Monday, September 26, 2016

Hiring the right contractor

We have all been there before!  You have a home project that needs to be done and you do not have the know how to do it yourself.  So what do you do?  You hire a contractor to do it for you.  But how do you go about finding the right match when it comes to a contractor?  This is the question that has plagued homeowners for years!  It is always a delicate mix of work quality, reputation, personal experience and lets not forget the big thing we all think about COST!  I know some of you are saying I will pay more for quality work.  Really will you?  You might like to think that you will but if you ask yourself contractor A is there work really worth 10% more then contractor B?  Does contractor C really provide better materials and more warranty then contractor D and if so is it worth 20-30% more?  Odds are you can always find a way to negotiate with a contractor to save a little bit of money but keep in mind YOU ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!   Remember cheaper is NOT always equal or better.   There is typically reasons why some contractors are more expensive then others on the same products.  It doesn't matter if you are talking HVAC, plumbing, windows, siding, roofing, remodels etc.  There are things much more important then price to take into consideration when choosing a contractor for your next home project.

1.  Is the contractor licensed with your state or local government in their respective industry?
Most state and local government require contractors no matter what type of work they do to carry a license for the type of work they are preforming.  Having a friend of someone your know come do the work "on the side" is not always legal and if someone has a full time job and does some other kind of work "on the side" you might want to ask yourself why if they are so good at the side work why don't they do it full time?

2.  Is the contractor insured?   This is a big one if the contractor damages your home and is not insured guess who has to file that claim?  That is right you do on your homeowners insurance and guess what there goes your insurance cost.  Also keep in mind some insurance companies won't cover a claim for damage done by an unlicensed contractor.

3.  What type of warranty am I getting?  If a company is offering you a long term labor warranty that they are supporting themselves be cautious if they won't provide you with a letter of warranty then guess what?  If they go out of business there goes your labor warranty with them.  Most manufacturers provide warranties that are pretty standard for their industry so if a contractor says they can provide you a "free" extended warranty on the parts because they have a "better relationship" with the company run the opposite direction as quick as you can.

4.  Are they running a legitimate business?  I understand every company has to start out small and grow but is the contractor your hiring offering professional estimates and are they free, are they working in lettered and marked vehicles and are the people from the company wearing uniforms that are marked with the company name? Do they do background and drug screenings on their employees?   All of this might sound a bit trivial but it is important.  Lots of employees that get upset with their bosses leave and feel like they can do it better and try and start their own company only to find out there is a lot more to running a company then going and doing the work.  That is why companies whom have been operating in the same market for 20 plus years are probably around to stay.  Also remember bigger companies are not always better companies.  There are a lot of small businesses that make up the landscape of our country and a majority of them are great companies that just don't have an ambition to become large.  They want to keep that family approach and feel.

5.  Are you really getting a deal?  If the deal seems too good to be true then it probably is!  Be cautious of the deal that seems to good.  If a contractor is thousands cheaper then their competitors on the same products then the first questions you should ask yourself is why?  Most products have a market value that contractors are not allowed to go below ( these numbers are set by the manufacturer) so if contractor A is $5000 but contractor B is $3000 on the same product you need to ask why?  There are some legit answers but be cautious the last thing you want is to have set a budget of $3000 for a project and then get nickle and dimed  for "unforeseen issues".  I promise there is nothing a project manager or sales person hates more then to go to a customer and tell them the $3000 project they signed to do is going to cost them more money.  I am not saying there are not legit reasons that a project may need to cost more to the customer there are things that can't be seen until work begins but the sales person should be clear about that up front and let you know that if this happens then it might cost more but that they will cross that bridge if it happens.  Trust me when I say there is nothing fun then to tell a customer they owe you more money on a project.

6.  Will the project be completed before a certain date?  Will the contractor be able to meet your required date of completion?  There are times when a project must run longer then expected but you need to be firm with your required completion date.  If the contractor says "we should be able to get it done by then" or " well that is really not enough time but we will make it work"  run screaming the other way from that contractor.  Nine times out of ten they are going to shortcut something to meet your date and that will cost you more in the long run.  You must be firm with them in the beginning about your required completion date, if they can't hit your date of completion then it is probably not a good fit no matter the price.

7. Not all products are created equal.  If a contractor tells you they have a product "just as good as" a product you inquire about then they are not the right fit for you.  Not all products are created equal no matter what the contractor tells you.  Be diligent and do your research while keeping in mind that some research organizations can be paid to get higher quality marks.  I have found the best review you can get is from people you know whom have used the product or contractor.  Remember research your contractor also.

8.  Have a game plan and know what you want going into it.  This not only makes your life easier it also makes the contractors sales staffs life easier.  Keep an open mind if they tell you that a product won't work for your application or maybe look at a better product if they think they can get it to you inside of your budget.

9.  Have a budget in mind.  First off let me say that we live in 2016 not 1950 so be realistic you are not going to get a top of the line hvac system for $3000 because your parents did when they got a new one 25 years ago.  Times change and the cost of goods goes up so set a budget but make life for yourself and the contractor easier and be realistic about your budget.  Remember you get what you pay for and your home is probably the only thing you will buy that will not loose value over the time you own it so don't always go cheapest.

10.  Explore financing.  I know this is not going to be a popular tip but it is a true point.  With more and more people waiting until they can save the money to do a project more of the manufacturers are offering 0% financing for extended terms (24, 36,48 and yes even 60 months).  If you have the required credit then looking into financing is a great option to hang on to your cash.  Be wary though make sure there are not any early payoff penalties and that you don't have to have the loan for a certain amount of time before paying it off.  Also make sure that you can make extra payments each month.  This sometimes will allow you to get higher grade products if you don't have to come up with the extra cash up front and sometimes the manufacturer will offer discounts on the products if you finance also.

Remember that your home is where you raise your family and is the most important purchase you can make in your life time so treat it right and hire quality contractors that do quality work and provide quality service and that sell quality products.

Murphy Company Heating and Cooling
Serving Louisville Kentucky since 1973