Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, August 11, 2023

Five signs of a home improvement scam

Across the country, housing inventory remains an issue for people looking to move into a home that better fits their changing needs.

One way of dealing with this issue is to have someone make improvements to their existing property to make it into the home they desire. Unfortunately, scammers are seizing this opportunity to take money from unsuspecting homeowners.

Home improvement scams are widespread. In fact, a new study from JW Surety Bonds shows one in 10 owners has been scammed by a contractor. As a service to homeowners, I want to summarize a recent article by Melissa Dittmann Tracey, a contributing editor for Realtor Magazine, in which she details the survey with Maddie Weirman, a spokesperson for JW Surety Bonds.

According to the survey, there are certain “red flags” to look for when hiring someone for home improvement services. Tracey says the most common characteristics are when the contractor:

• Failed to complete a job or did not meet the agreed-upon standards (63%)

• Frequently arrived late or missed appointments without a valid reason (40%)

• Added extra charges or fees that had not previously been discussed (26%)

• Refused to answer questions or was evasive about progress updates (25%)

• Provided no written contract or a vague contract without job specifics or costs (13%)

What are some steps a homeowner can take to avoid being scammed? Tracey and Weirman offered the following suggestions:

Licensed and insured

Don’t be afraid to ask the contractor for proof of insurance. Hiring contractors who are licensed and bonded gives homeowners extra security, as surety bonds provide financial security against contractor scams.

Get it in writing

Make sure the contract includes the contractor’s name and information, as well as when the project is projected to start and end.

Never pay in full up front

While a deposit is common, homeowners should not pay the full, agreed-upon amount until the contractor completes the project to their satisfaction.

Tracey adds that all age groups are susceptible to these bad actors. Baby boomers were the most likely to fall victim to contractor scams (15%), followed by millennials (13%), the survey shows.

No one wants to fall victim to a scam that could potentially cost thousands of dollars. While these bad actors target many people, another way to help guard against these dishonest people is to consult your Realtor for a recommended service provider.

Providing expertise, even after your housing transaction is complete, is just one of the services Realtors offer. That’s Who We R.

Founded in 1912, Greater Chattanooga Realtors is the voice for real estate in Greater Chattanooga. A regional organization with more than 2,700 members, Greater Chattanooga Realtors serves Hamilton and Sequatchie counties in southeast Tennessee and Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties in northwest Georgia. The association is one of approximately 1,100 local associations and boards of Realtors nationwide that comprise the National Association of Realtors. Greater Chattanooga Realtors owns and operates a multiple listing service, which is one of approximately 600 MLSs in the country and services more than 3,000 users. Local association membership consists of Realtors servicing the Greater Chattanooga area and specializing in a variety of disciplines – appraisal, commercial, industrial, land, multifamily, property management and residential. Working alongside Realtors are our affiliate members, who represent related industries in sympathy with the objectives of the association. Our affiliate members include mortgage lenders, home inspectors, title and closing services, pest inspection and control and insurance.