constrruction_hat_blueprintsSo you’ve finally gotten over the itch to pick up that hammer and do your own DIY renovation because you realized you don’t have the expertise to do the job right. And besides, you might do more harm than good, right? Well, you’re probably right.

But it’s difficult to find out if you’re hiring a fraudulent contractor, especially if it’s your first time doing home improvements and renovations. You are not an expert yourself so you might feel awkward quizzing someone who knows the ins and outs of home renovation. Well, don’t be. It’s your money, and it’s your house.

If you think the contractor you’ve hired is talking vaguely about his experiences and work history, that should immediately set off alarms. Or if he demands upfront payment for the services, better think twice. There are several red flags you have to watch out for when dealing with a contractor and the signs are fairly easy to spot. One of the surest ways to spot a suspicious contractor is to ask the right questions – be specific because specific questions require specific details. If you’re having a hard time getting straight answers, then you may want to find a new contractor. Here are the 8 signs you have to watch out for when hiring a contractor.

  1. He’s defensive. Overly defensive people usually have something to hide. If he doesn’t appreciate you inquiring about his work history or asking for references, then chances are there’s something he doesn’t want you to know. If this happens, don’t be intimidated. You have the right to ask the questions pertaining to his job, and a professional contractor would certainly understand that.
  2. No license number. Every contractor should have a license number. If your contractor refuses to give it to you, it could mean that (a) he doesn’t have a license or (2) he’s hiding past work history issues. Because if you have the license number, whether it’s from the state, county or city, you can look him up in your local agency assigned with contractors and if there’s any flag in the system, you’ll know immediately.
  3. No references. Good contractors are found through references. If he’s really good, his previous clients would recommend him to other homeowners. By having good references, contractors can build a good reputation and solid work portfolio.
  4. He wants money up front. Don’t ever give money for work that hasn’t been done yet. If he says it’s for materials, buy the materials yourself. You’ll have no guarantee he’ll finish the job once you give him the money.
  5. Low-ball bid. Of course you’ll go for the lowest bidder because you want to save money. But check how low the bid is. If it’s way beneath the bids of his competitors, be cautious. It might be because he’s skimping on materials or the quality of service. You wouldn’t want that for your home.
  6. He goes door to door offering his services. If he’s a real professional, he should have a solid marketing plan built mainly on good references and recommendations from previous clients.
  7. Cash only transactions. A professional contractor doesn’t mind leaving a paper trail because it protects his customers and business as well. So if your contractor doesn’t accept checks or credit cards, be wary.
  8. Instinct tells you something’s wrong. Don’t disregard your gut feeling. If you feel something’s off, then there’s probably something wrong going on.

Home improvement fraud can cost you thousands of dollars, so stay vigilant and learn how to ask the right questions.