Spring is quickly approaching, which means home show season is upon us and consumers are already in the process of planning for their upcoming home improvement projects. While attending a local home show can provide a one-stop opportunity to gather ideas and meet with potential contractors to hire, your Better Business Bureau is reminding consumers of the importance in doing their homework before making a financial and contractual commitment.
"Home improvement projects can be significant investments for homeowners and as the recently released BBB Risk Index indicates, home improvement scams ranked as the most risky scam in 2016," says Warren King, president of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. "In too many instances, consumers don't do their homework before hiring someone at a show, assuming that participating vendors have been vetted by show producers, which is not always the case."
When attending a home show and making plans to hire a home improvement contractor, BBB offers the following tips:
- Familiarize yourself with the show's layout. Visit the show's website in advance and locate appealing vendors. Check for discounts and coupons being offered and research vendors at bbb.org. Look for the seal of BBB accreditation being displayed in booths of BBB Accredited Businesses, as these companies meet and uphold BBB Standards.
- Be prepared. Develop a list of questions for potential contractors so you don't overlook something, as it is easy to become distracted at a show. Recognize and keep to your budget while maintaining clear goals to avoid being pressured into making an impulse commitment on the spot.
- Comparison shop. Collect information, marketing materials and ask questions. Engage with booth owners, obtain specifics on pricing and services and have a clear understanding of company policies and warranties. Consider creating a separate email address specifically for show correspondence to avoid overloading your personal email account.
- Confirm registration. Before hiring a contractor, check to see that they are properly registered with the PA Attorney General's Office and have up-to-date insurance covering workers' compensation, property damage and personal liability.
- Avoid paying in full. BBB recommends limiting a deposit to no more than one-third of the total cost of the project and to also set up a schedule of payments based on the job's overall progress. Get all details of the project in writing in the form of a contract and request a receipt that properly accounts for any paid amounts.
- Recognize your rights. Under the Federal Trade Commission's Cooling-Off Rule, contracts for goods or services in excess of $130 that are entered into at a seller's temporary location, can be canceled within three business days following the date of the contract. By law, the seller must tell you about your right to cancel at the time of sale. The seller also must give you two copies of a cancellation form (one to keep and one to send if you decide to cancel).
For additional helpful BBB tips and information on hiring a contractor, visit your BBB's Home Improvement Resource Center at bbb.org.