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Home Improvement Guide 2007
On the money
Whether it's a fresh coat of paint or a total home renovation, sooner or later it comes down to paying for it.
On the money
6 sleazy home improvement scams

It's time for less talk and more action.

Like most homeowners, you probably spent the winter months talking about the various home improvements you'd like to make. Now that spring is here, it's time to act on those remodeling impulses. After all, spring is a time of renewal, change and new beginnings.

Unfortunately, it's also a time when crooked contractors come out of the woodwork to prey on innocent homeowners. "Some are actual scam artists, while others are just incompetent or unethical," says Ellis Levinson, a consumer reporter and author of the book "Hiring Contractors Without Going Through Hell."

The good news is you can protect yourself against these scams. In fact, many scams are easy to detect if you take the time to become an educated, savvy consumer. "Compare prices, call references, and research the project you're undertaking in advance," says Bruce Johnson, author of "50 Simple Ways to Save your House." It seems simple but many people find this process overwhelming.

Levinson calls it emotional laziness. "It's amazing to me how much time people will put into buying a TV because it's fun. But when it comes to remodeling a kitchen, people have no time. They see it as drudgery," Levinson says. Ultimately, he says, doing the research to protect yourself is much easier than paying for the consequences.

To help you differentiate a scam from the real deal, Bankrate has compiled a list of the most common remodeling scams. Beware of the following key phrases, and remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Key phrases to beware of:
"I just happen to be working in your neighborhood."
"I have materials left over from another job."
"I need the cash up front."
"I have a special offer that's good for today only."
"I can help you finance the project."
"I want to use your home as a model."

"I just happen to be working in your neighborhood."
You'll hear this when contractors appear at your home unsolicited to inform you they noticed some problems with your home's (insert: chimney, driveway, windows, plumbing, etc.) while working on a neighboring home. For example, the contractor might say he or she was on the roof of your neighbor's home and noticed missing shingles on your roof. This may be the case -- but often no repair is needed.

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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