There’s nothing that a reputable builder or an unsuspecting homeowner hates more than a building scam. Often as not, the homeowner gets suckered into the deal because he or she doesn’t know the warning signals that should set off alarm bells. Here’s what you need to guard against:
They offer you a one-off ‘special’
Then they push you to accept right away without further investigation because it’s a ‘limited time’ offer. If a special offer is genuine, you should be able to verify it by comparing prices, and you still need to check that the builder who is offering it actually does good work.
No reputable builder makes unsolicited offers. A common strategy among scammers is to claim that they’re busy with work in your area and have some ‘left over’ materials that they can let you have at a low price or for free. In the first place, if there really are leftover materials, someone else paid for them and it would be dishonest to accept them, and in the second place, the whole offer could be a scam. A smooth talker might ask for a small amount of money for just a few odds and ends that the job still needs or a deposit on labour and then simply vanish with your money.
Payment in full upfront
Obviously, a contractor needs to cover himself by getting certain deposits upfront, but advance payment in full is never and has never been a building industry standard. A down payment on renovations shouldn’t amount to more than a third of the total cost. Thereafter, you can agree to cover advance payments on a planned timeline, but you should get a deal in which you still hold a fairly significant amount of money until the job has been completed to your satisfaction.
A ‘show house’ offer
You may find a contractor who assures you that they want to turn your home into a shining example of what they do. They’ll also tell you that as a result, you’re going to get super-low prices. The contractor suggests a slew of additional renovation jobs that you weren’t even thinking of to begin with. Are they necessary tasks? Probably not. Are you getting a better price? Once again, the answer is ‘probably not’. A good contractor should have dozens of examples of completed work – ask yourself why he would want to turn your home into a ‘show house’. This is an unscrupulous sales tactic used to get you to take on more than you were bargaining for! That is, supposing that the work is even completed.