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Yeah. Buyer beware. The past and present by word of the bewildered consumer shoppers in the modern marketplace look for the Best Buy the safest product and find a perplexing jumble of goods. The consumer's choice is the story behind this program series buyer beware. A roof over my head a basic requirement for all consumers and one that opens the door to constant problems and expenses. Some choose to buy a home some rent an apartment and others rent a house. The homeowner finds his choice a source of delight and worry. It's not as simple as a roof over his head. There are windows doors
gutters screens furnace is stairs and walls to install and maintain. Each homeowner must decide on the expenses of purchasing these parts of his dwelling and commit himself to the costs of maintaining these items. Businesses compete for his attention in legal and illegal ways. First let's consider those swindlers who go beyond the law to get the homeowners dollar. Excuse me ma'am. I'm from pest control agency and we're contacting the people in this neighborhood about termite control. This is the season for especially severe termite problems. So we'd like to check your antique shop here for termite. The inspection is completely free. I hadn't even thought. And with all this wood furniture I could stand to lose a lot. We could make this re-inspection now. We will get going on it right now if you like. Just let me get my equipment and take a look.
Ma'am it's a good thing I came by here just now. Just look what I found in your attic. These worms were hard at work in one corner and down by the base of your house I found this termite chewed board I suggested we come back tomorrow and begin to clean up your problem. Here's a statement of our services and costs. If you're interested. Well I guess not. I can afford a little termites get any further. I don't have it screwed up right away yet. Do come back tomorrow and. Oh yes I'll sign yes. This antique shop owner had just signed a contract for three thousand one hundred fourteen dollars and twenty four cents. After two days of apparent work at her shop the salesman asked for her check and showed her the contract for that amount. She paid but had second thoughts in only a few days. When she summoned inspectors from the Bureau of consumer frauds of the
attorney general's office. She learned the truth. Inspectors examined her entire store and found a not one trace of thermite. Instead they found a crawl space filled with cobwebs which had not been disturbed to be on the entrance for years in another crawl space they found a well-read magazine which had probably been the object of the termite exterminators attention for two days. The smell of some chemical had persuaded the lady of an effective termite control but the inspectors explained that a fog of hog dipped kerosene in water couldn't kill anything because this woman had checked with authorities so quickly she was able to stop payment on her check in time but her luck did not hold for many other victims of fraud. George M. Schaefer assistant attorney general and chief of consumer protection knows that this is only the beginning. In a list of deceptions.
Now as to specifics you can start at the bottom of the basement floor and go to the top of the lighting rods and cover practically any part of the home. Waterproofing of basements. At one time was an extremely bad field for us. One other. We will go from one end of the house to the other. Another is a lightning rod salesman particularly in the rural areas. One of the worst pest control people the actual con man who intends to perpetrate a fraud upon a resident but a homeowner. In and during his free inspection of the home and of the basement will invariably find the Anzacs because he has brought them and his pocket. Well now you can see that anybody who wasn't sophisticated or aware that this would be a possibility would be panic struck and therefore would be very fertile for the suggestion of a large contract for pest
control. You can see that this technique that also lends itself to trees shrubbery and yards because they always find the worms and they always find the insects on the trees because they have them in the matchbox in their pocket. They also in other pest control they will use the gimmick and have the shavings already in their pockets too. So these are our particular areas that people should be made aware of during the winter of course. We have furnace inspectors we have people who at least proclaim themselves to be fighters inspectors. Ordinarily what they will do they will knock on the door and tell you that you need a free inspection Javier for us. That is if they are posing as a repairman. Of course there will always be something wrong with it for us. The other approach is is to fly some sort of a badge or some sort of a false credential and say that they are a furnace inspector from the state or from the county or whatever the governmental unit might be that they
proclaim to be from. They will inspect you for us and tell you yes that the furnace is in bad shape and it's in violation of such and such a code. Well you can believe that within a very few minutes after the after the inspectors laughter there will be a repairman knocking on your door asking if you would not like to have a free inspection of your heating devise. And of course this will lend itself not only to heating devices but also to air conditioning units. So it is a it is a good field for the for the fraudulent business. Some consumers may wonder how such salesmen persuade homeowners to allow them to work on their property. Moreover they're not aware of the extensive problems incurred by such a decision. Mr. Sheaffer describes the experiences which he has encountered. Ordinarily they won't damage they will convince you and either way that it is necessary. Ordinarily I understand most of
these people will let the woman make every effort to appeal to a lot of residents who may be because of their infirm years more gullible and more suggestible and were easily persuaded. And I have a particular one woman in mind who that type of salesman hadn't persuaded her to. With no more than persuasive salesmanship. To have a furnace repaired it was in the middle of winter and I told her that the furnace would blow sky high and burn down our house. She was 83 years old and rather and Farman frightened beyond belief and she agreed to it. She had no money but. They talked her into it anyway and instead of repairing a furnace they merely painted charges thirty two hundred forty dollars for a boat she didn't have the cash so they took a note. But they came back 30 days later persuaded her their kitchen was about to follow them and talked her into repairing the foundation to her kitchen when they merely painted the foundation of the catch and
I added another three or four thousand dollars on the bell. Got her to sign a note. Her husband I DO been committed to the state hospital. She couldn't pay the notes off so they persuaded her to sign I execute a deed on my behalf and they even took her one cold winter afternoon to the state hospital where her husband had been committed in an effort to obtain his signature on the day. That's an example of how far people will go to get your money. Certain sales techniques have been by ticket today successful in these frauds. Mr Schaffer cautions homeowners about promises which may never come true. I think the thing that a consumer should watch for first is the unsolicited door to door salesman. The person that you have been asked to come to your house. Secondly it is the free inspection the free investigation. So two things. Be aware of the person who comes to your door unsolicited with the
salesmanship technique that tells you that I will inspect your home in various areas and give it a free inspection to determine whether or not you need repairs. Such problems are not local but national in scope. The so-called Williamson's have long standing acquaintances with the Better Business Bureau's policeman and consumer agencies across the country. This I-10 ar'n't band of men and women across America bilking homeowners. New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs describes them as the slickest and most successful clan of bunco flimflam confidence artists in the United States. Such advances may be made door to door or by mail. Charles a Miller assistant chief inspector of criminal investigations
for the Post Office Department describes some proposals made by mail recently. So we have about 13 rather large. That alleged home improvement projects is where a person wants to. There's an ad put in the paper generally or the solicitation might be just made by postal card or it may be made by telephone the promoter may have a higher or half a dozen young ladies in a battery of telephones to begin calling people and saying that we have a deal here we put on a carport on your house if your rec room in the basement and so forth. Storm windows and science sounds very good of course they make the price very attractive and then I salesman pause at the house and fast talking follow gets at my all time payment contract signed through the persuasive sales pitch and gets a downpayment.
The repairs were never made or if made very flimsy it's a very flimsy sort of operation. These promoters generally take that from me and I'd say from the victim's house right to a to a bank or to a finance company and they sell that contract this is maybe a time payment contract for fifteen hundred dollars to be paid monthly over a period of three or four years. The promoter wants to get his money quick and get out here so he turns the time payment contract over to a finance company and the total payments might amount to fifteen hundred dollars. The promoter may only get a thousand you see from the fine because the finance company is going to need in order to and he's going to have to get a profit too. But this promoter doesn't intend to do the work anyway so i thousand dollars is pure gravy. And then he's hard to find later when the job is and the paint job is bad or
the storm windows fall off or something. OK the victim thinks well he goes to the finance guy this thing isn't didn't work out the way it was with but up to me the finance company says I'm not responsible. I did not make the representations. Finance Company disowns responsibility for these false representations and it stands up in court protection against such schemes is available to consumers from governmental and private agencies consumer oriented bureaus may serve as clearing houses for complaints. For example the Better Business Bureau's of the United States will have records of unreliable firms even the telephone directory may be of assistance. A local firm will be listed and must pay for telephone service for a year. Fly by night firms will not be listed even if they have temporarily acquired a telephone. On the average of every eight years the homeowner starts on the track of buying a new
house. This search can be painful and disappointing or fairly swift in pleasing the consumer must be ready to analyze every step in this process of house hunting to minimize problems and find the best buy. This consumer decision is just like the search for a good inexpensive umbrella. But the consequences are major the temporary protection of an umbrella can be replaced with little effort and cost. A home is usually the largest I don't purchased by the consumer. Infrequent practice at such an expensive and complex purchase puts the consumer out of touch. He becomes unsure of the important characteristics to check and wonders about unseen problems. Rueter Jones director of the small homes Council at the University of Illinois in Champaign outlines the basic mental outlook important to the house hunter and one of the things I think that the buyer of a
house has to consider is what his real purpose is in buying this is he buying it has to have a place to live. Are Is he concerned also about the investment possibilities. This will change to some degree his attitude toward any particular house. And if his primary concern is buying for a place to live of course he has to consider the way he lives. I think very often people go into the business of buying a house or building a house without really considering their method of living in a house there. The way they actually use the house as a shall we say machine for a living and different families have different attitudes to some. For example it may be most important that this house be extremely convenient and their prime consideration will be the convenient arrangement of the house. Others may think of this primarily as a
focusing point for their family activities. And it's a. A symbol of. A central A-T of the family that they're concerned with. Still others may be very concerned about the privacy of the individual members of the family in accommodating their particular activities. This of course may mean an entirely different kind of house. Economy may be a major factor. It may be an overriding factor in this case many of these other ideas that they have made have to give way to the fact that they have a limited means for providing a house. Some families are very conscious of safety. All are conscious to some degree but some are much more conscious than others and so they're concerned that the House have has a maximum of features that will contribute to safety. The others are quite concerned with aesthetics and they are concerned that this house is aesthetically satisfying to them and
they may be willing to give up some convenience and some. Individual privacy and so forth in order to achieve their goal of having an aesthetic surrounding. All of these different factors enter into their selection and. They really need to sit down and. Actually put down on paper I think the exercise was good to put down on paper what they need. Often times people come and say well we need more room in our house we want to expand our house. But when you talk to them you find that well yes they need more room but they dont know exactly why they needed or what they need it for. So the same thing applies when buying a house. Determine what your needs are and then select your house accordingly. The details are of major importance in a home and there are thousands of them still. Some deserve special attention and may be crucial
to judging the quality of a house. Mr Jones calls on his experience with a small homes and their construction to advise the prospective homeowner. Well I think even before you look at the construction and design and so forth you want to look at location. I have been a number of studies made that over a period of years that show that location is one of the prime requirements for most families that are concerned about several aspects. First they say well we want to be in a good neighborhood and that of course is quite understandable. In many areas the access to schools is important of course with bussing taking place more and more frequently the need to be near a good school is not as essential as it used to be. Nevertheless thats part of a good neighborhood. Then one has to be concerned with accessibility to shopping
and to other kinds of services and activities. Now in some instances this may mean that you will need access to a good transportation system and this is not always easy and many of our communities now. So that the choice of a certain location may end up. Being a problem because it has no public transportation. Then of course when you look at the house why you want to look at it from the planned point of view that convenience is in the house. As a circulation they paths from the doors to the various rooms and so forth are adequate. Can you get traffic and grocery shopping and so forth in and out the house without causing problems and going through. Living rooms or other rooms that you're keeping at their best condition for visitors. These are all part of the circulation problem. I think you
want to look at the Comfort problem and see if this house is going to be a comfortable house. Has it been properly insulated. Are there adequate storm windows. Is there a good heating system. Is there a good cooling system. Any of these things you'll have to check. You want to look at the structure particularly to be sure that you have no evidence of any need to care termites in a wood frame house that the there's no evidence of excessive deflection or the house being out of shape something of that nature. You will be interested in seeing it there's an adequate electrical supply to the house. We have increased our standards on electrical supply houses year after year and still I would say it's better than a 50 percent chance that the house that you will go into will not have as much electrical
power supply as as you would like unless it's a new house. This is particularly the case where we've added so many electrical appliances such as cooling electrical cooling and all of the other new kinds of appliances that are available. Well these are just a few of the key points. It takes a long list of things that you should check to be sure this is proper when you select a house. Some may still be dubious of their ability to choose wisely and worry about a home that will collapse in the first strong wind. Almost all houses do meet certain minimum standards set by national and local bodies. Many buildings are financed through the Federal Housing Administration part of the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the federal government. Others are financed by the Veterans Administration guidelines. Both of these administrations have complex and clearly stated minimum standards for doors windows room sizes
insulation and other aspects of residential buildings. Control over home construction is also exercised on a local level with city codes. These may differ in detail but all meet certain basic purposes. Mr. Jones explains why cities develop codes for homes building codes and zoning regulations as well are an extension of the police power of the state. And the primary purpose of a building code is to protect the health safety and morals and welfare of the public. So it's in this regard that the building codes are written and designed. Now they offer good basic minimum protection. Structurally when the house was built if it was built according to code it should be sound. The electric wiring should be satisfactory if it was built according to code. The plumbing should be satisfactory of course codes change from time to time
and the electrical is one example. Many years ago we used to consider 50 amp service quite adequate for a house but now our codes would probably not permit that in most houses yet if you get an older house you may have something that was up to date with the code at that time but would not be up to current standards. The codes do protect you as a consumer in a general way but these are minimal values because that's all they can be. Now other bodies particularly financing institutions have codes or standards or something that they operate by. And very often these will be much more rigorous than the local building code. And in being more rigorous way you will probably get a better quality House for this purpose.
One fact that leads to this is the fact that the financing institutions are interested in possible resale of this house. If you as a purchaser fail to meet your payments then they own the house and they want a house that is of sufficient quality that it will be easily resold. So this means that there are standards in general are higher than minimum standards that might be set by a local building code. Critics claim that national and local codes are often enforced on a random basis and do not ensure quality construction. Some even question the standards which may prevent a builder from adopting some new plan in construction. Because it may be required in a room which does not function only need one a tree must be placed in a spot that seems unappealing to the homeowner.
All these complaints have merit but standards still do serve a purpose. Large contractors will tend to buy only those materials which meet minimum specifications so that they do not have to face rejection by a code inspector. Whether local or federal. Therefore it is likely that most homes will meet the requirements set by experts in the housing field. Another major question in the house hunters mind is money. Few people have ready cash to pay for the house they most borrow money from recognized institutions savings and loan associations banks life insurance companies. They often borrow these funds under arrangements made by the FHA or the V.A. these two federal agencies do not provide the actual money for purchase of the home but ensure that legal agreements are fairly made and that homes are of satisfactory construction. Still the homeowner must
shop around for the best arrangement for borrowing money and this task is the topic of another program in this series about consumer affairs. Whether our house for an apartment building is being prepared for occupation. Consumers must decide which is best for them. Highly transience residents who do not want to pay the legal costs and necessary maintenance required of the homeowner may choose to rent long time residents of a community who have large families and hobbies which demand a specialized space such as greenhouses or dark rooms will decide to buy others in mid-stream. Well Wonder which decision to make. They must consider the function of the roof over their heads and must compute the cost. They may find that rent is cheaper because it includes all costs of home ownership and is a predictable amount each month. They may also
discover that money paid into a mortgage may never return to their pockets but simply be reinvested in another house. In this sense some claim that mortgage payments are just another form of rent. Consumers may also decide that other factors enter into this decision. Convenience pride of ownership and individuality but they must examine this decision as another purchase. In today's marketplace for the consumer. Buyer beware. Still love by word of the consumer shoppers search for information and protection to buy the best for the least. Our next program will follow these consumers in their travels. Americans on the move must also know the warning the buyer beware.
This is the national educational radio network.
Buyer beware
Episode Number
A Roof Over My Head
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Chicago: “Buyer beware; 4; A Roof Over My Head,” 1971-00-00, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 23, 2024,
MLA: “Buyer beware; 4; A Roof Over My Head.” 1971-00-00. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 23, 2024. <>.
APA: Buyer beware; 4; A Roof Over My Head. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from