MERCER – Nice weather will likely draw door-to-door salespeople into town to peddle their services and wares in local neighborhoods.

Common door-to-door sales include meat, utilities, magazines, home security systems and home improvement services. This time of year is especially popular for offers to pave, tar and chip or seal your driveway.

While there are legitimate sales transacted door-to-door, Shenango Valley homeowners should be aware that low price does not equal a good deal, and seldom do consumers get what they pay for when it comes to offers for on-the-spot home repair work.

The Better Business Bureau of Western PA and the Mercer County Builders Association are offering tips for hiring local, reputable home repair and asphalt companies:

Before making any hiring decisions, thoroughly research a company. Call or visit the websites of the BBB and MCBA for more information on local businesses. Check to see if a paving contractor is a member of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Request identification, local solicitation permits, proof of insurance and PA Home Improvement Contractor’s registration number to verify the company you’re working with.

As with any business transaction, be sure to read all agreements and guarantees before signing. Do not be pressured into signing an agreement before you understand all terms and conditions. Make sure all oral promises are put in writing. Never sign a contract with sections left blank.

Here are the red flags of a door-to-door asphalt or paving scam:

• “I’ve got extra materials” – The salesperson will start the unsolicited pitch for home improvements with “I have extra materials” or “I was working down the street” and they often pitch a local landmark to make their story more legitimate. Mentions of the Grove City Outlets and Walmart have been previously used in local scam reports. Because they have “extra materials” they will offer you a “great deal.”

Professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete a project.

• No contract or vague contract – Reputable businesses will draw up a contract with a description of materials, labor, start and completion dates, company name, local address, telephone number and registration number. For jobs valued at more than $5,000, state law requires contracts to include additional details.

• Payment requested up front – Be wary of anyone asking you to pay cash up front before work can start, especially for a company that claims to have the materials needed to perform the stated work. Instead use the rule of thirds when paying: pay one-third up front, one-third halfway and one-third at the completion of the work and when the homeowner is satisfied with the job.

Paying with a credit card offers more protection than debit or cash. Checks should be made out to the company, rather than an individual’s name.

• No identification – Reputable companies will have proper identification, solicitation permits for the area and be able to provide company name, phone number and physical address. Check for identification on company vehicles. Look for out-of-state plates on vehicles, often a sign of a fly-by-night contractor.

Requesting bids from two or three other companies can also help to identify unscrupulous contractors.

Search for a contractor using the MCBA’s member directory or call 724-475-4834. BBB can also help a homeowner identify trustworthy paving companies in the Shenango Valley using the BBB Accredited Business Directory or call 877-267-5222.

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