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How to Avoid the Storm Chasing Home Improvement Contractor

One of the most important things to consider when tackling a home improvement project is which contractor to hire to do the work.  Make the wrong decision and you’ll have to face the consequences.  Over the years, we have helped dozens of homeowners that called Windows on Washington for help after dealing with an unsatisfactory contractor.  We have heard stories on everything from terrible work quality to blowing the budget with overages once the work began.

iStock inspector w  customerUse these 5 tips on how NOT to choose a contractor so you can feel confident that you made the right choice the first time.

1.  Do NOT choose a contractor that uses high pressure sales tactics.

Watch out for and automatically reject high pressure salespeople that pressure you into signing a contract before you are ready.  Many contractors only pay commissions to sales representatives if they make the sale on the first day.  Salespeople have lots of tricks to pressure you into signing a contract by playing pricing games with grossly inflated prices, “model home” promotions, sign now rebates, manager specials, or too good to be true on-the-spot discounts.  If you do get pushed into signing a contract, remember that consumer protection laws enable you to cancel during the Right of Revision timeline (generally 3 days).  

2.  Do NOT choose a contractor on price alone.

While price always matters, don't let the total price be the only consideration when choosing a contractor.  As with most things in life, price is usually an indication of quality and “you get what you pay for.”  When one contractor is significantly lower in price, it’s typically because they missed something when estimating the job. When this become apparent after they start the job, one of three things will generally happen:

  1. They will come back and ask for more money midway through the job;

  2. They will abandon the job; or

  3. They will cut quality and rush the job in a desperate attempt to cut their losses;

Any of these scenarios can spell disaster.  Rather than shopping for the lowest price, spend the time to find a competent contractor that is qualified, reliable and has excellent references.  Chances are they are successful because they do quality work at a fair price and represent the best value.

3.  Do NOT choose a contractor that is NOT licensed, bonded and insured.

While licensing isn't necessarily a measure of competence, it does imply a certain level of professionalism and suggests that the contractor is knowledgeable and committed to their profession. Moreover, bonds and insurance are expensive and are therefore affordable only to stable contractors vetted by the insurance company.  More significantly, licensing, bonding and insuring can protect homeowners from a number of potential problems, such as:  unlicensed usually means uninsured which can leave a homeowner liable for damages, no coverage under your homeowner's policy for mishaps, noncompliance with building codes, poor work quality, con artists, and limited recourse for broken contracts.

4.  Do NOT choose a contractor that unstable or not rooted in your community.

Contractors can come and contractors can go - many times for business, personal or “storm chasing” reasons.  If you want to make sure your contractor will be available to start and finish a quality job and still be around to service any warranty issues that come up in the future, you must make sure they are stable and permanent in your area.  Does the contractor have a physical business office and address (great!), only have a home office or answering service (fair), or have no office and is only available by cell phone (reject!)?  Make sure the business is financially sound and established with a good reputation in your area.

5.  Do NOT choose a contractor that doesn’t put an itemized estimate in writing.

When contractors do not put their itemized pricing in writing, your mind should be screaming “danger!”  Some contractors will offer an unrealistically low price verbally to get the job and then pressure you into paying a lot more after starting.  Other companies will lump sum or bundle their costs even in a written estimate, but this may also lead to expensive overages after the start of the installation.  Insist that your contractor take the extra time to detail every charge in writing, so you know exactly what you are paying for.  Run from contractors that won’t give you an itemized, transparent estimate.

Windows on Washington is a locally owned class A contractor with an A+ BBB rating and back to back Angie’s List Super Service Awards doe 2010, 2011 and 2012.  We are licensed, bonded and insured.  Our consultants never use high pressure sales tactics to push you to sign a contract before you are ready and always leave you with an itemized, written estimate that is valid for 30 days.   

Call us today to see for yourself why we created a better way to do home improvements!!!

Topics: Roofing, Air Sealing and Insulation, Doors, Siding, Windows