Too good to be true? Identifying remodeling quotes used as lures

You’d be surprised how many put down their scam radar when it comes to home remodeling quotes. Here’s how to avoid receiving home remodeling quote that is too good to be true…

In life, we inherently know when something simply sounds far too good to be true. That South American businessman is not really looking for you to help him transfer funds to his bank account. Your celebrity crush dressed in scrubs probably isn’t the person trying to friend you on Instagram. That car listed on Offer Up for $200 is most likely not from someone’s husband who recently died. However, you’d be surprised to discover how many of us simply turn off our scam radar when it comes to home remodeling quotes that are in the same realm of improbability.

Unfortunately, just as in these other scenarios, trying to capitalize on one of these deeply discounted quotes almost always ends badly. Take a recent example of a family who inquired about a completely finished off 2-car garage addition with a bedroom/bathroom suite above the garage. This was an older home, which also meant that it would require extensive electrical and HVAC work, would necessitate getting other features up the current code, and much more. Taking all of these factors and what the family actually wanted into consideration, a reliable estimate is in the $125,000-$150,000 range. When we shared this with the family, they were surprised and said they had received a quote from another individual for $50,000. (To give you an idea of how far off this is, the cost of just a two-car garage (without an addition) with a slab and concrete would be approximately $50,000.) This week, another person shared that they were quoted $5,000 for the design and build of a complicated portico, when the actual cost would be starting in the $15,000 range. We are very conscientious about providing accurate information and guiding homeowners in making well-informed decisions, so it’s very unsettling to hear these scenarios.

Unfortunately, every qualified licensed remodeler has example after example of stories like this, which inexperienced or unscrupulous contractors use to lure in clients. In many cases these low quotes are used to “hook” clients in. They sign a contract thinking they are getting a fabulous deal, and then watch in horror as costs escalate. The contractor in question may not have bad intentions – they just might not know what they don’t know. They may have missed a critical soil condition or site detail that others have seen. They may not be including the level of materials and finishes the clients will need to make them happy. They may be quoting their fee and leaving out those of the other professionals involved in a project. They may be using a cost-plus contract. Why is this bad if you are getting a bargain? Because in these scenarios, costs can quickly spiral out of control, leaving families without the funds necessary to complete the project they began. It also means the contactor might not have the experience to handle whatever snags they inevitably hit, causing them to walk away from an in-process project.

That’s why it’s so critical that homeowners take the time to talk with a professional who can help them thoroughly establish the project scope and plan upfront. Estimates are of no value if you are not comparing apples to apples. Be sure you are dealing with a licensed, insured professional who has experience in their type of project. Find a professional and trust them to guide you. Check BBB listings, professional memberships and online reviews to get a complete picture of the professional in question. We have myriad articles on our blog and chapters in our book that walk you through selecting the right qualified professional. We encourage you to read through them, and most importantly, to beware of things that simply sound too good to be true.

By Gary Palmer
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