The Cost of Home Improvement Fraud & Scams

Handyman Matters is here to help you love your home and with that comes protecting our customers and their homes. Fraud is a big deal in the home improvement industry. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission estimates that Americans lost more than $4.1 billion to fraud and scams in the last 5 years alone. Those numbers are terrifying for any homeowner.

The home improvement industry is a $200 billion industry each year and poor workmanship is the number one fear that homeowners have when hiring a contractor. We have put together some tips to help you make an informed decision the next time you’re looking to hire a contractor for home improvements.

  • How to not become a victim:
    • Thoroughly research any contractor or handyman company before doing business with them
    • Make sure they are bonded and insured
    • Check out any online reviews to ensure other customers have had good experiences. One can learn a lot from reviews, as well as how a company responds to reviews, good or bad!
    • It is also a good idea to take a look at the Better Business Bureau for any reviews and to make sure the company is in good standing.
  • When interviewing a contractor follow these guidelines:
    • Get the contractors full contact information
    • Make sure the contractor is appropriately insured, licensed and bonded in your state
    • Ask how much experience the contractor has
    • Ask for the contractor to break down the estimate by costs
    • Ask when the contractor will be able to start and how long the project will take to complete
    • Ask the contractor if they will be using sub-contractors. Make sure those workers are properly licensed, bonded and insured
    • Ask the contractor if they have a warranty on their work
  • Once you have selected a contractor:
    • Always get a written and signed quote for the job no matter how big or small it is. Collaborate directly with contractor for any possible change orders if it becomes necessary.
    • If a building permit is necessary, have the contractor secure it in their name
    • If you are dealing with an insurance claim, check with your insurance company to see if an inspection needs to be done prior to the start of the project.
    • Pay for the job with a credit card or check and get a receipt. Never pay in cash.
    • Do not pay for the job up front. Ask to be billed after it’s completed. Or if it’s a deposit for a larger job, just ensure to get a receipt.

It is important to research a contractor or company before having them work on your home. Handyman Matters can do it all, and we can back it up. We are trusted, licensed and guaranteed.

Decorating Your Home and Yard for Halloween

In recent years, more and more homeowners have begun decorating their homes for Halloween as enthusiastically as they do at Christmas time. A stroll down the seasonal display aisles at your local general merchandise retail store will quickly confirm this. There are all manner of decorations available, from simple to incredibly complex—and expensive! You can go the “retail route,” or you can come up with your own unique way of “haunting” your home and yard this season. Here are some tips—and some cautions—to keep in mind:

Safety comes first. Don’t allow your decorations to be hazards. Keep trick or treaters and all other visitors safe when they visit your property. This means avoiding things that can be tripped over or bumped into. Mood lighting—or flashing lights—create great atmosphere, but can also cause visibility issues. Keep in mind that many trick or treaters wear costumes that limit their field of vision. Go for “safe” over “scary” and even over “creative” if there’s even the slightest doubt that you are creating something that could cause injury.

Secure your decorations from goblins and other pranksters. It can be “dispiriting” to go to a lot of effort to create spooky effects, only to have them disappear or be damaged. So unless you can monitor your decorations closely, don’t set out expensive items or things you’ve gone to a lot of effort to create if they can be swiped or destroyed when your back is turned. Keep these items secure by displaying them in windows or out of easy reach. You might consider bringing more valuable things indoors each evening before you go to bed.

“Simple” can be effective. You can put together either fun or frightening displays without spending a lot of money or even going to a lot of effort. Rake up a pile of leaves on your front lawn and take a pair of old boots or galoshes and position them so that it appears someone has been “buried” beneath the leaves with just their feet protruding. Dangle handmade cardboard bats and ghosts from tree limbs with black thread and let them flutter in the wind. Use cardboard, Styrofoam or planks of old wood to create a cemetery of tombstones on the grass.

Wads of cotton can be gently pulled apart in strands to create cobwebs which can be strung through tree branches or stuck along porch railings and pillars. Straw or fabric stuffed into a pair of old jeans and a shirt can make a scarecrow, with a pumpkin or jack o’lantern added for a head and face. Position “him” in a rickety old chair on your porch. Gather a bunch of withered plant stalks and tie them together to make miniature corn shocks, or twine them together to make a dead wreath, festooned with wilted flowers, to hang on the front door as a grisly greeting. Not only are these easy and inexpensive things, but if they get swiped, you aren’t out a lot of money for your efforts.

Go elaborate, but exercise restraint. Just as more people are going all out on their costumes, a lot of folks are doing likewise with their decorating—lights, sounds effects, moving figures—the Halloween sky is the limit! Trick or treaters and other passersby will enjoy these displays. But be mindful and respectful of your neighbors. Ear-splitting spooky noises and strobe lights tend to get old and tiresome pretty quickly. Check with those who live nearby to let them know what you will be doing. Keep the volume level and the mood lighting to a sensible level, and within a reasonable time frame—from dusk until 8pm or so is good; earlier if small children with earlier bedtimes live nearby.

If you need help with “haunting-up” your house, particularly if it involves climbing a ladder, stringing spooky lights or positioning sound equipment in trees or on the roof, your local Handyman Matters ghouls and gals stand ready to help you “scare-ify” your home and yard quickly and safely, and they are available to take everything down the day after Halloween, as well!