Times are hard and there are many scam artists out and about trying to make a quick buck off unsuspecting individuals. One sure way for scam artists to score is in the area of home improvement. While any part of your home can be a target, many scams tend to center around what is visible to someone who might be eyeballing your house from the street. Roofs, chimneys, driveways and furnaces are four key areas that common home improvement scams revolve around.
1. New Roofing System - Hot Tar Roofing or Torch Down
They come to your door, send you mailings and even get you with a persuasive telemarketing call. Most often homeowner cannot determine the quality of the work done until the rains cause the roof to leak and time has passed after the initial installation of the roof.
2. Chimney Repair
In this scam the homeowner is usually enticed by an advertisement in a local newspaper or mailing offering gutter cleaning at a low price. Once the gutters are cleaned, they claim the chimney is in need of structural repair. It is easy to give a chimney the appearance of decay by removing bricks and mortar from the chimney.
A more serious chimney scam is when the scam artist sites the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning if the chimney is not repaired soon.
Regardless of the claim, when in doubt it is always better to obtain a second opinion from a known and reputable contractor.
3. Furnace Repair
Once they inspect your furnace they claim it is leaking dangerous gases or about to explode. Your first call on hearing this would be to your utility company as they will come and inspect your system. Other red flags to be wary of would be if the supposed contractor tells you that the unit is too small or needs a complete overhaul.
4. Duct Cleaning
This scheme is called a "blow and go" because the scam artist will use a small vacuum cleaner with no special filters to stir up the dust, pollen, mold and other contaminants instead of removing them. Duct cleaning can be necessary if there is mold in the house or if the heating or air conditioning has been running with inadequate or nonexistent filtering. If you change filters regularly, your ducts don't need to be cleaned.
5. Driveway Sealant
Once again popular in the door to door pressure sell, a company come to your door offering to seal your driveway at a heavily discounted price. The brick walkways and stone edgings look far nicer than your existing concrete. Check the materials they are using before signing on the dotted line, as substandard materials will wear off with time leaving you wishing for your old and simple concrete.
6. Paint Job
They offer a below market rate to paint your home. Be sure to check the contract to determine time line and areas to be covered. Often times, it costs extra for trim to be painted or you are asked for more money as your house has more work than meets the eye and they need to hire extra workers to complete the job on time.
Here are four tips to help you guard against any scam artist that might cross your path.
1. If the price sounds too good to be true it probably is a scam.
2. Check into the materials that are being used. Substandard materials and inferior products may look great initially but will wear off in three months
3. When choosing a contractor, always get several estimates on the needed repair.
4. When having major work done, ensure that your contract has a hold-back clause where you can withhold the final payment until 30 days after completion of a project. This will help you guard against things like a roof that might leak after it has been repaired.