Home Life If it’s too good to be true, it usually is

If it’s too good to be true, it usually is

A basic law of life “you get what you pay for.” Yet most people can’t resist believing that they’re getting an unbelievably good deal.

I learned this the hard way. When I built my first home in 1984, I opted for the cheaper sprinkler system. I hired a minimum-wage laborer to help with the installation, and I felt pretty smug for about a month over how little I paid and how much I got.

Long story short: The shrubs and the grass died. The sprinkler system didn’t work right. I wound up purchasing and hiring a specialist to install it.

So I saved a couple of bucks on my original system, but I wound up paying twice because I had to replace it the first season I ever used it.

A cheap price inevitably means you’re buying cheap stuff. Cheap stuff doesn’t work as well or last as long as products that might have a higher price tag, sturdier materials, a reputable brand name and a long warranty.

The same is true for remodelers. A contractor who gives you a low-ball price might invariably cut corners, supply cheap materials and save time by skipping steps. He’ll have to if he wants to earn a profit on a job that he’s charging so little for.

You might not know he’s doing that because everything will look OK when he finishes the job. You have no know way of knowing that he used low-quality paint on your walls, or applied too little caulk around your bathroom or skipped the termite spray when he laid the foundation for your room addition.

You won’t find out about it until the paint rubs off when you try to clean it, or the tub leaks water through the ceiling underneath of it, or your house gets infested with termites years later. Then, you’ll pay a hefty price resolve the problems you could have prevented if you hired a high-quality contractor.

This brings to mind a potential client who told me she chose a different remodeler to renovate her kitchen because I charged more than he did. When I ran into her months later, she complained that she had to replace the indoor unit of her air conditioning system the summer after the renovation. She ran the unit every day for a month until she got her first electric bill of the summer and nearly fainted. She called a technician in to diagnose the problem, and he showed her that the inside of the unit was covered with drywall dust that had turned into paste once it mixed with the condensation the unit created as it cooled the house.

Turns out that cut-rate contractor hadn’t covered the unit during the work or bothered to clean it afterward, a chore any quality remodeler would have tended to before finishing the job. The bottom line is: You just don’t know what you don’t know. Just like I wouldn’t know which parts or how many of them a computer technician would need to fix my broken PC, you probably don’t know all of the work and materials that your contractor uses behind walls, under floors and on the roof.

If you hire a trustworthy contractor, there’s no reason you have to know.

Hire a good contractor who charges a fair price, and you won’t have to fret that he’s going to skimp on quality so he can gain a profit out of the paltry estimate he gave you.

So how do you know if you’re hiring a good guy? Simply ask his former clients.

Request the names and contact information of several of the remodeler’s past customers before you agree to hire him. Call those people and ask them:

Did he use quality products or did he substitute cheaper versions that looked nice but didn’t perform well?

  • Did he cut corners and skip steps that they wished he hadn’t?
  • Did the work and the materials he supplied hold up over time?
  • Did he offer a warranty on his work and materials? Has he had to honor it?
  • Did he answer phone calls promptly–or at all–after the job was finished?
  • Did he provide excellent customer service, treat their homes with respect, show up when he said he would and finish the job in a reasonable timeframe?

Most people think all remodelers offer the same quality, products and service, so if they shop around, they can find a good deal and save some money. But no two contractors are alike.

Vet any contractor whom you plan to allow into your home. If his past customers didn’t like him, you probably won’t, either. Don’t hire him.

And don’t hire someone who seems unbelievably cheap. Cheap will cost you way too much in the long run.

On a personal note: I’m excited to announce that JEB Design/Build has broken ground on our new office building and unique showroom. We’re expanding to help us better serve the Ark-La-Tex.


Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, has been president of JEB Design/Build, an Angie’s List Super Service Award Winner, in Shreveport since 1983. You can contact him at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.Jeb.net.

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