These Are The Top 8 Home Improvement Scams To Look Out For

These Are The Top 8 Home Improvement Scams To Look Out For

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

Home improvement scams happen with enough regularity that it pays to be wary. Think about the sad irony of it all: you’re just trying to make life a little better for you and your family, but what happens instead is you lose a lot of money. Home improvement scams can really be heartbreaking and create significant financial burdens.

The good news is that, with a little planning, you can hopefully make your home improvement plans relatively scam-proof. Here are the top eight scams to avoid.

Your Home Improvement Business has Contract Phobia Issues

One rule of thumb is to never do business with a contractor without a paper trail. If your potential contractor balks on this, you may want to consider no longer proceeding.

By and large, real professionals in the construction field understand that contracts are essential for good business practices. Contracts protect both the customer and business alike. They’re also important documents that spell out what work the customer can expect and for what price.

You’re Asked to Pay in Cash

Generally, homeowners are advised to never make large payments in cash. If something would go wrong such as shoddy work or no work at all, you want proof that you made a payment.

Thankfully, most construction companies are trustworthy. It’s the few others you have to watch out for: some scammers will simply take your money and run. They’ll quickly spend your hard-earned cash and you’ll never hear from them again.

Avoid Making Natural Disasters Even More Disastrous

In the event of a natural disaster, it may be prudent to be extra careful when considering which construction companies you use to help you rebuild. This is when some scammers swoop in, posing as well-meaning contractors. However, because of the scarcity of sufficient skilled labor available to match the overabundance of workers suddenly needed to service disaster areas, it’s easier than ever for scammers to blend in unnoticed.

Typically, the best contractors will be fully booked for a long time. Scammers, on the other hand, will offer you quick work for quick pay. The problem is, you’ll likely pay for it when you receive substandard work, if you get any work at all.

You may want to be especially careful about signing over your insurance check until you know exactly who you’re dealing with and their reputation.

They Request an Excessive Down Payment

Making a down payment before work begins is common practice. However, if the down payment amount exceeds 1/3 of the total project cost, this could be a major red flag.

If you feel the upfront fee is too steep, try negotiating with your contractor. The majority of businesses are willing to negotiate the down payment with you.

Unwilling to Operate with Permits       

It’s essential that your contractor has the appropriate permits to do the job. You’ll rest easy knowing that your contractor is properly insured and follows local building laws.

If the business you go with is unwilling to be transparent when it comes to permits, you may want to look elsewhere. It could be that your contractor is unlicensed. If that’s the case, you’ll likely risk paying a heavy price later on even if you save a few dollars in the short term.

Unwilling to Provide References

Quality companies are more than happy to provide references to prospective customers who ask for them. They have nothing to hide and stand behind the quality of the work they provide.

However, if you ask a contractor for references and they’re unwilling to provide them, proceed with extreme caution.

High-Pressure Contractors

The best contractors almost always have plenty of work to do. They’ll never use high-pressure sales tactics. They’re confident in their abilities. For that reason, they want you to be sure of what you’re signing up for.

If a contractor ever pressures you into a quick sale, this may be a major warning sign. Many feel that only scammers and companies with questionable work practices would do this.

The Project Price Keeps Increasing          

There are times for legitimate project prices increases. A good contract will make allowances for this, where warranted, so long as both parties agree to the extra work and payment with a new signature.

That said, price increases are sometimes a scam tactic. If you feel that price increases for your project are unwarranted, consider getting the opinion of a building inspector or established contractor in your area.

Additional Ways to Avoid Being a Victim of Fraud and Scams

Now that we’ve discussed specific ways that you could be scammed, here are a few additional practices that may help you avoid home improvement fraud.

Know your local laws: In some regions, contractors are only legally able to take a certain dollar percentage upfront before starting a project. Check your local and state laws to inform yourself on these laws.

Also, building codes vary by region. Although you should be able to rely solely on your contractor for this, it never hurts to do your own homework. A homeowner’s nightmare is paying full price for completed work that isn’t up to code. This could lead to potentially unsafe living conditions and make your house difficult to sell without potentially costly alterations.

By thoroughly knowing your local laws, you’ll likely be better able to spot a good contractor and, more importantly, a bad one!

Never make a deal with a contractor offering “leftover” or discounted building materials: Good contractors never do this. If you proceed, you could wind up getting ripped off.

Check out contractors through the BBB: The Better Business Bureau may have high praises for your contractor or quite the opposite. Checking into this is always time well spent. You can do your research at bbb.org.

There’s a lot you can do to try and protect yourself from home improvement scams. If you take a little time to prepare now, you may be happy you did later on.

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Are You Ready For Winter? Here’s How To Winterproof Your Home In A Few Steps

Are You Ready For Winter? Here’s How To Winterproof Your Home In A Few Steps

Disclaimer: The below is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.

If you’re a homeowner, winterproofing your home is just a seasonal chore. But if you’re a new homeowner, you may not know where to start. Before the first snowfall, here are a few steps you may want to take to avoid making emergency repairs in the cold.

1 – Insulate pipes

Insulation may not just keep your hot water, well, hot, but it may also prevent pipes from bursting. This can cause significant and costly damage to your home, and may lead to other hard-to-fix issues, such as water damage and a mold infestation. When water in your home’s pipes freeze, that can lead to cracks. Eventually, those cracks get larger, and the water’s pressure can cause the pipes to burst. Prevent this from happening by insulating the pipes in the coldest parts of your house (places such as attics and crawl spaces), keeping cabinets open to let heat circulate closer to the pipes, and occasionally letting water drip from faucets to keep water flowing.

2 – Clean your gutters

Cleaning out your home’s gutters is an important step in protecting your home from the winter weather: dead leaves and debris stuck in the gutters can prevent water flow. But it’s not the only precaution to see to outside. To better protect your house’s foundation, take steps to make sure that any water can easily be diverted away from your home, via a downspout. Don’t forget to maintain trees and other large shrubbery: all it takes is one heavy snowfall or a gust of icy wind to knock down branches, which can take down power lines (or worse) with them.

3 –  Check your roof

Your roof is an important defense against the winter weather, and certain bad circumstances can cause it to fail and let water or ice seep into your home. Accumulating snow, for example, can cause an older roof to collapse. Consider getting a roof rake with a long handle so you can remove snow without risking your safety and wellbeing.

4 – Stock up on the right tools

Shovels and salt are generally no-brainers for homeowners, but don’t forget emergency kits and flashlights. Bad winter weather can easily knock out power in some neighborhoods, so you may want to be prepared — especially if you’re expecting to host guests for longer than a day. Get bottled water, OTC medications, and pre-packaged food that doesn’t need to be heated or refrigerated. Batteries, a battery-powered radio, and a charged phone are also great items to add to your arsenal.

5  – Think beyond the obvious

You may be thinking about protecting your home from the winter weather, but you may want to think about how to protect it from the criminals who take advantage of this time of year to scam unsuspecting homeowners. Invest in home automation with a front-facing security camera, or a doorbell with a camera, so you can see who’s at your door. This time of year, thieves may steal packages from your porch, and if you want to catch them in the act, some of these tools may be helpful.

If you’re a homeowner with an elderly or disabled neighbor, offer your services: help them shovel snow from their driveway, pick up groceries, or offer them a care package. Some criminals may pose as do-gooders, only to scam more vulnerable individuals or steal their belongings when invited into their home.   

Don’t forget to check up on and help neighbors who may not have the tools and resources to protect themselves. A helping hand or a phone call can go a long way!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

These are the Most Common Types of Homes in the United States, and Here’s Where to Find Them

These are the Most Common Types of Homes in the United States, and Here’s Where to Find Them

Homes in the United States come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. But if you look closely, you may find some that resemble each other closely. In fact, the rich history of our country has contributed to the popularity of some architectural trends in certain specific, discernible areas and regions. You may not necessarily know them by name, but you may recognize a few of these styles — and perhaps, your own home’s architecture follows one of these trends! Here are eight of some of the most popular house styles in America.

1- Craftsman Style

Craftsman style homes were most popular from 1905 to the 1930’s. Also called Arts & Crafts homes, the most notable key characteristics of this style include a low-pitched, gable roof, unadorned, massive tapered columns that help support a porch, and exposed rafters. The architectural styles stemmed from a philosophical movement that emphasized handwork and rejected the mass production attributes of the Industrial Revolution. It also rejected the over-decorated aesthetic of the Victorian era. Craftsman style homes can be found all over America, but are most popular in the Western U.S. However, this style has been experiencing a revival since the 1990’s with many homeowners leaning to a minimalistic, simple, and clean design.

2- Ranch style

A ranch-style home is perhaps one of the most recognizable architectural styles in America thanks to its no-frills, low horizontal profile, typically single-story design (although, there are raised ranch-style homes that are two stories). Other typical characteristics of this style include a U- or L-shaped floor plan and attached garages. They were most popular from the 1930’s to the 1960’s, when there was a notable influx of farmers moving to the suburbs. These new homeowners wanted their houses to reflect the simple, informal lifestyle to which they had become accustomed. This architectural style is the most popular in the Sun Belt region, or the Southern tier of the United States.

3- Mediterranean Revival

Popular in the 1920’s and 30’s, Mediterranean Revival style homes managed to capture the essence of a Mediterranean villa. People were moving toward embracing and valuing leisure time, and nothing screamed opulence, exoticism, and relaxation more than this style. It became a very popular style in warmer states like Florida and California, which were among the first to develop a tourism industry along the coast. These states also shared a Spanish colonial history, which played a key part in forming the aesthetic of the Mediterranean Revival home.Common features of these homes include low-pitched, red-tiled roofs and a stucco and usually white-painted exterior. This style is neither distinctly Spanish nor Italian, but a mix of both.

4- Tudor Revival

Tudor Revival style homes were popular from 1880 to around 1940, and are mainly characterized by steeply pitched, side gable roofs and decorative half-timbering, narrow multi-light casement windows, and walls of stucco or stone. This style stems from an early English form, which came into vogue thanks to wealthy homeowners who could afford to pay for the decorative stone and brickwork. The Tudor Revival home fell out of style after World War II, when there was a resurgence of American patriotism. Homeowners started leaning toward a more distinctly American design, the Colonial Revival style. Tudor Revival homes were most popular on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

5- Colonial Revival

As the name suggests, these homes drew inspiration from the style of the typical colonial homes from the Colonial Era in the United States. They were part of a movement that celebrated an American identity after World War II, though they had been popular from 1880 to 1955. Instead of directly copying the style of those older houses, architects decided to mix and match details from several early styles. Typical characteristics of Colonial Revival style houses include a symmetrical facade, a large accented doorway, and evenly spaced 6-over-6 windows. There are millions of examples of this kind of house all over the country.

6- Cape Cod

Popular from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, Cape Cod style houses are the most popular — as you maybe guessed it — in the Northeast. This architectural style originated with the colonists who came from England to New England, and is typically a one-story cottage with a loft attic space and a symmetrical window placement on either side of a paneled front door. The houses were designed and built to withstand the region’s stormy weather. The term itself was coined in 1800.

7- Queen Anne

The Queen Anne architectural style, sometimes called the Victorian style, is very different from other typically American styles of houses in that it is very ornamental with sculptural shapes. Popular from 1880 to 1910, some key characteristics of the Queen Anne style include the wrap-around front porch (a trait that architects borrowed for other home styles), an asymmetrical facade, bold and unconventional color schemes, classical columns, and round, square, or polygonal towers. Queen Anne homes were a product of the Industrial Age, and ultimately fell out of style with a return to a more simplistic design. A famous example of this kind of house? The Painted Ladies in San Francisco, of course!

8- Neoclassical style

Mostly built from 1895 to 1950, the Neoclassical style pays homage to classical Greek and Roman architecture, and still shows itself to be related to Colonial Revival architecture. It is characterized by tall, massive columns, Corinthian or Composite capitals, a symmetrical facade, elaborate doorways, and evenly spaced windows. The heaviest concentration of the Neoclassical style of building is in the Northeast. It is a popular one for government buildings and universities, but there are many homes built in this style, too: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, in Virginia, is a classic example. Primarily, the style served to show the upward social mobility of the home’s residents.

These are only a few of the many styles homes across America are built. Which one does your home have?

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Is Your Home’s Interior Looking A Little Gloomy? Here Are 9 Ways You Can Bring More Natural Light Into Your Rooms

Is Your Home’s Interior Looking A Little Gloomy? Here Are 9 Ways You Can Bring More Natural Light Into Your Rooms

Natural light can do wonders for the body: sunshine can help boost your mood, trigger your body’s production of vitamin D, and can even lower blood pressure and improve brain function. But did you know that natural light can also benefit your home? Not only may you be able to save on electricity bills, but it can make you more productive, happier, and calmer, even when you’re spending time inside, away from the heat.

But what can you do if your house’s rooms are always dark or shaded? Here are 9 changes you can make to your home to help allow more natural light in.

1- Make the best use out of reflective surfaces.

A mirror or two can add tons of light to your house, as long as you place them strategically. For the best effect, prop or hang them opposite windows so that they disperse sunshine throughout the room.

2- Paint the walls a light color.

If your walls are painted a dark color, you may want to consider switching things up. Dark hues can make a room look darker, whereas an off-white wall will reflect sunlight better.

3- Rethink your door.

This tip may not be the first one you think of when trying to bring more light into your home, but a door with a glass pane can allow more of it inside. If you’re concerned with safety, consider high-security glass.

4- Move furniture around.

If you have room to do it, move furniture around, a few feet away from windows. This can go a long way, especially if you have a piece of furniture blocking the sunlight!

5- Consider other flooring options.

Dark floors can absorb natural light, which may make your room look darker. Carpets may have a similar effect. Wooden, ceramic or stone floors with a polished finish are the best options to help disperse light better throughout your rooms.

6- Clean windows, replace them if you can, and change up the curtains.

This is perhaps one of the most important tips on this list. A first step is making sure that your windows are clean so that they can let the light in: grime and soot accumulate over time, decreasing the amount of light they’re letting in. If your windows are frosted or have parts that block out the light, consider changing the style of your windows. Similar to flooring and carpeting, dark curtains can absorb light more than you think, so invest in some light-colored curtains, too!

7- Add a skylight.

If you’re planning to make renovations on your home, you may want to think about adding a skylight. Not only will it let more light in, but it can add more character to a room!

8- Trim trees and shrubs.

Sure, shade may be a great thing in the summertime, but overgrown shrubs and trees in your yard may be casting a much bigger shadow than you think, preventing any sunlight from streaming into your home. A little trimming can go a long way!

9- Knock down a wall.

If you have the time, resources, and energy to make major renovations to your house, consider knocking down a wall. This is a huge step, and there are many considerations before making such a huge decision. But if the circumstances are right, knocking down a wall can do more than just let in a little more light: it can open up a room, create a communal space, and be the first step to creating your dream home! Check out NeighborWho’s guide on when, how, and why to knock down the wall if you’re seriously thinking about doing so.

Letting more light into your home can be an easy, budget-friendly way to revamp its look and style. It may take a few tries, but you may be thrilled with the results!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

 

Don’t Let Your Home’s Beauty Fade: These 13 Budget-Friendly Tricks Can Instantly Help You Ramp Up Your House’s Curb Appeal

Don’t Let Your Home’s Beauty Fade: These 13 Budget-Friendly Tricks Can Instantly Help You Ramp Up Your House’s Curb Appeal

If you own a house, you’re likely familiar with the effort it takes to keep it running smoothly and efficiently. Many homeowners often complain that the upkeep is constant: once one problem is fixed, something else breaks. Anything can go wrong in a minute, from a burst water pipe to broken tiles. And not to mention the countless hours maintaining your garden. But while they may lament the work behind keeping their houses beautiful, many homeowners actually enjoy the process. If you’re on a budget, you may be putting off the bigger projects meant to ramp up your curb appeal, but there are a few neat tricks that can make a huge difference almost instantly.

1- Paint your front door.

Don’t underestimate the power of repainting your front door. A fresh coat of paint can make your home stand out, especially if it’s a bright and inviting color. The more polished look may come at around just $30 — the cost of a gallon of paint.

2- Upgrade your mailbox.

If your mailbox is looking a little rusty and if you want your home to look a little more glamorous, it may be the perfect opportunity to replace it with a newer, more stylish option. Whether it’s

located close to the sidewalk or by your front door, you can find the perfect mailbox to fit the look you want for your home.

3- Revamp your house’s number.

Sure, you may not be able to change your house’s actual number, but you can definitely change its font and size to better suit your style. This can easily add some extra curb appeal to your home and, by extension, your neighborhood.

4- Plant a tree strategically.

Plants can spruce up an outdoor space, but if you place them strategically, they can do even more for your front yard. A tree may provide some shade, add color to your garden, and even frame your property.

5- Try out different lighting at night.

Your house may look its best during the day, but what about at night? The right lighting can set the ambiance you want and even show off all of its best features.

6- Cut the grass — but not too short.

Some homeowners underestimate the power of a well-manicured lawn: not only can it say that you care about your house and its appearance, but it may also keep your grass green and healthy. However, experts advise that it’s best to keep the blades between 2 to 4 inches in height, depending on the species of grass you have.

7- Install window boxes or planters.

Adding flowers below your windows can drastically change the look of your home, thanks to a the pop of color they can provide. You don’t have to have them at every window — even just one or two may be sufficient to drastically ramp up your curb appeal.

8- Add a stylish door knocker.

Once you’ve painted your door, you may want to invest in a new door knocker that fits your house’s style better. Check out more interesting shapes like lion’s heads or a different material or color.

9- Power wash everything.

From the siding to the pavement to your pathway, you may want to use a power wash to deep clean outdoor surfaces. Over time, many homeowners don’t realize how much grime and dirt accumulate in those areas, and you may be surprised just how new your house looks after a good wash.

10- Get rid of weeds.

This may be a no-brainer for most homeowners, but there’s more than one reason to get rid of weeds. Not only can they be unsightly, but because they are greedy for water, they may easily take over your lawn. Take great care to eradicate them, and your may be increasing your curb appeal tenfold!

11- Rethink your garage door.

It may be a daunting prospect to totally replace your garage door, but just like your front door, all it may need is a fresh coat of paint and a few accents to make it look like like new. Go the extra mile and get some vines and a trellis and place it over the door for a romantic touch.

12- Get a new doormat.

Although people walking down the street or driving by won’t see the details of your doormat, this minor replacement can do wonders for both the look and feel of your house as you know them. Even on the most basic level, a clean doormat can make your home look tidy — remember, the outdoor appearance of your house may be considered to be a reflection of what it’s like inside!

13- Replace old mulch.

Replacing old mulch doesn’t necessarily improve the health of your lawn and flower beds, but it can make your property look fresh and well-maintained.

All these tips are just a few ways you can up your curb appeal, but your home is what you make it: any changes you make should make your house feel like a home!

Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

Want To Make The Most Out Of Time Outside? Here Are 10 Awesome Backyard Gadgets That Will Help You Do That

Want To Make The Most Out Of Time Outside? Here Are 10 Awesome Backyard Gadgets That Will Help You Do That

Summer is upon us, and for many homeowners, that means spending more time outdoors with friends and family. If you have a backyard or a patio, you may be looking to upgrade your decor and gadgets to take make the most out of your space — and we have a few suggestions that may help you do just that! They may be fun for the whole family, and your neighbors may even ask you how you made your backyard both stylish and functional.

1- Portable hammock    

Invest in a portable, foldable hammock if you like spending time outside. When you don’t have trees to hang one up, the foldable version of these backyard staples can be a great solution if you still want enjoy the soothing rocking sensation.

2- Bug zapper

If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors, you may want to get a bug zapper. These devices now come in stylish designs (some even look like lanterns) that may blend seamlessly with the rest of your backyard decor. Forget foul-smelling bug repellants and let these handy zappers do the job for you.

3- Bird photo booth

If you love bird-watching or have bird feeder in your yard, this may be the perfect gadget for you! This device combines a camera and a feeder, which takes up-close-and-personal snapshots of the winged creatures. Create the oasis you always wanted by adding one of these to your yard!

4- Glass-enclosed fire pit

The elegant designs of these glass-enclosed fire pits may add a stylish touch to your backyard, and your summer guests [link to summer guest room post] may marvel at what this gadget can do for the ambiance. They tend to be relatively small, and may be easily be transported indoors, if necessary.

5- Bluetooth speaker

To create the perfect ambiance for your backyard party or barbecue, consider buying a bluetooth speaker. These nifty gadgets are powerful despite their small size, and now, you can even buy floating waterproof versions for your pool!

6- Lighting orb

Lighting orbs may make great mood-setters, as they often come in many different sizes and colors. You can even place these LED deco balls anywhere: on your patio, in your yard, or by the pool.

7- A smartphone breathalyzer

Granted, this next gadget isn’t an item you can add to your collection of patio and garden furniture, but it can definitely be useful if you’re planning to host an outdoor party. If you’re serving alcohol at your next event, a smartphone breathalyzer may come in handy if you want to be extra careful about your guests’ safety. When in doubt, call a cab or make other arrangements with your guests ahead of time.

8- A cool cooler

These coolers do more than just keep bottles and cans cold. Depending on your preferences, you can find coolers designed to fit your entertainment needs. Some versions come with a karaoke machine, complete with a microphone. Others include built-in blenders, speakers, and a USB charger, among other features.

9- Robotic lawnmower

If you hate mowing the lawn or simply never have the time to do so, you may want to invest in a robotic lawnmower. All you need to do is set up the perimeter and the robot will cut the grass for you in time for your lawn party.

10- A pool monitoring system

If you have a pool, it may be a good idea to monitor the quality of the water in it. That’s when these systems come in handy: they may indicate the pH, free chlorine, and alkalinity levels. Get one that connects to WiFi so you can use it practically anywhere!

There is a plethora of devices, gadgets, and tools that can make your outdoor space warm and inviting to guests, but only you can find the ones that best suit your style and needs!
Want to know more about your neighborhood? Plug an address into NeighborWho’s property finder and see what you can find!

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