What are the Biggest Mistakes Homeowners Make When Dealing
with Contractors and How Can They be Avoided?
Most homeowners have very little experience in home improvements and dealing with home improvement contractors. As a result, they do not know what they do not know. It is important for them to do their research. Doing diligent research takes time and effort, but it also took time and effort to earn the money that you are looking to invest in your project.
You work hard for your money, be sure you understand what you need and what you are getting for what you expect to pay.
In general, more people get ripped off doing a home improvement project because they spent too little rather than spent too much. Contractors know that most homeowners can’t tell the difference between a good product and job, and a bad one. As a result, they zero in on the one thing a homeowner does know and that’s the price.
By providing lesser quality products, installation and service, they can offer the homeowner a low ball price. In taking such an offer, the homeowner is not going to get what they need or expect, and many times ends up spending more money later to get the job done right or completely redone.
Some of the mistakes an uneducated homeowner can make are:
- Are you trying to decide on a contractor without having all decision makers involved in the process? While many homeowners try to do this so they can filter their list on contractors, it is important that all of the people who will be using the product be involved with the discussions. This is important so everyone gets what they expect out of the project. While many people look at “decision makers” as people who need to approve a buying decision, the right contractors want everyone involved in using the products, so that everyone understands and agrees upon the details of the job.
- Are you listening to the wrong people? Many people take advice on their construction and remodeling project from people who are totally unqualified to give this critical advice. These people may have had some casual involvement in a similar project, but they are not really capable of evaluating the particulars of your needs and your home. Everyone's got an opinion on what you should do with your remodeling dollars. "Do it yourself" or "Hire the sub-contractors and run the project yourself", etc. Just because someone is your relative, friend, or thinks they know construction, doesn't mean they know the answers to your remodeling questions or problems. If you're thinking about improving your home, call a reputable, qualified professional to answer your questions.
- Are you calling at least three of the references you're given? So many people start out on the right track by asking for references but then never call them. You can never learn too much about the contractor you are considering using. Take a few minutes to talk to these people. Most will be pleased to accept your calls. It will be worth it! Ask if the job was done on time and at the agreed upon price. Ask if the contractor was easy to reach and easy to deal with.
- Are you visiting the references to look at the contractor’s work? You can learn a lot by seeing the finished product. If the contractor is good, many previous clients are extremely proud of their "new" home and will be glad to let you look. Don’t forget to ask them how the contractor conducted themselves while they were working on their home.
- Are you afraid to ask the contractor questions? There is a lot of information you need to have and understand. Don’t worry about appearing stupid. It is your hard earned money you’re going to be investing. You don’t invest in new windows and doors everyday. In most cases, consumers don’t know what they don’t know. Take all the time you need to get you questions answered to your satisfaction, and ask for them to be confirmed in writing. Any reputable company will have no problem putting the details in writing that they tell you verbally. After the job is done is too late to deal with issues “I thought it was going to look like …” or “I thought I was getting …”.
- Are you giving into high pressure sales tactics? Unfortunately, the home improvement industry has a reputation having salespersons who exert high pressure on uneducated homeowners. In many cases the salesperson does not really work for the company they represent. They are really independent contractors. In some companies, salespersons are expected to "close the sale" at all costs the day of the initial appointment, which only breeds high-pressure and lengthy sales cycles. They will also attempt to make the homeowner feel guilty and uneasy about making a decision/purchase that day. To do this, they start with an outrageous price and before you know it they have knocked 40-50% off the original price (without changing the product or the scope of work) in an attempt to get you to buy right then. Otherwise, if you don't, you will lose out on their great "deal". Never believe a salesman, do your own research and check references and ask them to back up the things they tell you in writing.
- Are you listening to what the salesperson says about the competition? It's common for high pressure salespersons to spend more time talking down the competition rather than actually discussing their own products and company. They also use a variety of scare tactics to knock the competition. It is worth your time to check this out for yourself.
- Are you working with a start-up company or a one or two man operation? Beware of start up contractors. These people often represent disgruntled employees who had worked for other companies as sales people or subcontractors and decided to do it on their own. Since it is quite easy for anyone to enter the field, there tends to be a lot of people who don't have much experience or who don't know how much to charge. Eighty to ninety percent of home improvement businesses don't last five years. Often times these companies will do a sloppy job (if they even do the job at all). They lack professional installers, their credit is not established, and they don't even know how to do proper paperwork. If a contractor does not have any long-term liabilities, he has nothing to loose by ripping you off.