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How to identify and avoid home services scams

Danielle Onat | 01/12/2017 | Posted in News

In an ideal world, all contractors and service providers would be honest about their capabilities, pricing, and the necessity of their services. Unfortunately, in the world of HVAC, plumbing, and nearly any service industry, scams do happen. Unsavory companies and individuals prey on homeowners' good intentions and lack of knowledge. Here's how to avoid scams, work with a reputable provider, and get the services your home really needs.

What are signs that you’re about to be scammed?

The price is just too good to be true.

We’ve all seen the crazy, amazing deals. Get a complete air duct cleaning for $49.99! Full home insulation for only $99.99! But the old adage rings true with this one: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When you see a deal like this, you can expect one of two things to happen. They may perform a very brief “inspection” with no real work, only to offer more expensive upgrades. So your fantastic deal turns sour very quickly. Alternatively, they may perform a bit of work only to the areas you can see, ignoring the real issue at hand. Don’t fall for this classic bait-and-switch.

The materials don’t add up.

The contractor recommends and charges for the use of “high-end materials” but uses cheaper parts instead. Oftentimes, homeowners won’t know when this happens because these pieces are behind the wall or indistinguishable from one another.

The contractor uses an unethical pricing method or asks for the entire cost up front.

Unfortunately, some contractors set pricing based on the neighborhood you live in or their perception of your wealth or capacity. If one service provider’s estimate is well above the others, this may be why.

Another red flag is demanding the entire cost of the service up front. A small up-front deposit is reasonable, but nothing more. Paying all or most of the cost before the project has begun can result in shoddy work, or worse, no work at all.

The contractor wants to start work before providing an official estimate or contract.

This one should be fairly obvious. Do not—we repeat—DO NOT allow the provider to start work on your home until you have agreed to a written estimate or contract for services. Doing so opens you up to an astronomical bill at the end of the project, with very little firepower to protest it.

How can you avoid being scammed?

Do your research and meet several service providers.

Don’t pick the first contractor that pops up on Google. Read reviews, visit the company’s website, call to ask questions, and take advantage of free estimates. Your contractor should be flexible with your budget, easy to work with, have fair terms, and offer competitive pricing. In case you’re wondering, Washington Energy Services checks all the boxes.

Ask questions. Then ask more questions.

Any great service provider, like Washington Energy Services, will be open to answering all your questions. In fact, they’ll use your questions to provide more customized service. Ask the following questions to reduce the chance of being scammed:

  • Who will be performing the work?
  • Do you use subcontractors?
  • What precautions will you take to protect my home?
  • What products will you be using?
  • How long will the project take?
  • When can I expect a written estimate?
  • Do you guarantee your work?
  • Why should I choose your services/company?

Scams are an unfortunate reality. But they don’t have to be your reality. Keep an eye out for these red flags, do your research, and ask questions to protect yourself from scamming. Your house and wallet will thank you for it.

Work with us

If you’re interested in working with a local, family-owned and reputable company with 60 years of experience. Look no further than Washington Energy Services.

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