College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners
8 Sure-fire Ways to Avoid Home Improvement Scams
As a college internship teaching students how to run a small business, College Works Painting takes a grassroots approach. While we teach advanced business techniques, we also teach our interns the value of building a business from scratch. For this reason, we use basic marketing strategies, like going door to door and offering free estimates to homeowners in need of house painting.
College Works Painting is a reputable business that offers a legitimate service.
But there might be companies you come into contact with that are not legitimate. Luckily, there are ways to avoid home improvement scams.
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #1:
Learn the Signs
Whether you found a contractor online or at your front door, you can identify a scam if you know the signs.
How to Identify a Home Improvement Scam:
Be suspicious when a contractor:
- Offers you discounts in exchange for miscellaneous favors
- Only accepts cash or asks you to pay everything up-front
- Needs you to get the required permits or licenses
- Offers a lifetime warranty
- Does not have a listed business phone number or website
However, a contractor offering discounts or a warranty is not necessarily trying to scam you. For instance, College Works Painting offers limited time coupons, typically for 10% off the cost of painting your home. CWP also offers 1, 2, 3, or 5 year warranties, which is industry standard. The distinction is that CWP does not do this in exchange for favors.
Be suspicious when discounts and warranties are offered quid pro quo.
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #2
Conduct Research and Get References
To avoid a home improvement scam, select an established contractor with a record you can research. Even start-up companies will have a business license and an online presence if they're reputable.
Ask for detailed information about the company and the services provided. A legitimate contractor will have all the information you need readily available.
Ask the contractor to provide their contact information. Get the full name of the company, the company's listed phone number, and the company's physical mailing address. Call the number and search for the company on the internet to make sure it checks out.
Look-up the company reviews. Read reviews from employees and clients. Be sure to read reasonable and trustworthy reviews. Every company will have some unfavorable reviews, so read the good and the bad to better determine if the contractor is reputable. When reading company reviews, take into consideration the amount of customers the contractor deals with. A small percentage of negative reviews are OK, even a good thing. Negative comments prove the validity of the contractor's reviews. However, the percentage of negative reviews should not be the majority.
A reputable company will always have references. If a contractor can't provide references, proceed with caution. There's no reason a contractor wouldn't be able to provide you with pictures, reference letters, and details from previous work.
Research how the company handles complaints and feedback. Does the contractor have procedures in place to ensure you'll be well taken care of in the event something goes awry?
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #3
Get Several Estimates
Obtain bids from several reputable companies. Get written estimates with a detailed scope of work outlined. Never take someone's word for it. Get everything in writing. Also, review the contract for clearly outlined terms. Be suspicious of vague and sparse contracts and bids.
Don't automatically hire the contractor with the lowest bid. Ask for an explanation to see if there's a reason for the difference in price. If a contractor charges significantly less for two coats of paint than the other contractors, ask him to explain his painting technique. A bad paint job can cause unnecessary future house painting costs.
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #4
Question: How many homes have you painted in the last year?
Hire a contractor who specializes in the specific service you need. A reputable contractor will readily show you pictures of previous work completed.
Question: What are your qualifications?
Not every state requires a contractor's license. But for the states that do, this is a great question to ask to help avoid home improvement scams.
Reviewing the contractor's license can help you determine if the company is reputable.
You can review the contractor's bond history to research any prior claims. You can also see if the license has been suspended or revoked. The license issue date will let you know how long the contractor has been in business. In addition, you can determine if the contractor specializes in painting by reviewing the license classification. The classification must match the scope of work the contractor is producing for you (the classification on the license should state painting, not plumbing).
Other things to look for when reviewing the contractor's license:
- The license number on the contract must match the business name
- Verify the license expiration date to ensure the license is still valid
- If the license has recently expired or will recently expire, ask the contractor for a copy of the renewed license
- Verify the license status is active
- Make sure the license is up-to-date by ensuring the accord certs match the data (policy number, expiration date, etc.)
The contractor should have all required permits and licenses necessary to perform the work. Don't let the contractor make you get the permits (he should have his own).
Question: What type of insurance do you carry?
Only hire a contractor who is fully insured with general liability and workers compensation insurance. This will protect you, the homeowners, from liability. Do not hire a contractor who is not insured.
Ask for copies of the insurance certificates. Review the certificates. Make sure the business name is correct and the insurance is current. Otherwise, you could be held liable for any damages to your property or injuries that occur during the project.
Question: How do you bill?
Before hiring a contractor, ask how they bill. Be suspicious if the contractor will not clearly explain their payment policies. For instance, College Works Painting requires a down payment upon signing the contract to reserve your place on the production schedule, and requires the balance to be paid in full upon completion of the job. College Works Painting also offers financing through Foundation Finance Company, a third party company that specializes in home improvement financing.
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #5
Get a Signed Contract
Even if your state doesn't require a contract, get one.
Get the estimate in writing and request a copy for your records. Upon hiring the contractor, sign a written contract that includes a written description of the scope of work. The contract should include areas of the house to be painted, the type of paint purchased, the cost of the job, and the contractor's mailing address and phone number.
The contract should be filled out in its entirety before you sign. Read the contract fully before signing.
The terms of the contact should be clear. Be sure to read the front and back of the contract before signing.
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #6
Getting your home painted costs a considerable amount of money. Even when dealing with a reputable company, always make smart decisions when it comes to paying for the work.
- Never wire money to someone you don't know.
- Don't use a money transfer service. A contractor who insists you use a money-transfer service as the only form of payment is likely scamming you. Money transfers are like sending cash. Once the money transfer is complete, you cannot get the money back.
- Don't pay in full upfront. It's common for a contractor to require a down payment upon signing the contract (see below for more details). However, there's no reason to pay for the work in full before work has begun.
- Do not use cash. Ever. Instead, pay with a credit card or check. Be wary of contractors who ask to be paid in cash. For instance, a contractor could say that they will waive the sales tax if you pay with cash.
- Pay the contractor, not the individual. The contract is with the contractor, not the painter. If you pay the individual directly, you are still responsible for paying the contractor. So, don't pay the individual under any circumstances.
- If you pay online, use your own computer at home. Only use a computer that you know and trust, preferably your own computer on your home internet connection. Never use a public computer to pay online because your information can be stolen.
- Do not pay online using public Wi-Fi. Never do business in public spots due to a lack of security on open wireless networks. Other people on those networks could potentially steal your information.
- Don't pay until the job is complete. Don't let a contractor pressure you into paying early for any reason.
Paying a contractor a down payment is quite common. Requiring a deposit payment is industry standard, and is not a red-flag. Most contractors, including College Works Painting, require a deposit up-front upon signing the contract. The purpose is to reserve the spot on the production schedule.
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #7
Keep all paperwork related to your project in one place. This includes:
- Copies of the contract
- Change orders
- Any correspondence with the contractor and crew
- Records of all payments
- Keep a log of all phone calls, conversations, and activities
- Any pictures taken
- Sign-off sheet
College Works Painting Scam Advice for Homeowners #8
Do a Final Walk-through
Before you make the final balance payment, do a walk-through with the contractor to inspect the work. A reputable company will happily walk the property with you to ensure the work was completed satisfactorily. For instance, College Works Painting does several walk-throughs with the homeowner throughout the project.
Before you sign-off and make the final payment, check that:
- The work meets the standards written in the contract
- You have all warranty information
- The job site is clean and free of excess materials, tools, and equipment (or arrangements have been made to do so)
- You have inspected and approved the completed work