Avoid Home Improvement Troubles.......

Spring is here and many homeowners begin remodeling and home improvement projects. In fact May is known as National Home Improvement month. Unfortunately, every year we hear about homeowners getting ripped off by scam artists who are posing as remodelers or contractors.

There are a number of red flags that can tip you off to a potential home improvement or remodeling scam. Below is a list of warning signs that can alert you to the fact that you might be dealing with a potential scam artist or unscrupulous contractor:

  • Solicits door-to-door
  • Offers you a discount for finding other customers
  • Just happens to have materials left over from a previous job
  • Tells you your job will be a "demonstration" or that your home will be a "model" home
  • Pressures you for an immediate decision, i.e., "this offer is only good for today"
  • Asks you to pay for the entire job up-front or only accepts cash
  • Suggests that he can help you finance the project and that you borrow money from a lender he knows
  • Does not list a business number in the local telephone directory
  • Asks you to get the required building permits

There are also a few key points and best practices to keep in mind when contemplating a home improvement or remodeling project:
  • Be skeptical of any contractor or handyman who solicits door to door—most well established and reputable contractors find their work through referrals.
  • Try to get a recommendation for a contractor from a friend or coworker.
  • Always ask for proof that a contractor is licensed and bonded.
  • As for references that include addresses and phone numbers and call or visit those references.
  • Always have a contract in place before the contractor/remodeler begins work.
  • The contract should include the contractor’s name, address, phone and license numbers. It should also include details about what the contractor will and will not do.
  • There should always be an estimated start and completion date.
  • All warranties should be listed with their details.
  • Any oral promises, should also be written into the contract.
  • There should be a method for dispute resolution and it should be clearly delineated as to which parties bear what cost of the process.

Keep in mind, your home might be your best financial asset and you need to not only research your project, but research the individuals who you employ to complete your home improvement or remodeling project.

For more information on home improvement and how to go about them, check out this article in our neighborhood resource guide focused on finding a contractor and home improvement projects.

New Preferences in User Profiles

Neighborhood Link recently added two new options/features that relate to how topics are displayed in the discussion forums.

The first new option is related to the display "scope" of the discussion forum topics and posts. The default "scope" of your neighborhood discussion forum is to first list topics that originated in your neighborhood and to then widen out to nearby areas, and beyond. If you only wish to see topics that originated in your neighborhood, there is now an option in your user profile to display only topics posted in your neighborhood.

The easiest way to make this change is to login, go to your neighborhood discussion forum, and then click your username in the upper left corner of your browser window as shown below.

At the bottom of the page, you will see an area labeled "Preference Settings". Change the option "Discussion browsing" to "restricted" as shown below, and click "Save". When you go back to the Discussion page, click the Refresh button on your browser and the display will show only topics posted where you are. That is all there is to it!

The second new option deals with the default text size display in the Discussion Forum. You can make the text size for the Discussion Forum larger by changing the preference on your Profile page. As described above, click your username in the discussion forum to get to your Profile page. At the bottom of your profile page you'll see a "Discussions - text size" drop down menu. Choose "larger" and click "Save." When you go back to the Discussion page, click the Refresh button on your browser to begin viewing the text larger.

Both of these new options were created as a direct result of feedback from Neighborhood Link users. If you have any ideas, comments, or complaints please don't hesitate to contact us

Sacramento Offers Neighborhood Grants

Neighborhood Link was recently approached by a non-profit organization in Sacramento who wanted us to help promote a new initiative of neighborhood grants. "The First 5 Sacramento Commission works to improve the lives of the county's youngest children and their families through an effective, coordinated, and inclusive implementation of the California Children and Families Act also known as Proposition 10, which was enacted in 1998."

Their neighborhood grant program is all about creating a safe, nurturing, and connected environment for families by focusing on young children under the age of five. They have funded play groups, book reading clubs, art activities, singing circles, and more. There is a simplified application process, and their staff is available every step of the way to answer questions.

We were happy to oblige them and we helped them create an information page that we posted on all of the more than 800 Neighborhood Link Sacramento City and County websites. The page was posted under the community pages section of each website and it provided detailed information on their neighborhood grant program.

If you are a non-profit or local government organization that needs help getting the word out on a community initiative or program, contact us and we will be happy to help.

For more information on the First 5 Sacramento neighborhood grants program, visit their website at www.first5sacramento.net or check out the information page that we created for them.

Help in Avoiding Foreclosure

In an effort to educate homeowners on how to avoid foreclosure, the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office along with the Massachusetts Association of Realtors have collaborated on a brochure to help educate consumers on financing a home and avoiding foreclosure.

The brochure titled, Protecting Your Investment: Understanding Home Financing and Avoiding Foreclosure offers guidance to consumers who are considering purchasing or refinancing a home and offers tips to homebuyers who are having trouble paying their mortgage. The brochure also outlines remedies to avoid foreclosure and details the devastating impact foreclosures have on the economy.

It is an excellent short brochure that details many of the key points in avoiding foreclosure. Although it was developed by the state of Massachusetts, all of the information is relevant to anyone who is considering buying or re-financing a home or who is dealing with the possibility of foreclosure.

You can get it here or vist their general information page on Foreclosure and Mortgage Lending