One of the most alarming trends in the home improvement industry is the volume of contractors that have operated under several names under the same ownership. Often when this happens, a contractor is likely trying to evade a slew of bad online reviews or even lawsuits. Savvy homeowners know the right questions to ask contractors in order to weed out dishonest companies and storm chasers. They even know to ask for references and the proper facts to inquire about. However, even the most confident homeowners can get tripped up by these all too common statements to shady contractors, signaling that they are an easy target for scams.
“You’re the only contractor I’m interviewing.” Reputable contractors fully embrace the fact that most homeowners obtain at least three written estimates. Estimates should be compared side-by-side to make sure that materials and labor costs are somewhat consistent. Disclosing to a contractor that you’re not soliciting multiple bids gives them free rein to inflate costs, as you’ll have no accurate way of determining if your quote is fair.
“I’m in no rush to have the work done.” Reputable contractors can easily book out for several months during peak season. Being told by a homeowner that there’s no rush to start on their project, can push you to the back burner. Prior to agreeing to work with a contractor, get a written estimate of when the project will start and finish.
“Do you provide a cash discount if I pay in full today?” It’s commonplace for reputable contractors to request 1/3 of your project price as a down payment. This allows them to secure the necessary materials for your project. However, paying for the entire project upfront in cash provides no incentive for a contractor to complete the project in a timely manner, if they even complete it all.
“I can pull the permit for the project.” A contractor that insists that the homeowner pull their own permit likely has something to hide. It’s possible that they are not licensed or routinely experiences issues in the municipality that you live in. If your name is on the permit and not the contractor’s, it’s you the city inspector will be calling with any questions or problems they have with your project.
“A handshake agreement works for me.” Having in writing the agreed upon timeframes, project price, and materials gets both parties on the same page. This can also prove advantageous in the event that the contractor falls short on their commitment and legal action is required.
“Why can’t you work during rain/snow/extreme temperatures?” If a contractor is unwilling to install your project and cites weather as a concern, it’s more than likely the concern is valid. In too cold of temperatures, the adhesive on asphalt shingles will not stick as it should. Putting up scaffolding during a blizzard is completely unsafe, framers need dry conditions to work, and concrete has temperature conditions. Pressing pause on a project causes a contractor time and money, something they don’t take lightly.
“I don’t need to see a copy of your insurance policy.” Having these words leave your mouth can have catastrophic effects. In the event that one of the contractor’s employees gets injured on the jobsite or your home is damaged during the project, you are liable if your contractor does not have enough insurance or fails to carry any at all. Ask for proof of insurance and pass on any contractor that fails to adequately insure themselves. It’s a telltale sign that they’re likely cutting corners in multiple facets of their business.