How to Find Honest Home Repair

As warmer temperatures return to much of the country, many homeowners are firing up the air conditioners for the first time in months. After setting the thermostat to a comfortable temperature, you notice the air coming from the vents isn’t as cool as you remember it being last year. Come to think of it, it’s been a couple years since you last had the AC serviced. Who should you call?

There are so many repair companies out there that it’s easy to become overwhelmed when trying to choose. But many of these companies aren’t on the up-and-up. The Arizona Republic reports that a Tennessee-based heating and air conditioning company was recently charged with ripping off senior citizens and using deceptive sales tactics. They are accused of selling equipment the elderly didn’t need or couldn’t afford and using false safety notices to scare people into buying services they didn’t need.

Last year I saw a series by Dateline NBC on home repair scams. Each episode focused on one area of the home: pools, garage doors, plumbing, and air conditioning. During the garage door repair episode, the Dateline crew installed hidden cameras in one homeowner’s garage and called several local companies to report a malfunctioning garage door opener. During some of the service calls, the repair workers actually just stood around in the garage talking on their cell phones. They didn’t even look at the garage door opener. They then reported to the homeowner that they needed to replace the entire unit at a cost of several hundred dollars. A variation of these events happened with each of the other episodes. In some cases, when work was done, shortcuts were taken and low-quality materials were used to make the repair.

Unfortunately, many so-called repair companies are in business to rip you off. So how do you avoid these people and increase the chances that your repair will be done correctly? Below are some tips to protect yourself when hiring a contractor.

1. What is the company’s reputation? Ask them for references and look around online to see what others are saying about them. Check the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any complaints against them. In addition, your friends, neighbors and coworkers are great sources to find honest repair work.

2. Does their company vehicle have the company name, address and phone number painted on it? Ask to see their business license and write down the number.

3. Ask to see the worn or broken parts before they are replaced. Make sure they’re using new parts for the repair – some try to use old parts to save money. And make sure they aren’t fixing what’s not broken.

4. Anyone who pressures you to sign today is trying to rip you off. Same goes for those who try to do work without any written agreements. Be very wary of unsolicited offers and pushy door-to-door salespeople.

5. Never pay a large amount of money up front. Agree to pay in installments as the work is done. The scamsters love to collect money up front and vanish overnight.

6. For more expensive repairs, get at least two estimates in writing.

Do you have any other tips for finding honest home repair?

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16 thoughts on “How to Find Honest Home Repair

  1. I saw a similar news report with home furnaces. They just disconnected a wire and filmed these different companies trying to rip the person off. It’s a shame how little conscience these people had. They were all too quick to lie in an attempt to make more money. It really is worth doing your homework beforehand to ensure you are hiring a reputable contractor and that their price is reasonable.

    • Yes, some people will do anything to make a dollar. However, I believe the majority of contractors are honest people who do good, reputable work. Doing your homework, as you say, can help ensure you get an honest worker.

  2. Ryan,
    Before I even look online at repair services, I ask my social network for recommendations. Friends and family are pretty quick to tell you who worked well for them and who to avoid.

    • Social networks are a great source of information when it comes to finding honest contractors and service people. A lot of the customers these types of businesses get come from word of mouth recommendations, so they try to make their customers happy and hope they tell their friends and family.

  3. I am pretty lucky when it comes to home repairs. My husband can do just about anything (except for electrical stuff.) But my dad can do the electrical repairs, so I am pretty much set.

    • You are set! That’s awesome. I’m pretty handy too, but I can’t do electrical stuff either. I actually enjoy doing small repairs around the house and on the cars. It makes me feel useful, lol.

  4. I think one of the best tips (in my experience) is just to talk to your neighbours, family and friends. More than once I have avoided using workers who have ripped off friends, just by picking up the phone and asking if they have had any experience.

    The good thing about that is they can usually give you the name of someone who can help! Have to agree with Family Finances also, social networks can be very helpful too as thats often the 1st place someone will turn to when they feel hard done by!

    • Hi, Mary! Yes, talking to those in our circles is a great way to find good repair companies. Especially those who have owned a home a long time, who most likely have a good, established relationship with a repair company.

      I’m glad you were able to avoid getting ripped off!

  5. Our company rents out a lot of space for our patient service centers. In our dept we handle all of the leases too, so that means we are constantly dealing with repair people – whether it’s HVAC, laboratory equipment, etc. You’d be surprised at how many people upsell people! We always get 2 or more different quotes and we have our preferred vendors. What is most important is to also read their terms and conditions. It’s my job to check these out and to see if they are ripping us off. They try to always make themselves NOT liable for anything. Make sure you can get proof of insurance and also make sure that they will be responsible for damages!

    • Interesting! So you’re an insider who obviously has a lot more knowledge than I do on this topic! Reading the contract before signing is one of the best things you can do to protect yourself. I would think twice about using a repair company that tries everything to limit their liability and put unfriendly terms in their contracts.

  6. It’s a shame because so many of us don’t know what to do, and are completely reliant on trusting these companies. I would talk to your home insurance agent to see what contractors they endorse or recommend. You might pay a little bit more, but if it’s something serious like a furnace, it’d be worth it. Also be careful of door to door contractors from “out of town.”

    • Talking with your insurance agent is something I hadn’t thought of. It makes sense though because they’re in a similar business and likely have some level of expertise in this area.

      Those door-to-door salespeople are so darn slick, though! They convince you that you have a problem and then sell you their product or service to fix it.

  7. I did see most of the episode you speak of and thought it was unfortunate that the honest guys were just a blip on the screen—I thought they could of been given a little recognition.

    Like someone mentioned above it’s hard to know because you’re left to rely on people when you know nothing about what they need to fix.

    • Right, it’s tempting to automatically defer to the “expert.” But I think it’s wise to do a little research into the problem yourself to at least learn the basics. If possible, asking to see the old part can help ensure they’ve actually done work.

  8. I’ve seen similar reports on TV. It just makes me so mad! It makes me think that everyone is trying to rip me off, so I end up trying to figure how to fix it myself. I guess if there’s a silver lining, I usually find out it’s not that hard to fix it. Coincidently, I learned how to fix my garage door opener.

    • Ha, looking at the bright side – I love it! It’s hard to believe there’s an upside to people trying to rip you off. But you’re right, it does make you think about doing more things yourself. There are so many YouTube videos and online tutorials that attempting repairs yourself is less daunting than it used to be. It’s amazing how specific some of these videos are too.

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