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Spotting Red Flags: These Tips Can Help Keep You from Choosing the Wrong Renovator


There’s a boom going on in the home renovation industry. People now working from home and supervising children doing online schooling have never been more anxious to make the most of their home’s square footage. That means that everyone from designers to painters to contractors and renovators are swamped, taking on more and more projects for clients who want a new office, or a new ensuite, or a new whatever. And understandably, they want it done yesterday.

This is all good for the industry and the home owners, and of course Alberta’s economy in general. But it also means that some homeowners are rushing into hiring renovators without insisting on certain criteria. That can lead to poor decisions, and regrets. Here are some red flags that signal the renovators you should steer clear of. There aren’t many, thank goodness, but even one unscrupulous renovator makes the industry look bad, and leaves clients tearing their hair out with jobs done only half way, or poorly, or not at all.

1) They ask for large sums before they work. Any professional will not ask a client to put money into their pocket before a contract is signed. Once the client and the renovator agree on a time frame and budget, a contract is drawn up and signed by both parties and a deposit can be made. Never should you give money to a renovator who claims that’s how the business works – it isn’t!

2) If the quote is too low to be true, trust your instincts. An experienced, ethical renovator will not offer a ridiculously low quote just to win the bid. Professionals know that under-bidding backfires, because homeowners are furious when the final tab comes in thousands over the original quote, and may fight the amount owed through legal channels. A trustworthy renovator tells the truth, including that raw materials have skyrocketed in cost since the pandemic began. Furthermore, they’ll tell you that the quote is not carved in stone, because until the project is underway, no one can be certain of all the obstacles that may present themselves. And obstacles affect costs.

3) No website or customer reviews? No way! In the “old days” companies had brick and mortar offices and binders with photos of the jobs they’d completed. Now, most reputable companies have professionally designed websites with customer reviews and links to pictures of projects, homes and other jobs they’ve done. As a prospective customer, you are entitled to ask for references, and check the renovator’s background and resume thoroughly, until you feel comfortable about your choice.

4) They don’t have a license, and can’t prove they are insured. All renovators are licensed and have insurance that protects them (and you), so if the person you’re interviewing hedges on either of these, move on. And if they seem unwilling to file for a building permit, or claim you don’t need one, ask municipal officials if that’s accurate. Some minor renovations (if they are indoors and don’t affect your home’s structure) don’t need permits, but many do. Any reputable renovator will know immediately if your proposal requires one, and will be honest about how it might impact the building schedule, and costs. A disreputable renovator may gloss over this, rather than giving you a “warts and all” quote that reflects their honest, professional opinion of the project.

Thankfully, the majority of professional renovators in Alberta are reputable individuals who’ve spent years building that reputation and gaining experience. But it only takes one untrustworthy person to sour a customer on the whole trade. Don’t let that be you: ask several renovators for their proposals, pay close attention to their ideas, and check their references. When your new home office is finally finished and you’re boasting about it on Facebook, you’ll be very glad you did!

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