How Not to Get Scammed When Hiring Contractors

August 9, 2022

So it looks like I may have been scammed out of $300.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, my goal for this blog to share both my successes and failures. I am someone who has to learn things the hard way, but that doesn’t men you have to repeat my mistakes.

Take, for example, my first attempt to hire a contractor. I needed to have one of the units in the duplex cleaned out, so I put an ad on the local Craigslist listing what needs to be done and the state and location of the house, and I asked the contractors to visit the duplex before giving me an estimate.

One bid was cheap but not the lowest bid, and they sounded reasonable, so i paid their deposit of $300. They said they would start work as soon as the money hit their account. Then, the following week they apologized for the delay and said they had a family emergency, and promised to get to it that week.

And then nothing.

It looks like I was scammed. (I figure there’s about a 1% chance I’ll get my money back, or they’ll actually do the work.) I have to learn things the hard way, but I can learn, so I started asking for advice on how I should have screened contractors before I hired one.

Here’s some of the advice I got:

  1. Use a lawyer as the hiring intermediary to know how to prepare a legally enforceable, unambiguous contract.
  2. References, references, more references, and visits to current job sites.
  3. Reviews from others that have used them. Check BBB, then open houses (you can see what they’ve built).
  4. We’ve found some success in working with people who did good work for other people we know.

The long and the short of it is that you don’t just hire someone; you ask people you know to recommend someone who can be trusted to do the job.

That works if you live or at least know the area, but what do you do if you are trying to find a contractor in another state?

You should do what I did, and ask your friends on FB and Twitter. (I also asked in the discussion groups for a couple professional organizations.) If all else fails, you can ask a local realtor to recommend a contractor. They will be cautious about giving you a name because they won’t want to damage their reputation.

If all else fails, try Home Depot and Lowes. They sub-contract work all the time, and can give you a couple names.

What I really should have done was ask for recommendations in the local FB group. That helped me find three plumbers who actually called me back, and then came out to give me estimates. So when I need another contractor, I will probably do that.

This blog was launched in order to share one newbie home buyer’s experience in buying and remodeling a wreck of a house.

Like the house itself, this blog is a work in progress.

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