Avoiding Home Improvement Loan Scams

Big home improvement projects often cost big bucks, prompting many home owners to take out a home equity loan or seek some sort of financing. It often makes more sense to use home equity rather than cash for home improvements, but be careful. Unscrupulous contractors and lenders may try to take advantage of you, leaving you with a heavy debt load and sometimes incomplete work.

This article is about avoiding home improvement loan scams. See FindLaw's Home Improvement and Contractors, Home Equity Loans, and Mortgage Loan Scams sections for related articles.

The Tale of a Home Improvement Loan Scam 

A contractor calls or knocks on your door and offers to install a new roof or remodel your kitchen at a price that sounds reasonable. You tell him you're interested, but can't afford it. He tells you it's no problem -- he can arrange financing through a lender he knows. You agree to the project, and the contractor begins work. At some point after the contractor begins, you are asked to sign a lot of papers. The papers may be blank or the lender may rush you to sign before you have time to read what you've been given to sign. You sign the papers.

Later, you realize that the papers you signed are a home equity loan. The interest rate, points and fees seem very high. To make matters worse, the work on your home isn't done right or hasn't been completed, and the contractor, who may have been paid by the lender, has little interest in completing the work to your satisfaction.

You can protect yourself from inappropriate lending practices by keeping an eye out for red flags and approaching exceptionally good deals with skepticism. 

Avoiding Scams: What Not to Do 

 

Don't:
  • Agree to a home equity loan if you don't have enough money to make the monthly payments.
  • Sign any document you haven't read or any document that has blank spaces to be filled in after you sign.
  • Let anyone pressure you into signing any document.
  • Deed your property to anyone. First consult an attorney, a knowledgeable family member, or someone else you trust.
  • Agree to financing through your contractor without shopping around and comparing loan terms.

Consider speaking with a real estate attorney if you have additional questions or believe you were the victim of a home improvement loan scam.

 

Next Steps

Contact a qualified real estate attorney to help you navigate issues relating to home ownership.

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