Murphy Brothers Blog

How to recognize a BAD DEAL before it is bad for you.

As with most people, you probably have a list of “To-Do’s” around the house that you are meaning to get to; replacing the roof, replacing a door or some windows, upgrading the bathroom, painting the siding, etc.

Then, just as you were about to seriously start investigating how to get one of these projects done, a sign goes up in a neighbors yard, or the phone rings and a young lady asks you about the condition of the windows in your home.  What to do?  While telemarketers, door knockers and job signs do not disqualify a home improvement company from being good and trustworthy, neither should it give them much credibility.

Being in the residential construction industry for over 30 years has allowed me many opportunities to see the good, bad and ugly of the industry.  Many times clients and fellow contractors are eager to share their “war stories” in regards to poor design, poor workmanship, poor communication, improper use of materials and other missteps of an unscrupulous or under-qualified contractor. In comparing many stories, I have observed what I would term some common characteristics that might help you identify a risky contractor before the papers are signed.  While this is not a substitution for your gut feeling and common sense, these contractor practices might help you assess your chances of a good construction experience vs. a poor one:

  1. They tend to primarily get jobs by “door knocking” in areas that they land a job as this is the only way that the transient contractors can effectively market.
  2. They tend to have unsophisticated (or non-existent) contracts, websites and general administrative processes and abilities.
  3. They tend to want to focus on signing you now on what they promise is a one time special price (meaning a price that is as high as they can close the job for on the spot).
  4. They tend to not to want to focus or answer direct question about their long time reputation and/or give you access to a long list of successful projects and happy customers (with phone numbers of course).
  5. They rarely have an office outside their home (or truck) and if so, it is usually just a small sales office that can be easily vacated.

Often these types of contractors are disgruntled former salesmen who often just sell a job and hope that their subcontracted installers will take care of all the production and quality control, with little to no oversight by an accountable Production Manager.  Others might be installers that are marginally capable technicians but have the guts to go knock on doors.  You will find most of these new (less than 3 years old) companies to be very competitively priced but have no ability to solve complex problems or even recognize them.  They typically lack in design and selections experience and are often not able to warrant their work.

As with all purchases, you need to do your home work before signing on the dotted line.

  1. Don’t get pressured into a one call sale by someone who approaches you either by door knocking or inbound phone calls to your home or business.
  2. Get a long list of references and call them!
  3. Get a copy of their insurance certificate and call the company to make sure it is in force for the company you are writing checks to.
  4. Check with the state or other licensing agency to make sure that their license is valid and in good standing.
  5. Check with 3rd party sources such as the BBB or trade organizations that they claim to belong to, and check on there history and standing with those organizations.

If you don’t, you only have yourself to blame when things go wrong.