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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
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"I have a special offer that's good for today only."
If a contractor is offering a "special deal," ask him or her to legitimize what they are offering. While this is a common sales technique, you can ask them for documentation of this bargain -- a flyer, for example, that the contractor has mailed or delivered in the past. Or one from another contractor at a higher price. "Any time a contractor puts pressure on a homeowner to act quickly about making a remodeling decision, that's a red flag," Zidek says. Remodeling decisions should be made carefully, not hastily. 

"I can help you finance the project."
Sometimes a contractor will suggest you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows. This could indicate a home improvement loan scam, as the contractor may be getting kickbacks from the lender. Homeowners may believe they're financing a small remodeling project loan, when in fact they're signing for a much larger loan, if not completely refinancing their home. Never finance through your contractor without shopping around and comparing loan terms.

"I want to use your home as a model."
The scam centers on the idea of using your home as a vehicle or "show home" to advertise their services in return for a hefty discount. Established contractors should have completed enough previous projects that they won't need your job as a demonstration.

Still more scams
While any part of your home could be a target, many scams tend to center around driveways, roofs, chimneys and furnaces.

  • Driveway Sealant Scam: If a contractor offers to seal your driveway for a heavily discounted price, find out what materials will be used as sealant. Cheap, inferior substances may look great initially but will wear off in three months. 
  • Chimney Repair: These scam artists often lure their victims via advertisements in local newspapers offering gutter cleaning at a cheap price. Once the work is performed, they claim the chimney is in dire need of structural repairs. To provide so-called evidence of this, they will make it look like the chimney is in a state of decay by removing bricks and mortar from the chimney. Note: There might be decay if you burn a lot of wood and don't get your chimneys inspected every year. Another chimney scam is when a contractor says there's a threat of carbon monoxide poisoning if the chimney is not repaired immediately. This is a serious concern, so if you are unsure about whether to trust this person, get a second opinion from a reputable contractor.
-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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