Contractor Scammers

Starting a new home improvement project can be as exciting as a new puppy, but with far more decisions to be made in the process. Anyone who has even thought about this has experienced the confusion of trying to find a reputable contractor. With so many options, it can be easy to fall prey to one of the many unfortunate scams that are active today. Read more for National Property Inspections’ tips to stay on solid ground during your renovation.

Project estimates can vary wildly, so even if a contractor comes with a bid that seems reasonable, make sure to get more than one. Some scammers will low-ball prices for services, and for good reason: their services turn out to be little or nothing more than what the homeowner could have achieved themselves with a bit of effort. So if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Another red flag to watch out for is a contractor requesting payment up-front. This is one of this biggest cautionary tales, as some scammers will take money upfront from consumers and perform little to no work that has been requested. A reputable contractor may ask for a small deposit, but most will only demand payment upon satisfied completion of a job. Remember, protect yourself and your wallet.

When hiring any professional to work on the home, ALWAYS make sure to check that their licenses and permits are valid and up to date. A lot of “gypsy” contractors will travel city to city, going door to door looking for work but may not mention that they don’t have the permits or skills to get the job done. If – and when – something goes wrong with the work, it is you, not the contractor, that is left responsible.

The left-over product scam is another to be aware of. This is most used by driveway sealers, who claim that they have just finished a job and have “left-over” product that cannot be stored once mixed and therefore offer services at a discounted rate. Be especially aware of this, because the product they use will usually either be a black paint or some shoddy material that washes off in the next storm. Honest contractors would never knock on your door to sell used materials. 

The final and most common scam out there is the bait and switch. Consumers are drawn in by an often ridiculously low price on a service, which they call the company to schedule, for example, window washing. However, once the technician arrives on the property consumers are informed that their windows are much dirtier than average, and then quote a price that is hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars more than the original.

Those looking to invest in remodeling their home need to be wary of scammers looking to steal every cent they can. Along with references, the Better Business Bureau is always a good place to look when searching for a new contractor. Remember to always have a signed contract with clear expectations as to price and completion dates, and if there are ever any issues, National Property Inspections is always here to help.

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, NPI/GPI

Inspector + Client2Like the old Bob Dylan song, “Times, they are a-changing,” and that’s especially true with business communication. In case there are any “old dogs” reading this, you have to embrace change or be left behind. Or worse yet — be called an “old dog.” Still, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned face-to-face meeting or even a phone call. I find the best mix of communication for business is a mix of the old and the new.

Pretty face to pretty face. There is no substitute for meeting clients or making sales calls face-to-face. In my limited-capacity mind that’s the best way to solicit business, build relationships and work out any perceived differences that two interested parties might have. And ultimately that’s the only way to shake hands. Shaking hands is the best way to greet someone and, assuming it’s a business meeting, symbolize “deal done.”(Let’s hope the handshake is never entirely replaced with the Howie Mandel fist bump.)

Did I catch you at a busy time? In order of importance, and next to face-to-face meetings, is the ever-so-important phone call. I can only guess at how many business-related phone calls I’ve had in the last 25-plus years. Some days my ear would literally become sore. Once you know someone well, a phone call is still one of the best ways to discuss details of a business matter, build relationships or tell that joke that only you find funny (all my jokes are funny, I think). For years, phone calls greatly outnumbered business-related emails.

Emails: Can’t live without them. At first emails seemed more interesting than practical. I might have checked them once a day. But we now have the ability to attach photographs, documents and the like, which has made email an essential business tool. It’s said that most businesspeople get more business-related emails than they do phone calls. I believe that, for that has definitely been the case for me for some time now. And speaking of phone calls, who doesn’t have a cellphone?

Text messaging. Are business-related text messages slowly outnumbering business-related phone calls and emails combined? I wouldn’t bet against it. There are a lot of people who silence the ringer on their phones and use them to call out but don’t answer incoming calls. They use their cells for mostly texting.

I’ll save webinars, video conferencing, etc., for another time.

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I Want to Speak to the President

Submitted by Roland Bates, President, National Property Inspections/Global Property Inspections

RolandPicemail sizeAs the president of the company, I get a variety of phone calls. One thing I’ve learned is when the caller asks, “Are you the president of the company?” 99 percent of the time it’s a complaint call. Occasionally a complaint is warranted. Oftentimes they are not, and despite my best effort to sound insightful, the first word out of my mouth is, “Huh,” followed by a struggle to find the right words. What follows are a few examples of those calls:

Buyer/Caller: I am so upset with the inspector. He is so dumb … The toilet was leaking and he told me, “You’ll have to fix that.” I am a single mom. What makes him think I know how to fix a toilet?

President: I don’t think he meant you personally. I think he meant you should hire a plumber.

Buyer/Caller: Oh.

 

Caller/Realtor: I refer him lots of inspections and he just insults me very much.

President: What did he do to insult you, sir?

Caller/Realtor: He invited me to an outdoor dinner and told me to bring my own chair. If I invite him to my house, I let him sit on my chair!

President: He must like you and has paid you a compliment by inviting you to his cookout. He must not have enough chairs for all his quests and doesn’t want you to stand. So, he has asked you to bring your own chair.

Caller/Realtor: You take his side … [click].

 

Seller/Caller: I just got a copy of the inspector’s report, and I am very upset about what he said.

President: What did he say to upset you, sir?

Seller/Caller: He said my electric panel is unsafe and should be replaced.

President: Are you saying it doesn’t need replaced?

Seller/Caller: I know it needs to be replaced, I’m an electrician! I want to know who’s going to pay for it.

President: I’m not sure I know how to help you, sir. That’s something you’ll need to negotiate with the buyer.

Seller/Caller: Where did you say you are?

President: I’m in Omaha, Nebraska.

Seller/Caller: Nebraska? So you’re one of them corn-heads. That figures … [click].

 

Relocating Employee/Caller: My wife and I both work for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and we’re going to have you and your company investigated by the Pentagon.

President: And why would you want to have us investigated, sir? (It’s hard to know what he said next. I was too busy thinking, “What does someone who tracks the planting of soybeans have to do with the Pentagon?)

Relocating Employee/Caller: I know the roof is pretty old, and it does leak here and there, but what gives some inspector the right to call my roof defective?

President: If I’m hearing you correctly, sir, aren’t you also calling your roof defective? (Apparently we were not in agreement on this point because he started yelling obscenities.)

At any rate, he must have been serious about the Pentagon investigating me. Every time I drive somewhere cars follow me.

I have to go now. My phone’s ringing.

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