When shopping for your home improvement project, there are many questions homeowners should ask to make certain they are getting the best deal…and not being misled! Home improvements are major decisions; not only is the project costly, but if not properly installed, it could ruin the appearance of your home, increase your monthly bills, or cause you to spend more money getting things fixed later. It seems like everyone is in the business, from Lowes and Sears to smaller, local organizations and contractors. How can you possibly sort through all of the options to find the best for your needs? Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking to have your home updated:
The Company or Individual
There are many ways to determine the reputation of the company or person you choose to hire for your project. Sites like Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau, Judy’s Book, and Power Reviews.com can give you a very good idea of what previous customers are saying about the contractor. Although some negative reviews are usually expected, be wary of trends in reviews (misleading salesmen, poor installation work, etc.) as these are signs of chronic problems, and also be mindful that employees or owners of the company will often review themselves in order to boost their ratings – watch for numerous overly-positive reviews as well. For individuals, make sure you ask for a list of references and call each one.
As important as the company’s reputation is what product it sells. Are you interested in the cheapest available, or do you want a premium line? Most companies will sell both, but be mindful of whether these lines of product are of high quality. For example, a single-pane window may be cheaper, but so is the quality, and the insulation provided is nearly nil which will ultimately increase your energy bills. Also, local companies or individuals generally offer lower prices than major manufacturers, but they often sell the same lines of product – although they often strive to make the product sound unique to the company. Be sure to shop around and get a few quotes to compare.
Also, remember to compare apples to apples: if one quote is significantly lower than another, it was probably a product of lesser quality.
OK, now you’ve weeded out the companies with poor reputations and have a list of those you feel you may be able to trust. You make your calls and set up your estimates. The representative comes to your house, gives you your quote, and you’re good to go, right? Not exactly. There are some red flags you should be wary of, including:
- Pushy sales. Not only can pushy salesmen be annoying, they are often trained to combat whatever objections you might have and manipulate you into purchasing. Be especially wary of this if they insist that you purchase on the spot by offering “deals” with a time limit, etc., as these are usually pricier companies that do not want to give you time to get other quotes to compare with theirs.
- Deals or discounts. While many companies or individuals do offer discounts for a limited time or if you are purchasing in bulk, beware of salesmen who offer one price and then significantly lower it when you object. This is a sign that what you are being quoted is deliberately raised too high to make it look as though you are getting a great deal on the project when they give a price that is closer to the actual cost.
- Very low price. If the price seems too good to be true, it usually is. Make sure that what you have been quoted includes ALL of the materials, labor, taxes, and any other miscellaneous costs. Companies will often leave out these costs to make the estimate more appealing, and once you have signed the contract, you are liable for them.
READ THE CONTRACT!
So now you’ve found “the one,” but before you sign anything to solidify your project, read the contract carefully, especially the fine print. Be mindful of anything that goes against what the salesman has promised, as this is sometimes the case, and make sure EVERYTHING that was promised is in the contract. By law you should be provided with a grace period to cancel the contract so make certain this is in the terms. No matter how good the deal might seem, if any element of the contract makes you uncomfortable, it is best to walk away to save yourself from undesired liabilities.