Welcome to “At Home With Tom & Sandy!” Here we are, Tom, on the south side of 2018. July is such a special patriotic month and I feel that not nearly enough Americans are aware that much of what the country considers our most patriotic month is peppered with some great songs that make clear what’s splendid about the U.S. I am going to list some of my favorites – are you ready to sing along, Tom?
Tom: I am ready and I already have my favorite from years ago and it is Los Lobos with Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, “This Land is Your Land.”
Sandy: Okay, Mr. Music Man, here are some of my faves and then, on to our column.
Bruce Springsteen, “Chimes of Freedom,” Phil Ochs, “The Power and Glory,” The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” Leontyne Price, “America the Beautiful,” Johnny Cash, “Ragged Old Flag.”
Tom: Sandy, speaking of July being such a patriotic month and other months having their national recognition days and flowers and birthstones, and assorted holidays…
Sandy: Tom, not to interrupt, I know exactly where you are going with this. Every month should be designated as “How to hire a contractor!” Am I right?
Tom: Spot on, as they say. And you have a terrific idea. Let’s talk about that.
Sandy: Tom, I am sure there are lots of different reasons why people pick a certain contractor over another. I really believe in the three bids and then study the bids and ask questions and then hopefully decide on your contractor. But, I know, Tom, that doesn’t always work. What are you seeing?
Tom: Well the three-bid deal works if the homeowner is ONLY concerned about the cost. We find that people tend to buy emotionally and feel if they choose by low cost they are making a less emotional purchase.
Sandy: That is probably true, but the wrong way to do business. I understand that doing major work to your home becomes an emotional consideration. The selection of a designer or contractor does have an emotional component to it though. Customers need to feel that whomever they hire, they are going to get along with.
Tom: Exactly. We suggest that potential clients interview two or three designers and/or contractors and choose based on how they listen, how they address the client’s needs during the preliminary discussion phase and, of course, the rapport they develop after the first meeting or two.
Sandy: I agree that to choose a professional, it takes more than one meeting. I have understood that two or three meetings are typical. At YCCA, we strongly recommend that people also check out the company they are looking to hire. That includes asking for references, visiting job sites, verifying the license status and even talking with subcontractors.
Tom: That is great advice. We recommend they ask for up to five past clients, going back at least five years, then a couple of intermediate years and recent, by which I mean less than one year. If they can visit a current project, all the better.
Sandy: I get calls all the time from homeowners wanting to know about a contractor and also wanting a recommendation. Our YCCA members are a great gathering of qualified people and companies from all the trades. I am happy to share!
Tom: That is great. It also brings up other vetting groups. How do you feel about such organizations as the BBB, Angie’s List, Houzz, Guild Quality?
Sandy: Tom, I feel that the “net” offers near-instant access to a variety of information that someone could find helpful in the research. Yet, because anybody can post information online, and because most online information does not have to pass any standards of peer review, there is a very real risk that on-line resources can lead you astray. I feel the best way to “vet” is to call the local organization leadership. I see two issues for hiring contractors and one is Craigslist, as the majority are not licensed, and the other is Facebook. There are tremendous postings for construction work and 99.9 percent of the postings are non-licensed entities. BEWARE!
Tom: My concern about some of these groups is there is no vetting process. You pay your fees and you are in. That always seems a little shallow to me. At Renovations, we find that potential clients come from two primary sources, repeat clients and referrals. Word of mouth is huge.
Sandy: I agree, but people should still check out the other resources we mentioned. Are you finding that potential clients do check you out?
Tom: Oh yeah. Most of the time a potential client has not only checked out our credentials, he or she has been to our website and given it a thorough going over. We love it when folks do that. To us, that indicates they are serious about what they want.
Sandy: Websites are HUGE AND HELPFUL. In today’s world if you do not have a website you are missing the boat, as they say. When it comes down to it though, a personal relationship between client and contractor is the real meat of a relationship. As we said earlier, the decision to hire has a huge emotional component.
Tom: Absolutely. During the course of any project, something unexpected happens. A good friend of mine from the Valley who is in the business recommends clients ask themselves, ‘of all the companies you have looked at, who do you want to see walking up the driveway to solve the problem?’
Sandy: Tom, in closing out our July column, I know you will agree that while most contractors are legit and do quality work, the rogue gallery of bogus builders, careless carpenters, pitiful plumbers and the like is a vast one.
Tom: Yes, Sandy, you are right and I hear your stories every week about how folks in our community have been victims of an unlicensed entity. Nightmares have been endured, but all in all, we have many genuine pros in our community. Let’s close with a reminder of some easy tips to follow:
Do your research and interview. Folks who have hired the lowest bidder generally have problems.
Sandy: The proposal should include a detailed description of the work to be performed and the materials to be used. Material and product allowances should give prices and quantities.
Tom: Again, remember to get references from recent and older jobs. Reputable contractors will be happy to provide names and contact information for satisfied customers. Then check the work to see how it’s holding up.
Sandy: This is a big must with me – verify proper licensing and insurance. Make sure the contractor is licensed to do business and that he or she has proper general liability and worker’s compensation insurance.
Tom: Another must is to always obtain a contract. A written contract will specify what will be done to complete the job, associated costs and the payment schedule.
Sandy: As always, thanks to our readers for stopping by and reading “At Home with Tom and Sandy.” You’re in good company and we love sharing our column with you. Tom and I always love hearing from the community. Enjoy July and fly the flag high! QCBN