Seniors have to deal with two issues unique to their population when undertaking home improvement or repair. Here’s what they are, and how to deal with them.


(1) Seniors are targeted by scamming “contractors” in larger numbers than any other population.

(2) Today’s seniors are often healthy enough to stay in their homes as they age as long as they make few modifications to allow for greater mobility, ease of day-to-day life and safety. Examples include wider doorways to accommodate wheel chairs and walkers, a caregiver suite, or grab bars near the tub. These projects need to be done correctly to ensure safety and maximum utility (no one wants that grab bar to fall out of the wall when they really need it!)


(1) Scams

First, learn to identify the bad guys. Here are some indications you’re about to be taken:

  • Someone claiming to be a contractor comes to your door offering help you didn’t know you needed (“I can see from here that your roof needs work.”)
  • He says he has material left over from a nearby job and offers to improve your home for “a great price “ to get rid of the excess.
  • He promises “today only pricing.”
  • He tries to pressure you with guilt (“I left my family to meet with you on a Saturday”) or urgency (“That roof is shot and it will be a wet spring.”)
  • He asks you to pay in advance and/or with cash (although a reasonable downpayment as part of a written contract is appropriate.)

Secondly, learn to identify the good guys. At HomeWise, we check these things before adding any contractor to our network:

  • Are they licensed? They are required by law to have a contractor’s license, not just a business license.
  • Do they have the right class of license for your job? For example, in VA, contractors are restricted by their license class (A, B, or C) to particular sizes of jobs and by their license designation (home improvement, plumbing, hvac, etc.) to particular types of jobs.
  • Are they insured?
  • Are they complaint-free with local consumer affairs bureaus, licensing agencies, Better Business Bureau, or online review sources?
  • What do their references have to say about them?
  • How long have they been in business? The newer companies may not have the business acumen to run their company efficiently, no matter how many years’ experience their representative claims to have in the industry. You could find your deposit, intended for materials on your job, diverted to someone else’s project.

(2) Special Modifications

Ask questions of your contractor. Find out how much experience they have with the sort of project you need done. Solicit their advice as to what other modifications they believe would make the aging-in-place process as easy as possible. At HomeWise, we refer contractors with the CAPS (Certified Aging In Place) certification for those jobs that would benefit from it.

Seniors are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. A few well-placed and properly-executed home improvements or modifications can ensure they stay safely and comfortably in their own homes for as long as possible.

Debbie Farson is the owner and operator of HomeWise Referrals, a FREE resource to refer homeowners to licensed, dependable contractors in Virginia, Maryland and DC. Debbie can be reached through HomeWise’s website,, or at 703-360-8222 or