One of the most charming and storied elements of the Wild West was the snake-oil salesmen who would roll through town. Peddling their miracle cures from the back of a brightly colored wagon. They would collect their cash and get out of dodge as quickly as possible, before anyone discovered the farce.
When it comes to contracting work, homeowners might find that the Wild West is alive and well.
Contractors can show up, overcharge and leave behind shoddy workmanship, which can cost you even more money in the long run. When you try to reach them on the phone, they’ve strangely disappeared or changed their number.
Of course, there’s no part of your home you want to be scammed on. Whether you need work done on the bathroom or the kitchen, you want to work with quality people who get a quality job done. But if there’s one area of home repair that can really cost you, when it comes to scams, it’s the roof.
The roof is what protects the walls and interior of your home from the elements. A poorly built or hastily repaired roof can result in leaks, warping, rot, and even cave-ins (you know, that thing that happens when you’re just minding your own business watching TV or something, and it starts raining plaster and wood beams).
Here are a few tips for avoiding roofing scams. Don’t get caught in a bubble of cyclic frustration and financial loss.
Ask Around for Referrals
Chances are, you know someone who had work done on their roof. People will not recommend workmen who did a shoddy job; in fact, they’ll often go out of their way to let everyone else know what a bad job they did.
That said, your first line of defense can just be to ask around and see who is recommended, and who is not.
Check Their Website
Most contractors who care about their work will have some sort of web presence. The better the website looks, the better you can feel about their degree of professionalism.
A good website will have photos of past work, a frequently asked questions section, and will operate nicely both on your computer screen and your phone.
Look for Reviews
There are plenty of sites for gauging the quality of a contractor’s work, as verified by a disinterested third party. Google, Facebook, Angie’sList and other sites can give you a good sense of how people are feeling about the roof repair or work that this contractor or company did.
Read positive and less positive reviews (if any) to get a sense of the company or person.
Make Sure They’re Licensed and Insured
Don’t work with contractor’s who cut corners and do shady business. You may think you’re saving money today, but you’ll lose it tomorrow.
A licensed and insured contractor won’t have problems verifying that information with you; in fact, they’ll often have it on the side of their truck.
Ask for Examples of Past Work
If you haven’t already seen some photos online, ask the contractor if they can show you any examples of past work. If you’re feeling especially bold, and unsatisfied by the availability (or lack thereof) of online reviews, ask for some references.
If the contractor feels confident about their work, they’ll have no problem providing you with a means to check out what they can do.
Ask for a Written Estimate
Don’t let the estimate become a fuzzy and easily manipulated number. At the same time, you should understand that it is possible (and not uncommon) for contractors to end up working over-budget.
However, that said, the final cost of repairs should not be exorbitantly higher than the initial estimate, which is why you should definitely get it in writing.
But Wait…There’s More!
There you have it…six simple tips that will help you navigate the choppy waters of home improvement, while avoiding roofing scammers.
In addition to that, you should also be aware of a few different situations that scammers are likely to appear in. You recognize the sharks…now see what type of water they might like to swim in…
Riders of the Storm
We’re not just talking about the psychedelic hit from The Doors, but it also refers to contractors who follow storms or bad weather events. They’ll go around handing out leaflets and trying to convince everyone to file an insurance claim.
Meanwhile, they’ll repair as many roofs as possible with the lowest quality materials possible, leaving a huge mess and nightmare behind for the next round of bad weather.
One classic tactic they might leverage is walking up to your door to tell you they just finished repairing a neighbor’s roof and have some “extra” materials they can use to repair yours at a steep discount.
Avoid these scammers by keeping your cool. Don’t let them prey on your anxiety, and follow the six steps we outlined above.
Mysterious, Out-of-the-Blue Damage
Have you ever been walking to your car when someone drives up and offers to buffer out the scratches? There’s a certain type of roof scammer who will try the same tactic. They’ll pull up to your home and let you know that they spotted some damage as they were driving by.
They’ll offer to go up and check it out, only to return with a grim prophecy of gloom and doom, perhaps even doing a little damage themselves.
Avoid these scammers by closing the door in their face. Nobody can spot roof damage from a moving vehicle unless they’re Santa Claus. By no means should you ever let a random stranger up onto your roof. If they don’t scam you about the roof, they could fall and sue you for damages.
Some roofing scammers will tell you that they can create two separate invoices…one for you, and a higher one for the insurance company. They’ll reap in some extra cash that they can then share with you, perhaps even enough to cover your deductible.
A word to the wise: don’t ever try to scam an insurance company, bank, or other highly regulated financial institution, because a serious lawsuit could come back to bite you in the butt. You can’t fight their team of corporate watchdogs and lawyers, so any scam artist who wants to bring you on board with their Oceans 11 plan to rob the Bellagio deserves your immediate rejection.
Avoid these scams by being wary if a contractor is offering to pay your deductible or offer you some sort of cash incentive for letting them work on your roof.
A reputable company will bid for parts and labor, clearly outlining all the costs associated with repairing or replacing your roof. A roofing scammer may give you a hazy bid with no itemization. Once they get to work, supplies and labor start to “add up” and far surpass their initial estimate.
Avoid this type of scam by getting a comparable bid from at least one other company. The more estimates you can get, the better. Be wary of any bids that are far below the others, and ask to see these bids broken down into itemized expenses.