After speaking and working with thousands of homeowners regarding home improvement projects, I’ve noticed a pattern of unhealthy behavior when approaching a home repair or remodeling project. Often times these homeowners have come to our company in search of rescue from a previous contractor or simply want to avoid repeating a bad experience from the past.
All good consumers and business owners want each party to act in good faith during any home improvement project. Unfortunately, however, home improvement is one of the top industries for fraud and consumer dissatisfaction. Why? While much of the blame is the fault of the home improvement industry, there are common mistakes I see homeowners commit that contribute to their own dissatisfaction. Avoiding these 7 mistakes can mean the difference between a delightful home improvement project and disastrous bad dream.
1. Falling In Love With the Salesperson: Since most homeowners aren’t experts in home repair, they rely heavily on the likability and apparent credibility of the salesperson to define the competence of those performing the project. Client dissatisfaction is a certainty when the employees or subcontractors don’t live up to the expectations the homeowner had of the salesperson. When you invite someone to your home for a home repair or remodeling project, make sure this individual is skilled at home improvement projects, not simply a commissioned salesperson whose interest is selling you more than you need.
2. Neglecting Your Family’s Safety: Most homeowners would be appalled to learn of the felony record, drug convictions, sex offenses, domestic violence or financial irresponsibility of the common worker in the construction, trade and home services industry. While prior criminals have every right to work, they have no business in your home-where your family’s safety and your property’s security are at stake. Demand to see a company’s employee screening and background check process to ensure your safety and comfort with those working in your home.
3. Hoping to Receive Excellence Without Paying For It: From toothpaste to gasoline, shopping for the cheapest price might not be a bad idea-for many consumer goods are truly non-differentiable commodities. In this case, quality or performance of the product isn’t typically affected by price. Home improvement, however, can’t be commoditized, since every home is a unique creation, every project is a custom solution, and every client holds a unique set of expectations. Instead of focusing on price, look for the greatest value. For most people I meet, value equates to uncompromising craftsmanship, timely service, backed with a solid guarantee, delivered by a company who cares about them and their home and has the integrity to operate their business with transparency. Be clear on what you value in a company and don’t compromise your standards.
4. Asking the Wrong Questions: How long have you been in business? Where are you located? How many technicians do you have? These questions are all aimed at answering a homeowner’s basic fear: namely, “Are you out to take advantage of me?” Unfortunately, they do not reveal the facts a homeowner needs to make an informed decision. Better questions to ask concern worker’s compensation and liability insurance, hiring practices for their workers (employees vs. subcontractors) and questions concerning the background screening and drug testing of such representatives of the company. In addition, checking third party review sites and state/local agencies for complaints and corporate legitimacy or good standing are critical before any hiring decision is made. Any service company or contractor who doesn’t welcome the “tough questions” is not worth your patronage.
5. Placing Faith in Bogus References: Would any contractor, ethical or not, intentionally provide you with references other than those who he or she thought would provide a glowing recommendation? Consequently, a homeowner will never get an objective reference on a contractor unless they know to ask for a list of trade references-parties that have no vested interest in telling you anything but the truth. Examples include commercial vendors, materials suppliers, banks, accounting and legal associates or third-party reporting agencies like the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List and Service Magic.
6. Ignoring Insurance Coverage: Companies should provide proof of both liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage to protect you from both property damage and injuries sustained by workers on the project. Homeowner’s policies generally do not cover such claims and you, as the homeowner, may be held liable if the company you hire doesn’t have such coverage. Legitimate companies are proud to show proof of coverage because it is extremely costly to them. Avoid any contractor who doesn’t carry such coverage.
7. Allocating an Insufficient Budget: Savvy consumers never initiate a discussion about a home repair project with a price inquiry. Rather, they’ve researched what a project should roughly cost and remain focused on finding the company who will deliver that project within their expectations and budget. Instead of shopping for home improvement services by price, first spend some time finding a contractor who you can trust.
Then, share your budget with that trusted adviser so they can help you devise a plan to achieve your project goals within your financial constraints. In the end, if a project is done poorly or the experience in completing it was miserable, any cost savings by shopping for the cheapest price proves irrelevant.
Don Kennedy is President of ProMaster Home Repair and Handyman of Cincinnati, a locally-owned and operated Service Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. ProMaster’s mission is to be a professional, hospitality-level service company leading the restoration of integrity, service and excellence in the home and commercial repair industry. Unique to the home repair industry, they arrive at your home or business at a specific time convenient for you, not a range of time convenient for them.