Q&A / 

Stop Getting Scammed by Contractors

new vinyl siding being installed on a home

What’s the best way to protect yourself from a scam or disappointment when you’re building a new home, residing your home, or doing any other project? Copyright 2023 Tim Carter ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How To Stop Contractor Scams - True Stories

This is a milestone column for me. It’s my 1500th weekly column. For weeks leading up to this day I’ve wanted to produce a column that will save you vast sums of money, prevent confrontations, sleepless nights, and arguments. My goal is to empower you with all you need to know so that you have the same friendly relationship with your contractor for many years as I had with Matt and Ginny Motz and almost all of my clients.
Based on my five decades of work experience, I know you’re in one camp or the other. What are those camps or tribes? Ponder these true stories and decide for yourself.

Twenty years ago my future son-in-law came into my office as I was doing some HTML coding on my website. He asked about it and also wanted to know exactly what my Ask the Builder business was all about. One thing led to another and we started looking at my incoming email messages from homeowners like you.

This was the moment in time I discovered he was a brilliant young man. After looking at six emails in a row, he said, “Mr. Carter, you may not realize this but you’re in the life-preserver business. Each one of those homeowners is yelling at the top of their lungs for you to throw them a life preserver. You’re not in the how-to-swim business as you just told me.”

He was referring to the fact that all my previous columns had been focused on sharing how to do this or that so that work is done the right way. Apparently, 95 percent of the people I was getting emails from weren’t paying attention to that messaging. They were drowning in DIY nightmares or jobs gone wrong with contractors. I’ve never forgotten that day and should have hung a life preserver on my office wall as a stark reminder.

Roy's Trust Buried in His Basement

To prove this point, just two weeks ago I received this dreadful email from one of my newsletter subscribers. Roy has read each of my weekly newsletters for over ten years. He wrote, “Thanks for sharing the story about Angel who built a dormer with your advice. What an inspiration!

I wish I had called you before letting a con man steal my money and not finishing my basement. The worst thing is the relationship and mental/psychological stress, not the money.  Being taken advantage of when ‘you should have known better’ and ‘how did you not ask for advice’ has taken a huge toll on me.

The money is a factor, obviously, but it can be replaced. The others may take years, if ever, to overcome. Finding out from our local permits department that this happens EVERY DAY to people was of no relief. It especially hurt me knowing that I am a subscriber of yours and could have asked for guidance, but I fell into his trap and got tunnel vision.”

There are a handful of reasons why Roy got into trouble. The contractor could have been a pro at using powerful seductive psychology to persuade Roy to sign a contract. I’ve written extensively about this psychology in past columns and newsletters. Roy may have put far too much trust in the contractor. I could go on and on.

Laurie's Move to VT

Just days ago Laurie hired me to help her. She lives in Texas and is about to buy a lot in Vermont where she’ll build a new timber-framed home. She’ll end up just about 100 miles from where I live in central New Hampshire. She had a list of very good questions. She wanted to know about how to purchase 10 or 15 acres that would require no blasting of bedrock ledge. She wanted to know about septic design.

Her list of questions also included what it might cost to create a driveway into this wooded lot. Perhaps the biggest conundrum was separating the responsibilities of the timber-frame company and the actual builder. You see, the timber-frame company just sets their custom wood frame on a foundation provided by others.

The difference between Roy and Laurie is as stark as night to day. Laurie sat and put thought into quite a few of the very important issues that she’s about to confront. I informed her that I could offer lots more assistance and even drive to Vermont to help her choose the best lot if she wanted. After all, my college degree is in geology with a focus on hydrogeology. This means I know how to build houses that don’t have water leaks.

Reviewing Mike's Siding Contract

Just before writing this column, I sent a list of eleven items that need attention to Mike down in Florida. He’s getting new siding on his home and wanted me to review the proposal his contractor sent to him. Mike and Laurie are in the same camp. They put the brakes on before breaking out the ballpoint pen. You should do the same. Engage your critical-thinking skills and stop trusting contractors. Get advice from someone that doesn’t have a dog in the fight or research the best way to install things.

Go here to have me REVIEW your bids or contracts. My guess is I can help prevent scams and save you BIG MONEY.

Column 1500


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