Remodeling, home upgrade scams increasing
Jan Stapleton - 2023 NETAR President
It seems like everywhere you turn there’s a story about a real estate related scam. The most recent is Tennessee’s attorney general’s suit against a former Tri-Cities contractor – Wood Construction and Remodeling.
According to the suit and consumer complaints the firm took deposits but did no work on contracts that were vague, unrealistic and just basically illegal. Others say after the firm accepted deposits but abandoned the projects.
Consumers reportedly got shoddy work for their deposits. And some of those deposits were hefty sums. According to a WJHL report Elizabethton resident Rob Holzer paid more than $40,000 on a home addition contract with Wood. Jacci and Allan Wallace of Bristol, TN paid more than $80,000 but no work was done on the job.
Joe Wood is listed as a defendant in the suit. He owned the firm that took millions from Tennessee and North Carolina homeowners without delivering promised services, according to the lawsuit.
The locals and others who had dealings with the firm may get some sense of delivered justice when the suit is concluded, but whether or not they get some – or any – of what the paid is another issue.
Contractor complaints and disputes are common and they are increasing with the number of owners who are eager to upgrade their homes in a housing market where option to scale down or moving up have become expensive and limited. And then there are the new residents looking to add a room or renovate a basement.
There are trustworthy contractors who do first-class worker in our area. There’s also a lot scammers who make big promises then overcharge for substandard work.
There are tried and proven ways to avoid scams and limit some of the most common home improvement complaints. The first is to avoid using anyone who doesn’t have an office instead of a PO box or answering service. And deal only with licensed and insured contractors. Licenses can be confirmed by city, county of state officials. Up-front contractors won’t mind if they asked for proof of insurance.
Anything discussions about discounted work because they’re already on a job in the area or a good deal because they have left-over materials from another job be wary, very wary. Those terms are scam ref flags.
It’s also a good idea to check online and with consumer protection services to see if a company or an individual have complaints against them. But be careful with online research – especially reviews. Wood Construction reportedly had glowing online reviews – but many were reportedly done by company employees, or third parties paid to sweeten the firm’s online creds. Although the Internet can be a great source for research and information it can be chore to separate good information from scam fodder.
Experts also say it’s important to get multiple bids and to carefully read the contracts because verbal agreements are frequently worth nothing more than the paper they aren’t written on.
Finally, don’t rush into a project. And be especially wary if a contractor suggested a lending source and never sign off on work that you are not satisfied with.
The National Association of Realtors® offers a consumer service worth checking out before launching into dealings with contractors. You can find Houselogic at www.houselogic.com to review insight articles on the most common scams and how to avoid the, secrets contractors don’t want you to know or essential questions to ask before hiring a contracts.
But above all, remember individuals buy at their own risk and those risks are running high.
NETAR is the voice for real estate in Northeast Tennessee. It is the largest trade association in the Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia region, representing over 1,800+ members and 100+ business partners involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries. Weekly market reports and information for both consumers and members are available on the NETAR website at https://netar.us