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How to Choose a Great Contractor: Are You Getting The Right Job Done?

Posted by Bonnie Bornstein Fertel on Sun, Jan 04, 2015 @ 09:31 AM

Comparing_contractors_to_know_if_youre_getting_the_right_job_by_Bornstein_Sons,_IncDo you trust everyone that provides service to you?

  • Are all contractors the same? 
  • Do they have the same qualifcations? 
  • Are their quotes similar?
  • How about the way they conduct business? 
  • Why the disparity? 

How do you know you're being led down the right road when searching for expertise? Or, in choosing a company to deal with? A realtor, decorator or a host of other providers...

Whether you seek the advice of an accountant, a financial planner, or a contractor to do service repairs or major alterations in your home or place of business, there is no level playing field...

Or, is there?



Let's talk about comparing apples to oranges and how to choose the right contractor (or any other professional) to do the right job!  Are your goals aligned? Does a company or individual come recommended by someone you know (and not necessarilly reviews that may be phony in nature, posted by competitors!)

It's awfully hard to choose when you're under pressure. You've sought the advice of a good accountant because your business profit doesn't add up, or you finally have thrown your hands up in the air when it comes to investing because you just don't get it and yet you know you need professionals when it comes to decisions and so you start searching for answers. 

Where do you look? Great question...And, how do you know you're getting the right advice? For sure, even a better question.

I'm interested in the stock market and so I often watch Jim Cramer of "Mad Money" fame. He's an animated conversationalist, and has quite a following. Some may feel his mannerism is hard to interpret, but truth be told, when you break down to the bottom line he's all about choices, honesty and knowledge. He explains in great detail that there are basics that you must have in place before even thinking about investing and that one of the best ways to find a "good" financial advisor is to ask for a reference from a friend, relative, colleage that has a good solid relationship with someone with whom they are happy. 

Suze Orman is another money expert that I watch religiously. Her take on money is one of honesty and truth. In a skeptical manner, she poses questions with a sharp tongue which shouldn't be taken as offense but rather as a friend-to-friend reality check. When you hear her advice you're not surprised as most of it is common sense.

Insurance Agencies are another valid point of comparison. TV ads are flooded with reasons to buy insurance from their companies. Yet, every insurance agent doesn't offer the same level of customer service and might hang you out to dry when (not if) you have a claim.  It's a matter of trust and trust is a two-way street, isn't it?

So, why is it then that home and business owners have become "gun-shy" or "shell-shocked" when it comes to making simple choices about repairs or services? What has happened to trust? Who came up with the idea of getting multiple prices, recommendations and explanations? So, want to know how to choose a great contractor? Or even a good contractor? Honest contractors?

When it comes to choosing any trades person or company in your home or business you might find that you're confused. You need your kitchen painted and think it's likely a simple task. And, so...you call a friend who recently had some work done in her home to get the name of the painter she used. Was he neat? Did he do a good job? Was she satisfied with the completed job and would she use him again? 

So you contact this painter and get a price. But, just to satisfy your curiosity, you call another painter whose price is 20% less than the painter your friend recommended. Now what?! Ask for references, check out the work. If a reference client lives in your local area perhaps you'll be lucky enough to take a look. Did both painters do the same job? How many coats of paint? Was there prep work involved? Were the walls prepared properly. Are you really comparing the same work? AHA! Maybe not...

These are intelligent questions and likely would be extremely helpful in deciding whether or not this painting contractor would be the right choice and represent the "proper" finished product. 

So then, let's talk about contractors that service, repair and replace the mechanical systems in your home or office. A subject near and dear to my heart <sigh>. An individual or company that has met high standard licensing requirements and demonstrated the appropriate experience to earn the title of a professional. One that carries appropriate insurance and has built a reputation based on excellence and quality. 

Picture this...you have water dripping from a faucet and besides the fact that it's annoying you know that it's wasting water and costing you money. So, you finally sit down and start your search by opening your web browser and "Googling" specific words (in this case "repair faucet") and you hit the 'search' button.

Aghast with all the choices you start reading about drippy faucets and click on link after link only to find that you've now reached a community bulletin board where DIYers (you know who you are!) gather to discuss the merits of self fulfillment, and claim the victory of fixing pesty leaks on their own. Pretty cool you think...Untill you try it and come to realize it's not always that easy. It's not just a dripping faucet. You need a special cartridge thing-a-ma-jiggy and now you need to find one. BUT...you don't know the name of the faucet manufacturer because after all, you just bought the house three months ago and already it's starting to feel like the 'money pit'.

So now, you're frustrated and return to the computer and start searching for local plumbers  And you learn, after clicking on a few company's ads that there's no "how to" on their websites and you need to know what it's going to cost you to have this darn faucet fixed. So, you fill out service request forms, and simultaneously you start making phone calls in a mad dash to get someone to your home. (Ok, I get it, your spouse is already annoyed at you and now it's an emergency). And so you begin getting responses both by email and phone. Your faced with service charges, trip fees, hourly rates, flat rate repair costs, and of course you're told that a technician has to make a diagnosis to determine the problem and the correct repair. And, that would absolutely be true. 

Let's paint another picture: You have no heat, and you need a reputable service company to help you out. And, again, you're faced with making the decision of whom to call, unless you've already established yourself with a local heating contrator  And yes, you're again told that there is an associated cost to getting someone to come out to your home. There's the cost of education, training, certifications, insurance and everything else that goes into the overhead of a reliable contractor that will be able to take care of your problem.

Perhaps you're in need of a new furnace, and now we're talking a bit more than a service charge. And, you're collecting estimates. A fair process. But you're getting many differences of opinions and the price point varies with no easy way for you to compare.

But wait...you're getting different opinions and now you're really getting confused. There are price differences, varied approaches to the actual installation and very possibly different outcomes. (And you thought every contractor did the right job or the same job? And stood behind it, too? Really? Any now you're asking 'why didn't the other guy tell me that?!' or 'how come there's such a big difference?' Apples and Oranges.....right?

Common sense tells you that you wouldn't go to work every day for free. Imagine that?! You have bills to pay, and need the nourishment, comfort, shelter and safety that requires money to support. Well, so does any professional that you might call upon.  And this concept of choosing the cheapest price...well, truth be told, do you really want the lowest bidder?

In the words of a most famous (and one of my favorites) line from the 1998 movie Armageddon:

Rockhound: Hey Harry.
Harry Stamper: What?
Rockhound: You realize we're sitting on 45,000 pounds of fuel, one nuclear warhead and a thing that has 270,000 moving parts built by the lowest bidder? Makes you feel good doesn't it?
Harry: Yeah, Rock.

My point: When you need the services of a professional do you want someone that will come to your home for free and take a chance that he knows what he's talking about? Are you basing your choice on the cheapest price? Because, really, do you then get what you pay for? OR do you want someone that comes with experience, knowledge, reputation, longevity and the comfort of knowing that this company will be there when you need them? 

I thought you'd agree.

The paper for your printer can vary, although it's a commodity, but all paper is not the same. Nor are shoes the same (Christian Louboutin vs Easy Spirit?), carpeting, cereals, televisions and I could go on and on...

Contractors are not the same either

Here are some blog posts or articles I've written that may give you more insight:

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Topics: Choosing a Contractor

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