It’s the season when remodeling scams crop up as fast as dandelions. Each spring, as homeowners begin thinking of improvements to make their Madison WI area homes better, unscrupulous businesses try to take advantage. Never is the old saying “buyer beware” more valid than in the home improvement business. Contractors move from community to community offering great deals and specials. The lure of quick, easy cash brings shady characters to the Madison area every year. The warning signs are many, including: if a would-be contractor promises too much, too cheap or too soon. Always remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
The majority of Madison-area contractors are honest, hardworking and reliable. The challenge is making sure which kind of business you’re thinking of working with. There’s very little available to protect you from remodeling scams. It takes common sense to educate and protect your family and your property. There are resources at your disposal on the Internet that rate and rank various service providers. Some are accurate, some are questionable. Two local sources of information are The Madison Area Builders’ Association (MABA) and the National Association Of The Remodeling Industry (NARI) of Madison.
It Might Be A Remodeling Scam If…
Some contractors just aren’t smooth or polished in their presentation. They leave customers with too many questions. Others are vague on purpose because they aren’t completely honest. The first thing to be wary of is the contractor or representative who knocks on your door uninvited with a great “we’re in your neighborhood and can give you a great deal” pitch. It might for anything from a new roof to a new driveway, cleaner siding or fresh paint.
Step back and examine everything closely if:
- You cannot confirm the company’s name, address or contact information.
- You cannot get a straight answer from the “pitch man.”
- The salesperson won’t listen – he/she just wants to talk products and price.
- There’s a time limit on their offer – “sign here today!”
- They want payment upfront – especially if they want payment in cash.
- The would-be contractor can’t or won’t provide references you can contact.
- They can’t or won’t provide proof that they are licensed and bonded.
- If they expect you to obtain permits and/or set up inspections.
- They don’t explain or know about the Wisconsin law that allows you to cancel any contract within three days – the law says you have three days to change your mind without any penalty.
Finally, always remember that low prices don’t always represent a “deal.” You get what you pay for most of the time, especially when it comes to home improvements. Fifty cents isn’t a deal if you can only afford a quarter, right?
Even a reliable contractor who is an extremely low cost supplier may not be able to deliver on promises or be around to stand behind its products. Are you willing to take the risk with a significant investment like a new roof for example? On the other hand, a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean the quality of the work or the products are better. A higher-priced contractor might just have too much overhead. And, in today’s business situation, even the best contractors have trouble finding enough qualified craftsmen to keep jobs on track.
Not All Home Improvement Contractors Are Equal
What do you need done? The concept of a home improvement has a lot of definitions. It ranges from new windows, new siding or fresh paint to remodeling the kitchen, building a deck or finishing a basement. Contractors that say they can do everything from landscaping and paving to installing replacement windows and a new roof may not be able to deliver the expertise you want for each task. It’s like choosing the right tool for the job.
Understanding how contractors are sorted out helps. When it comes down to a renovation in your Madison home do you know what every subcontractor and specialists does? If you’ve done it before you may have an idea, but technology changes quickly.
When you’re contemplating a home update or major change you have various levels of professional experience to consider, including:
- General Contractors, Building Companies — Usually bigger players, these businesses favor larger projects but are equipped to take on smaller ones, too. In today’s economy, smaller projects are a great way for a general contractor to keep employees working. A major plus is that they have the resources and contacts to oversee nearly any home improvement.
- Specialty Contractors — this group focuses on specific areas of expertise. They blend experience, skill and project management as they focus on bathrooms, kitchens, flooring, landscaping, sunrooms, basements, garage doors, windows, siding, roofing and landscape hardscapes and water features, just to name a few.
- Skilled Trades — licensing professionals including plumbers, electricians, heating and air conditioning technicians.
- Installation Specialists — craftsmen to paint, install drywall, put up gutters, repair and install concrete or patch a roof. Their tasks are very specific and they are called upon to do one thing and do it well.
Brush Off Remodeling Scams
The size and scope of your project dictates how you proceed. Add to that how much time and money you are willing to invest and you come to a solid conclusion. You can avoid scams by taking your time. Don’t allow a sales pitch to rush a major decision you’ll have to live with for a long time.
Planning, not reaction, is the key to a successful project. Carefully outline what you want to accomplish, set a budget and a timeline. Once you have a clean picture in your mind, put it on paper – make lists, take notes and draw out your ideas. A crayon drawing on a school notebook page is better than nothing when a contractor is trying to understand you, right?
No matter if the project is time-sensitive or in the future, relying upon qualified professionals is a wise investment.
Sims Exteriors & Remodeling is the area’s most versatile and reliable contractor. With divisions dedicated to roofing, windows, siding and complete remodeling projects its crews are ready for every challenge. Do you need a roof inspection? Or are you planning a new look for your home? You can trust one of Madison’s most highly-respected contractors. Call Sims Exteriors & Remodeling at 608-825-4500. Or, email us, to explore our many home improvement possibilities. We provide home remodeling solutions for your entire house, inside and outside, top to bottom. Avoid seasonal remodeling scams and take advantage of our decades of experience and craftsmanship to improve your Madison home.