With Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke publicly stating that recovery is around the corner and that the recession may already be over, many homeowners are thinking now is the best time to enhance their home values with driveway and patio renovation projects. The trick, according to one expert, is to avoid the scams.
“Now is the perfect time to take advantage of pricing that is low, with news of imminent economic recovery potentially providing some forward motion for home prices,” said Scott Dempsey, V.P./Chief Executive Officer of C & D Pavers, a manufacturer of a common concrete overlay system used in patio and driveway renovations (www.thinpavers.com). “However, as the demand rises for these services, consumers need to beware of unscrupulous contractors who will jack up prices, or even worse, take their money and not do the job.”
Dempsey’s company doesn’t do the install work on the product they make, but rather, they supply the contractors who do, so he’s very familiar with the types of contractors to avoid. He recommends the following tips to avoid scammers:
Know what you’re getting – There are some very expensive types of products used for re-paving, and there are some overlay systems that cost less. Make sure you know what it is you are getting, so that you aren’t paying too much. A typical patio can get an overlay job done in the $2,500 – $3,000 range, while a traditional concrete job that looks similar to the overlay can cost thousands more. Know the differences in cost and installation time for the different products so you can make sure you don’t overpay.
Company history – How long has that contractor been in business? Are they new, or have they been around a while? Is it a company with multiple locations, or a “mom and pop” business with a history and track record? Don’t be afraid to look them up on the Internet. Just be prepared to take whatever you may find with a grain of salt, because you don’t always know the credibility of the people posting comments online.
Licensing – All contractors who do this kind of work must have licenses to do it. Ask to see the license, or take down the company name and call the department of business regulation for your state to find out if their licenses are current.
Better Business Bureau – It’s an old cliché, but it’s a good place to check. The BBB keeps copious files and they are available on the Internet. Keep in mind that just because a company is listed doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad, depending on the outcome of the complaint. Also keep in mind that a bad company may exist even if they are not listed. Don’t use the BBB alone as your only safeguard. Combine it with other safety factors to prevent being scammed.
Cash – Contractors that demand a significant CASH payment up front should automatically throw up a red flag. Asking for reasonable deposits on large jobs is common and expected in the industry, but asking for the entire fee up front, or specifying cash, is a sign that you may not be dealing with a reputable contractor.
Materials – Reputable contractors use good materials with brand names and some level of warranty. If you’re told you have to pay extra for a basic warranty, chances are that you’re being scammed.
Writing – EVERYTHING regarding your job, including the cost estimate, time estimate and materials being used should be communicated to you in writing. If your contractor refuses to do so, it’s a sign you may want to look elsewhere.
“Real estate agents we deal with and even Money Magazine have all said that upgrading your home with brick pavers in this market is one of the best things that a seller can do that will get them closer to their asking price as well as reduce the number of days on the market,” Dempsey said. “With that kind of upside in the face of a market getting ready to rebound, people should temper their enthusiasm with caution to ensure they are getting what they paid for.”