April 1, 2013 (Golden, CO) — With warming weather and lengthening spring days, April Fools’ Day can signal the unofficial start to home improvement season and according to a recent national online survey, 69 percent of homeowners report they are looking to spend money on home improvement projects soon. But homeowners launching spring home renovation or repair projects can be in for an unwelcome April Fools’ Day surprise —contractor fraud.
According to a recent national online survey conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of HomeAdvisor, a leading online destination for home repair and improvement, more than half (52%) of those who hire contractors for home repairs/improvements say contractor fraud is one of their biggest fears. The survey data also indicates that seven times as many people have paid in cash (66%) rather than financed (9%) their past home improvement projects, even though paying a contractor cash before a project is complete is known to increase the risk of contractor fraud. The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of HomeAdvisor from March 19-21, 2013, among 2,076 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.
To help educate homeowners, Chris Terrill, CEO for HomeAdvisor, offers five simple steps homeowners can follow to safeguard themselves against being fooled on April Fools’ Day:
• Ask for a written, signed contract
Legitimate contractors will have no qualms about signing a contract and providing their business information, but this simple step will typically weed out most fraudulent businesses who are afraid of having their scam discovered.
• Never pay with cash up front
Without cash in hand, unscrupulous contractors have few ways to pull off a scam. Never pay in full with cash before a job is started, and never pay a deposit with cash. Consider a request for a cash payment before work begins as a red flag that the contractor may be attempting to defraud you.
• Look for an established company with a permanent business location and a listed phone number
Fraudulent contractors are often “travelers” — businesses from out of the area, or contractors with no permanent business location. Making sure a contractor has a permanent business location and a listed phone number will alert you to these “travelers” or other illegitimate contractors.
• Ask for referrals for recent projects similar to yours or check websites that offer ratings and reviews
Referrals are a simple way to learn about a contractor’s track record from a trusted source. Use HomeAdvisor for its ratings, reviews and screening services as a way to assure that a contractor has a history of honest business dealings and high-quality work.
• Check state licensing regulations and make sure your contractor meets all requirements
In most states, contractors are required to have a license when completing a job of a certain size (theses requirements differ from state to state). Before hiring a contractor, check with the state contractor licensing board to see if a license is required. Make sure the contractor’s license is valid, and there are no legal claims against the contractor. A licensed contractor has his reputation, and his license, at stake when he completes work.
*69 percent of homeowners report they are looking to spend money on home improvement projects as compared to 12 months ago
This survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of HomeAdvisor from March 19-21, 2013 among 2,076 adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact The Abbi Agency at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on HomeAdvisor and its services, visit www.HomeAdvisor.com. Home improvement tips and videos are available by subscribing to the YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/HomeAdvisor, visiting www.Facebook.com/HomeAdvisor, and by following @HomeAdvisor on Twitter.
HomeAdvisor is a leading website and mobile app provider offering resources for home repair and improvement projects. HomeAdvisor’s patented ProFinder technology matches homeowner projects to the nation’s largest network of over 80,000 pre-screened, customer-reviewed home improvement professionals. Homeowners can make informed home project decisions using resources including: Pro Reviews, featuring reviews from homeowners who have actually been connected with the service professionals they review; Cost Guide, providing average costs for projects coast-to-coast; Home911, offering dedicated 24/7 emergency home repair support; as well as robust home tips and project planning tools. Access to all of the site’s features is free for homeowners, with no membership or fees required. HomeAdvisor is based in Golden, CO, and is a subsidiary of IAC (NASDAQ: IACI).
Senior Director, Corporate Communications