiple quotes before making a hire. Below we've listed some best practices for hiring a reputable contractor in your area.
Check the License
Residential contractors in the state of Florida are required to have a license with the Florida Department of Business and Regulations. Before signing a contract, check that the contractor's license is active on the Florida DBPR website. Click the "verify a license" button on the site to search for a license.
Look up your contractor by name or license number. Even if your contractor claims to be licensed, it's important to verify that their license number is active and is associated with a business of the same name. The license record will show the name and contact information on the license and the history of complaints, so you can enter into a contract with that contractor with eyes open.
Any contractor who has any experience should have references. Get references from customers who have had related work done on their home. For example, if you're paying the contractor to remodel your bathroom, ask for references from customers who have hired that contractor to finish a similar project.
Check all references and ask them questions such as:
- When did you work with this contractor?
- Would you hire this contractor in the future?
- What work did the contractor do for you?
- Did your job start on time?
- Did your contractor go over budget? Why?
Asking questions like this could help you create a picture in your mind about how a contractor treats their clients, and how the work will go for you, if you choose to hire that contractor yourself.
Check the Website
Most modern contractors have a professional website that shows examples of previous work, information about their license, services they provide and so on. Some contractors will even have information about awards they've received or testimonials from previous clients.
Check your contractor's website for evidence of quality and an established business. If your contractor has no website or a shoddy website, this could be a sign that the contractor is either behind the times or not terribly professional.
Meet the Contractor At the Site
Never hire a contractor who has not seen the site or walked through the site with you. Talk to the contractor about your home improvement or remodel goals while standing at the site together. This will give you an opportunity to ask the contractor questions and clarify details about the job. This will also help you decide how well the contractor communicates with clients, which will help you determine whether that contractor is the right professional for you.
Scams do harm to the people who fall victim to them, and they also weaken the community. If you have concerns about a contractor, report your complaint to the Florida office of Attorney General Ashley Moody. Reporting scams is a good way to protect yourself and others in your community from predatory contractors and scam artists.
Contact a Reputable Contractor in Sarasota
Are you planning to perform a remodel in the coming months? Contact a reputable contractor in your area. At Gilbert Design Build, we perform home improvements like interior remodeling including kitchen and bathroom upgrades. We also install custom closets, utility rooms and laundry rooms. Whether you're selling your home soon or remodeling for the sake of improving your quality of life, we can help.
We're an award-winning home remodel company with almost twenty years of experience in the Sarasota area. Our website features testimonials from satisfied clients, a gallery of our previous work and more.
We provide free consultations to homeowners like you, so contact us today to get started with your home improvement project.