Not all contractors are created equal, and our biggest pet peeve is those companies is they take advantage of an unknowing consumer. In entering into most home improvement projects, the typical homeowner has limited knowledge and experience. Because they don’t do this everyday they “don’t know what they don’t know”. Plus there is a high degree of risk. With most things that you buy, can touch and feel them before you buy them. In most cases you can return them if you don’t like them, even if it’s something as big as a TV. Even if you buy a car and find that it really doesn’t fit your needs, you only have to wait a few years until you get a different one.
However, with a home improvement project you really don’t know what you are getting until the project is complete and then it’s generally too late to do anything about it. If you don’t like the results you can hold back money or take the contractor to court, but unless the contractor does something that is extremely flagrant, this is often a time consuming exercise in frustration.
Many home improvement contractors take advantage of this lack of knowledge and understanding to make a quick “sale”. The uneducated homeowner is easily misled by a contractor with a good story and a low price. They typically don’t understand value and tend to be unhappy with the experience and the results. This is verified by industry surveys that show that more than 50% of homeowners who had work done on their homes, would not use that contractor again or recommend them to someone else. In Pennsylvania, because it does not have a strong contractor certification program, the number of dissatisfied homeowners is closer to 70%.
This lack of knowledge also leads many homeowners to make assumptions about what they are buying and from whom they are buying it. In the window area, many homeowners do realize that they can have three different companies involved with their project; the company from whom they purchased it, the manufacturer of the product and, finally, the subcontractors who install it. Whenever there is a problem the three point fingers at one another, leaving the homeowner with an ongoing problem. In addition to this, there is misleading information being conveyed to homeowners about things such as warranties and insurances. In many cases, people who are doing the work do not have proper liability and Workman’s Compensation insurance needed to protect the homeowner.
The recently passed Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act should help with this, but it doesn’t go very far. While it requires every contractor to be registered, it does little more to protect the homeowner. It does not require any kind of experience or testing to assure the competency of the contractor. It does no kind of background check on an applicant. It does not require enough liability insurance or any proof of Workman’s Compensation insurance. While it is a good first step, a stronger law is needed.
With any home improvement project, a consumer needs to educate themselves so they can minimize the “don’t know what they don’t know” paradigm that prevents them from getting the kind of job they expect at the best value.