How to avoid contractor scams (Part I)

Over the next few blog posts, we are going to discuss many of the scams you are likely to see during the building process. Please note, this list is by no means comprehensive and is not representative of the many fine, established builders out there. These blog posts will hopefully demonstrate just how essential it is to fully research any company you will be working with for your home project.

Scam: I’ll need the money up front

There are only a few things that you should pay for upfront, including custom windows, custom doors, carpet, and custom tile. There’s no guarantee a builder won’t leave town after you’ve paid a hearty sum and it’s advisable to stay away from anyone who claims this is common practice.

How to protect yourself: Agree to pay no more than 50% upfront and write checks directly to the vendor, not the contractor.

Scam: Take my word for it

When you first meet with a contractor, he’s very agreeable about doing everything exactly to your specifications and even suggests his own extra touches and upgrades. Some of the details don’t make it into the contract, but you figure it doesn’t matter because you had a clear verbal understanding. Pretty soon, you notice that the extras you initially discussed aren’t being built. When you confront the contractor, he tells you that he didn’t include those features in his price, so you’ll have to live without them or pony up additional money to redo the work.

How to protect yourself: Unfortunately, you have no legal recourse because you signed a contract that didn’t include all the details. Next time, make sure everything you’ve agreed on is written into the project description. Add any items that are missing, put your initials next to each addition, and have the contractor initial it, too—BEFORE you sign.