I meet a lot of people. A lot. Every day I meet with homeowners at four or five different houses throughout the Puget Sound region. I see their homes, I hear about their issues. Everyone has a story. I find it really interesting how similar we all are. It doesn’t really matter whether your house is big or small, short or tall, really plain or super fancy. It doesn’t matter if your name is Fred or maybe Nancy. (I wanted that to rhyme but it was kind of a stretch) The point I’m trying to make is that we are all human beings and much much more alike than different. I hear a story that many people share and it makes me very sad. It’s a story of being taken advantage of. I hear it from young families, Grandmas living alone, middle aged professionals, couples getting ready to retire and it goes like this…. “I trusted a contractor and I got taken advantage of.” It happens way too often and I’m not sure how often people are brave enough to share their story. It can be embarrassing to admit that you trusted someone with your money and they ripped you off. It can be devastating when it costs you your home. This stuff happens all of the time! When I come to your house I check out the dark places in your home that you rarely go and that some people have never seen. I’m not sure why this is the case but people tend to start talking to me while I’m looking around and inevitably that leads to them telling me about their story. “We hired a guy to build our addition and he ripped us off.” “I paid for a new roof and then found out the guy charged me double the going price.” “The last contractor told me that if I don’t fix this crawlspace right now I’m sacrificing my health.” People are vulnerable and predators are out there. The last quote was from a Grandma who had been married for over fifty years before losing her beloved husband the year before. She had never had to pay a bill or worry about making decisions about her house because he had always done that. She was living on a fixed income but wanted to make sure she took care of maintenance items around her house with the same care and attention that her husband had. She was a little bit overwhelmed and a little bit desperate by the time I arrived to inspect her crawlspace. I was the second contractor that she had called to look at things for her and the first one had left her with a very expensive proposal and some fear that basically if she didn’t do all of the things he had proposed, her house would fall down and she would die of poor health. That’s a bit of an exaggeration but that’s really how she took it. We sat and talked for a little bit and I could see tears welling up in her eyes. I assured her that if it was really that bad we could find a way to fix it and take it one thing at a time. I grabbed my bag of gear and headed down to take a look. I was preparing myself for a nightmare scenario. (I see terrible situations every day, so I had a good idea of what to expect.) I opened the entrance to her crawlspace and hopped down. I froze. Something was wrong, really wrong. Her crawlspace was pristine. Perfect in fact! She lived in an older home but she had clearly had work done within the last couple of years and there was absolutely nothing wrong with her crawlspace. I kept looking and looking but couldn’t find anything major wrong. There were a couple of minor pest related issues that I saw but seriously, we’re talking a couple of droppings and screen with a hole in it. Easy and inexpensive to fix. I came back up and wondered to myself if maybe she was confused. Possibly she’d already had the work done and didn’t remember? I mentioned to her that everything looked like it was brand new and that she didn’t need much done. She offered to have me look at the other persons proposal and to my total shock it was dated the day before. There was no mistake, she was being misled by someone who assumed they could make an easy sale and she would never be wiser for it. I asked her if she remembered having work done before and she told me that her husband had coordinated some repairs when he knew that his health was failing. It had probably been done a year or two before. I assured her that everything was fine and that there was very little she needed to do. This woman hugged me and cried and insisted on sending me off with a coke and a candy bar. She admitted to me that something had felt “off” about the other contractor, but that she didn’t trust her instincts. I’m glad she had the courage to call for a second opinion. This story is in no way intended to make me look like some kind of a hero but really just a reminder that getting a couple of bids on large projects is always a good idea. Make sure the company you choose is licensed and bonded and has some good reviews. If you’re really not sure ask for some references from past customers. Most importantly, trust your instincts….. Always trust your instincts.