Con men disguised as contractors have long targeted aging Americans for their home improvement scams, but new trends in home remodeling put elderly U.S. citizens at even more risk than ever before. U.S. homeowners are expected to spend more than $151 billion on remodeling projects this year, and scammers are eager to siphon off some of that money.
Homeowners put off remodeling and renovation projects during the recession; however, home remodeling spending is now steadily growing. Plus, spending per project on top home renovations has finally started to increase as well. About 60% of homeowners said they planned to spend more on remodeling in 2015 than in previous years.
In addition, as the baby boomer generation ages, “universal design” has become the new in-demand trend in home improvement spending. Universal design is the term for designing or remodeling homes for accessibility, such as open floor plans, wider doorways, roll-in showers, and greater wheelchair access.
At the once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging held July 13, universal design was touted as a major priority for older Americans. In fact, it was one of the most publicized elements of the entire conference, with universal design expert Barbara Beskind, 91, asking Americans to design homes “with” baby boomers, not “for” baby boomers.
That means older Americans are spending more than ever on custom homes and remodeling projects, making them more vulnerable to scammers than ever before. Home improvement scams are so widespread that television channel Spike even hosts a reality show called “Catch a Contractor,” starring comedian Adam Carolla.
On the show, Carolla’s team tracks down contractors who have stolen money, performed shoddy work, or left projects uncompleted. Then, they ambush the perpetrators, exposing their alleged crimes and threatening them with legal action.
In one of the show’s recent episodes, the production crew tracked down a pair of so-called contractors who stole more than $75,000 from a family in California. The name of the contractor’s phony company? Universal Design Solutions.