Home Improvements

How to Avoid Contractor Scams on Your Home Renovation/Remodel

In the past, I discussed garage improvement projects that increase your home’s value, driveway improvements that increase your curb appeal, and other home projects that require a professional. When you hire a professional contractor to get the job done. you need to be careful. Otherwise, you could lose a nice chunk of change. Learn how to avoid contractor scams on your home renovation/remodel.

Avoid being a victim of unscrupulous contractors by watching out for these common contractor scams when performing any home improvement work on your Naples home.

Common Contractor Scams and How to Avoid Them

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I know. I know. You’re probably saying “but, Michelle. I’m too smart to get scammed. I can spot a fraud a mile away.” That’s not necessarily the case. Good people get scammed every single day. Here’s what you should look out for so you don’t become another statistic.

Door-to-Door Salesmen

Such a cliche. I know. But, still, beware of solicitors offering their services at your door. Sometimes, they say that they’re doing work on a neighbor’s house and noticed that you might need their services as well. Since they find themselves with “leftover” materials, they offer to perform these tasks at a discount.

Instead of signing on the dotted line then and there, ask for a business card and do your homework. Check their license online. If they can’t provide a contractor’s license number, don’t hire them.

Exorbitant Money Upfront Requirements

Yes, most contractors require money upfront. However, you should see a bright red flag if they ask for more than 30% in advance. In Florida, the law has not set a limit on how much a contractor can request as a downpayment (ie, “upfront money”). But you should still beware if they ask for more than 30%. If possible, try to negotiate it down to 10%. That shows both parties good faith in performing/paying for the work in question. Besides, asking for a huge percentage upfront could be indicative that they fell behind on another project and need your money to complete it. Again, a red flag warning. Will they do the same thing with your project?

Pressure to Sign Now

If you attend a home show, chances are good that contractors offer special discounts for signing up while you’re there. Most of the time, these contractors only request an appointment to assess the situation…not perform work. While most of these offers are from legitimate contractors, some might be contractor scams in waiting.

Before you ever sign a contract for work with anyone at any time, do some research into the company and contractor first. Never feel pressured to sign right away no matter what kind of discount they dangle in front of you. A good contractor will be willing to wait.

Lowball Bids and Unclear Terms

Another red flag that screams “contractor scam” is a super low bid followed by a contract with hazy or vague terminology. We all want a good deal. But extremely low bids could signify work performed by an unscrupulous or unlicensed contractor.

Always make sure your contract clearly states exactly what work will be performed, when you expect it to be completed, and the total cost for said work. Once work begins, it will be hard to go after the contractor for soddy work if the scope of work hasn’t been specifically outlined in your contract.

Pulling Permits

Never pull your own permits for work on your Southwest Florida home. Whoever pulls the permits must answer for every aspect of the project. This includes insurance, payment to workers, workers’ comp, and any issues that may arise from inspections or failed work completion. If you pull the permits, that means you must register as an employer with the state, making you responsible for the workers’ taxes, too. A licensed, responsible contractor never asks the homeowner to pull their own permits.

Using Someone Else’s Contractor’s License

Yet another one of the contractor scams we see all too often is when a contractor works under another contractor’s license. Another scam is for a contractor to use an expired license number. Always ask for the contractor’s license number upfront. Then, visit the Florida DBPR website to search that license number. Make sure the name of the contractor and the license number match as well that it’s current (not expired).

More Money, More Money, More Money

Finally, beware if a contractor asks for more money than initially contracted midway through the project. While it’s common for homeowners to request changes in the middle of a project that may warrant more money, a contractor should request an official change order not actual cash in the middle of the project. If they do ask for money before they’ve finished the job, it could imply that they haven’t handled their money very well with this job (or others). Change orders are due in full upon completion of the project. Make sure you put this “change order” provision into your initial contract to cover you in case that happens.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos?

Garage Improvement Projects That Increase Your Home’s Value

As homeowners, we focus a lot of attention on things like monthly maintenance tasks and lowering energy costs. In the past, I’ve talked about interior DIY projects that boost your home’s value. I also discussed how making some changes to your driveway helps improve your curb appeal. That’s helpful, especially when it comes time to sell your Naples home. However, you should not neglect your garage. There are a few garage improvement projects you may want to consider tackling, whether you plan on selling your property soon or a couple of years down the road.

Add some of these garage improvement projects to your list if you want to increase your Southwest Florida home's value.

Garage Improvement Projects That Increase Your Home’s Value

Garage Door

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Replacing/upgrading the garage door offers one of the best returns on investment (ROI) when it comes to garage improvement projects. In fact, Home Advisor named it the best ROI of any home improvement projects you could make this year. They reported a 97.5% ROI. Automatic garage door openers always please buyers. So, if you still own a manual garage door, change that immediately. However, even if you installed an automatic garage door opener years ago, the exterior may need a bit of updating. Considering how much your garage door takes up space at the front of your home, a nicer garage door actually increases your curb appeal.

Insulation

Good insulation offers two benefits: it keeps the garage cooler in the summer and tamps down noise levels. Buyers appreciate both. Therefore, adding some insulation to your garage walls and ceiling makes the list of garage improvement projects that increase your home’s value. Also, make sure you have a good ventilation system to allow carbon monoxide fumes to dissipate and escape. Install a carbon monoxide detector inside your garage to warm you of any rising CO levels.

Storage

Everyone wants more storage. Installing shelves adds extra storage in the garage. But don’t just stuff your stuff onto these shelves. Otherwise, buyers may think there isn’t enough storage inside. They consider this to be a mark against your home. Identical, labeled bins make your garage look organized, not cluttered. Make sure all shelving is attached to the walls so that they don’t become a safety hazard.

Lighting

The ability to see what you’re doing is very important when working in a garage. Therefore, good lighting should be on your list of “must-haves” in the garage. For most two-car garages, simple fluorescent lights prove adequate. Ditch that single incandescent light bulb for something brighter that brings in enough light to finish up those projects that run into the night.

Outlets

Experts suggest providing two outlets per wall in the garage. That means no less than six outlets for a one-car garage. If your garage lacks enough outlets, hire an electrician to install more. Buyers pay attention to outlet placement everywhere in a house, even in the garage.

Flooring

Hate stained floors? Epoxy them. Not only is it easier to clean than standard concrete, but it also wicks away oil and other liquids. Plus, it adds a shiny surface that buyers like. This helps add to the value of your Southwest Florida home. Other types of flooring like tiles, matting, and other coverings also add an aesthetic appeal. In turn, that adds value to your house.

Automobile Lift

Ask anyone who works on anything with an engine what they want most in their garage and they’ll most likely say “a lift”. Jacking up a car so you can crawl around and work on the undercarriage can be a pain. You don’t have to have a double-height garage in order to make this work either. Allowing enough room for three feet of lift makes changing the oil or even changing tires that much easier and definitely much safer than a dodgy jack.

Extra Bedroom

Finally, if it’s possible, add an extra bedroom and bathroom above the garage. This increases your square footage and your home’s value. Ask a professional to come out to inspect the garage to make sure it is structurally sound enough for the bedroom above and to provide an estimate. This quickly turns your three bed/two bath home into a more valuable four bed/three bath home.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos?

Home Projects That Require a Professional

DIY rules the airwaves, internet, and social media. Places like Pinterest, YouTube, and HGTV make it feel super easy to tackle just about any project yourself. However, this may work to your detriment in some cases. That includes these home projects that definitely require a professional.

Some home projects can be tackled by motivated DIY'ers. However, others require a professional touch. Know which ones you can tackle alone and which ones you should hire a pro for instead.

When NOT to DIY Your Home Projects

Garage Door

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A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how replacing your garage door provides the best return on investment. Also, it increases your curb appeal. However, one of the home projects you should leave to the professionals is any replacement or repair needed on your garage door. It requires special tools that you may not own. That means renting them. This increases your cost. Also, if you aren’t savvy with the specific workings of a garage door unit, you would be better off hiring someone who does possess those skills.

Electrical Systems

Unless you happen to be a journeyman electrician, I suggest leaving any electrical work up to the pros. Upgrading your electrical panel and installing additional exterior light fixtures should never be considered DIY home projects. If installed improperly, they could become a fire hazard down the road.

Plumbing

Same thing goes for plumbing home projects. Unclogging a toilet or changing out a shower head requires little working knowledge of plumbing systems. However, installing a bathtub, replacing the toilet or moving the sink from one wall to another in the kitchen should be left to the pros. Otherwise, you may end up with leaks which leads to mold. In turn, that could become a major issue in a short amount of time.

Demo

Many homeowners love an open floor plan. Older homes feel so cut off from room to room. Just knock down a wall or two to achieve that open concept you desire, right? Hold on. There’s more to demolition that a pair of goggles and a sledgehammer. Watch out for load-bearing walls and interior electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems. Older homes used asbestos in construction materials and lead in the paint. These require special removal techniques performed by licensed professionals. Also, mold may be an issue. Therefore, hire a pro.

Tree Removal

It may sound like a simple task. Get rid of that old tree threatening your Naples home. But, one wrong move and it could unleash thousands of dollars in damage to your property. Then, there’s the neighbor’s property, cars, and nearby powerlines to worry about. For home projects like this, contact a professional service to get the job done right and safely.

Crown Molding

Crown molding creates a luxurious finishing touch to just about any room. It’s also another deceptively more involved home project than you would initially think. Walls rarely fit into a perfect 90-degree angle. The pros utilize special tools as well as tricks that come from their years of experience to fit the crown molding perfectly. Poorly installed crown molding provides less than desirable results.

Roof Repair/Replacement

First, replacing a roof requires getting up onto said roof. That, in and of itself, offers potential physical dangers to your body (falling off/through, for example). Second, consider the potential for thousands of dollars in damage if the roof is not installed properly. These are things that could also show up on a home inspection when you try to sell your Naples or Marco Island home. Contact several different local roofing companies. Get references. Then, ask for proof of insurance before you hire one.

Major Changes

Finally, don’t make any major structural changes to your property yourself. Home projects like a room addition, major kitchen or bathroom renovation, deck, etc. usually require permits from the city first. In turn, the city requires this work to be performed by licensed professionals. If not properly constructed, you run the risk of a structural failure somewhere down the road. Even if it happens after you sell your home, you may still be held personally responsible if you did not hire a professional to perform these tasks.

That being said, some upgrades/renovations actually can be performed by non-professionals. They also make your property stand out when it comes time to sell. However, when it comes to more intense home projects, leave those up to the pros.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos?

Driveway Improvements That Increase Your Curb Appeal

Does your property need a little pick-me-up? In the past few weeks, I’ve discussed several DIY projects that help boost your home’s value. I even talked about landscaping your home to encourage our Monarch butterfly population here in Florida. But you should also pay attention to your driveway. Stains and cracks do not impress potential buyers. In fact, they could stop buyers in their tracks. If your exterior needs a bit of help, try these driveway improvements that will most definitely increase your curb appeal and bring buyers to your door.

Want to increase your curb appeal? Consider these driveway improvements when renovating your Naples home.

Driveway Improvements That Increase Your Curb Appeal

Stamped Asphalt or Concrete

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An interesting trend in driveway improvements recently is stamped asphalt of concrete. Homeowners choose from an outline of stamped design or something as intricate as an all-over stamped process. In fact, instead of adding brick to your entire driveway, you could choose to stamp and tint asphalt to that it gives the appearance of brick. This offers all the benefits of highly durable asphalt without the expense involved in laying individual bricks along your entire driveway.

Colored Concrete

Another one of the more inexpensive yet beautiful driveway improvements a Naples homeowner could make is to use pigment to color. It comes in a wide variety of colors to choose from. Therefore, instead of a boring grey driveway, you get to decide what color fits in best with your home’s design.

Permeable Pavers

In a wet area such as ours, you know what it’s like when it rains. Puddles everywhere, including the driveway. And if your driveway offers any kind of decline whatsoever, water puddles at the bottom to create a moat you must traverse whenever you leave or come back. One solution to this issue is permeable pavers. Instead of a completely smooth surface, you use open pavers that allow grass to grow in between. It does require some maintenance, but that simply means running your lawnmower over the driveway when you mow the rest of your grass. Other positives? Cracks are no longer a major problem and it is cheaper than many other solutions since you use less material.

Tar-and-Chip

The tar-and-chip method (aka “Macadam”) offers amazing results for driveway improvements without a huge expense that other options may present. This driveway starts with a gravel base. Then, asphalt gets poured over the top, creating a “speckled” appearance. This type of driveway provides a long-lasting, durable surface that is less susceptible to cracking.

Gravel

Finally, when considering any driveway improvements for your Naples home, consider gravel. It’s cheaper than concrete ($0.50 per square foot instead of $4.99 per square foot). Also, it holds up to any shifting underneath. So, cracking is never a concern. And it’s highly durable.

Replace Your Garage Door

OK. So, this isn’t a driveway improvement. But, replacing your garage door not only increases your curb appeal, but it offers one of the best ROI (return on investment) for any home improvement project. And a garage door lasts anywhere from 10 to 15 years. You don’t need to fear depreciation if you decide to sell in the next few years.

Michelle Thomas, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty, Luxury Naples/Marco Island Homes & Condos?