Don’t Get Scammed!

Things to look out for when hiring a new, potentially unknown contractor for your reno.

Picture this: you’re looking at hiring a contractor to completely redo your kitchen – countertops, cabinets, appliances, floors, backsplashes…the whole shebang. Depending on which contractor you choose, the quality of materials and numerous other factors, the remodel is going to be expensive. According to the, the average kitchen remodel is around $15-20k (without appliances, mind you), and can cost upwards of $45k (average from another source). You pay your contractor half upfront and they never show.

A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

This actually happens more often than you think. Across the US and Canada, there have been numerous documented cases of home improvement fraud, where someone will come in to provide a quote, seem legit, offer a deal you cannot refuse and then take your money and vanish.

MSN Real Estate did a piece a while back on the ‘Top 6 home-renovation scams to avoid’ (see here). Two of the scams: ‘cash before work’ and ‘the one-time special’ should immediately raise a red flag. Would you give someone $10,000 up front that you just met? Do you really think this guy is going to only give you 30% off his going rate because he ‘likes you’? If you use a little common sense, you can avoid a whole lot of headache.

Let’s take a look at a couple cases where a contractor can potentially trick you out of your money:

  1. A Frederick, Maryland man and associates were going door-to-door selling driveway repaving services to elderly homeowners, charging thousands of dollars over the ‘going rate’. Needless to say, they got paid their asking price.
  2. So-called ‘storm chasers’ (no, not filming tornadoes) will visit a recently-devastated location and tell homeowners they can ‘rebuild’ or ‘fix’ their homes in a hurry, but need cash upfront. You guessed it, they never came back.
  3. You plan out your entire kitchen redo with your contractor: the type of wood for your cabinets, brand of appliances etc. It all seems legit; they rip out your old kitchen and install your new one. It looks great, you pay the contractor (or company) and all seems fine. Until, one day you notice that your cabinets are not made of maple, rather plywood. Here’s how this one works: contractors will bill you out for the high quality, more expensive items you ordered but have actually installed the cheapest products they could get their hands on and keep the difference.

They are numerous ways a home improvement con-artist can rob you blind while you shake their hand. Don’t fall victim to these scum-of-the-earth types and know what you’re getting yourself into before you sign a contract and write that big check.