Roofing scam: High-pressure sales

Avoid roofing contractors who demand you sign a contract on the spot.

Avoid roofing contractors who demand you sign a contract on the spot.

One all-too-common roofing scam involves a contractor who will show up to a scheduled consultation, or unannounced in a neighborhood where other homes are having roofing work done. Promising a special deal or exceptionally low rate, the contractor will pressure the homeowner to sign a contract on the spot. If the homeowner puts up any kind of resistance to the sales pitch, the contractor will make dishonest claims or mislead the homeowner to enter a legally binding contract.

Scott MacMillan, president of highly rated A Better Roofing Company in Seattle says the high-pressure approach happens all the time in the roofing industry. “A roof is only done once or twice in a person's lifetime so it’s easy to fall victim because there is no point of reference or very little experience in making such a large purchase,” he says.

MacMillan says the reason roofing companies revert to high-pressure tactics is because they typically charge a higher rate and want to get the homeowner to sign a contract and pay a down payment without consulting other companies.

“They want to get the homeowner into a legally binding contract before they've gotten other bids, and because nobody wants to get involved in a legal battle unless absolutely necessary, it’s usually too late if other estimates come in after the homeowner has already signed up with these dishonest companies,” he says.

MacMillan’s tips for avoiding high pressure roofing contractors.

1. Do not agree to give a down payment on a roofing project. “A reputable contractor will not be afraid to commit to the project with their own money.”

2. Beware of any roofer who demands “both decision makers” be present for a consultation. “That tactic prevents the homeowner from being able to say something like ‘I will talk this over with my spouse and get back to you,’ and also take some extra time to make an educated decision.”

3. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, ask the contractor to leave. “I have heard before that they’ll do everything possible to avoid leaving because the likelihood of closing the sale diminishes exponentially once they walk out the door.” The Seattle roofing contractor recommends calling the police if a roofer fails to leave after you have asked him or her to do so.

 


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A roofing contractor inspects shoddy work from a previous roofer.
A roofing contractor inspects shoddy work from a previous roofer.

Homeowners fall victim to a variety of roofing scams each year. Angie's List spoke to five highly rated roofing contractors about how to avoid the most common scams.

Comments

I'm a salesperson for a home improvement contractor, and I disagree with some of the points made in this article. I meet with homeowners considering a new roof for their home, and much of my competition is from small contractors who cut corners on materials, labor, installation, and insurance, in order to provide cut-rate pricing. And because most homeowners really don't know much about the process of procuring a new roof, they often fall victim to these low-bid hacks and wind up with an unsatisfactory experience. I spend between 2 to 3 hours with each customer discussing roofs in general, then detailing the materials and the process we use to ensure a great outcome. We provide a price quote that is good for six months, and we provide an additional, substantial discount for making their decision on the spot. The benefit to us for an immediate decision is not, as suggested in the article, to discourage getting competing offers - in fact, we are prepared with pricing from a variety of our local competitors, and I will always point out that we are not going to be their least expensive option. The primary benefit for us is that chasing proposals to get decisions after an initial visit is time consuming, inefficient, and fraught with the potential for mistakes and miscommunications. With regard to requiring deposits upfront for sold jobs, the landscape is littered with failed contractors who trusted homeowners who ultimately failed to pay for work performed. Given the size and cost of a typical roof project, it doesn't take more than a couple of instances of misplaced trust to cause serious financial hardship for a contractor. An agreement to move forward on a project is presumed to provide benefit to both parties, and as such, it's reasonable to expect an exchange of consideration.

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