5 Sneaky Scams Homeowners Need to Know About Before Renovating

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Before you start any home renovations with a contractor, make sure you know who you’re working with.

Guest post by Andrea Davis, HomeAdvisor

When homeowners need to do major renovations to their homes, it’s logical to hire a contractor to oversee or handle the project rather than taking it on as a DIY matter. So homeowners will hire who they think is best, and sometimes contractors will offer great deals and promises in exchange. However, homeowners need to make sure those deals are legitimate, or they could end up being conned out of $5,000 or more, according to the National Center for the Prevention of Home Improvement Fraud.

When hiring a contractor for your renovation, keep your ears and eyes open for these home improvement scams that fake contractors will pull for quick cash:

1.) Door-to-door

If a contractor shows up at your door saying they noticed your house needed some work, don’t fall for it. Especially if they ask for money to go get the materials, do not give it to them because they won’t come back. Quality contractors do not stop at homes that need improvements. That’s why they are listed online and often have reviews from previous clients for homeowners to peruse.

2.) No examples or previous clients

A contractor who’s been in the business usually has photographs and contact information for previous clients that they’re more than willing to share. If a contractor tries to make excuses for no examples or previous clients, it’s best for homeowners to find another contractor with these qualifications. It’s usually a sign the contractor has no experience and likely could be a fraud.

3.) No contract required for remodels

Contracts are imperative during a renovation for setting down budgets for materials, timeframes, and so on. If a contractor simply wants to “shake on it,” homeowners need to insist on a contract. If the contractor won’t sign one, then it’s time to pick someone else who will be willing to put it in writing.

4.) Asks for cash upfront

Homeowners should not pay for any renovation or materials until the job is complete. The contractor will usually itemize the bill and present it for homeowners to pay. If they ask for money to get the materials or for a few hours of work, do not pay them because the work will probably be poor or the materials of the poorest quality.

5.) No permit required

Any major remodel, like redoing a bathroom or kitchen, requires a permit because it involves electrical, plumbing and structural work. Every state requires types of permits for remodels that follow international and state-specific guidelines. If he or she tells you they don’t need the permit for a major remodel, it’s a clear sign they don’t know procedure and are frauds.

While these are the most common signs, they are by no means the extent of contractor and home improvement fraud. It’s crucial that homeowners vet contractors thoroughly and double-check they have licenses. No homeowner wants to lose thousands of dollars and hold up a remodel they need on their home, so take steps to protect yourself and the value of your home.

About Andrea Davis
Andrea Davis works for HomeAdvisor, which helps homeowners find the right home improvement professionals for their home projects at the right price. Homeowners can use HomeAdvisor Reviews to see what past customers have to say about each professional, and can calculate average local and national costs for a variety of home projects using Cost Guides. Access to all information and features is free for homeowners.

Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.


  • Anonymous

    If he or she tells you they don’t need a permit, they may be neither lacking knowledge nor fraudulent. They may simply be freedom fighters.
    There are risks to going without a permit, but there are also risks to going with one.

  • Anonymous

    Most reputable contractors will ask for cash upfront. It’s called a deposit. If a contractor says they are willing to start with no money down, they are probably desperate. Seek a contractor elsewhere!

  • Joe somebody

    There’s nothing wrong with a downpayment. Contractors need to worry about shady homeowners and a downpayment is just one thing a contractor can do to make sure the homeowner is legit.

  • Alex

    We are doing a $88,000.00 remodel right now. We have been at job site a little over a month. We have to ask for draws for overhead and profit. That’s the way it works.

  • Sanford Michael

    Thanks for this great ideas. I like articles like this. I just want to say as a specialist that when you decide to decorate your home you must consult with a professional person. Otherwise you can take ideas from internet also.