My neighbor now has new posts in his yard but is waiting on his fence contractor to come back and finish. Yesterday, I had a knock on my door. Standing in my door way was Bob, my neighbor. “I hate to ask but do you know how to reach my fence contractor?” Bob said with a little despair. Bob knows we sell his fence contractor materials. His fence contractor has not been returning his phone calls so now Bob is worried he may not return.
After a series of severe storms, every fence contractor in town is booked-out through the summer. Many of the weekend warriors with a shingle on their pick-up door may have bit-off more than they can handle. Having seen this pattern over the years, I was encouraged to offer some more good advice.
- Don’t be afraid of the large contractors in your area. Many home owners feel they will pay a premium if they go with an established larger contractor to repair their fence. Keep in mind that these contractors built their business on being more competitive and providing good customer service. After waiting for weeks with no return phone call, there have been many home owners who have reached-out to us to inquire if we have heard from their contractor as they were aware their contractor purchased materials from us. At the tail end of those conversations, it is not uncommon to hear “I don’t care what it cost. I just want my fence fixed!” Larger established contractors will have bricks and mortar locations with sales and office staff who can answer your questions.
- Keep deposits in check. In the home improvement industry, it is not uncommon to put a 50% to 60% deposit down with contractors prior to starting the work. Never pay 100% upfront. Contractors should only be paid enough for them to procure the materials they need to start your project. These same contractors, big or small, should have enough cash flow for their operations and labor costs. If a contractor says he needs full payment upfront; he may not have the best business practices which may bleed into his ability to perform the work.
- Start dates do not translate into completion dates. If you ask your contractor when the work will be completed and he states “We should be able to get started next week.” Ask again “I appreciate that but when will you finish?” Many contractors practice the philosophy that if they can show some work being done the home owner will be satisfied for a while until they can circle back. Remember Bob? He has had new posts in his yard for the last several weeks. On this note, please be empathetic to reasonable delays like rain days.
- Years of service add up to a great reputation. Many contractors want to remain small. They like being their own boss but also their only employee. Don’t be shy of smaller contractors who have a long track record of business operations in your area. If your contractor has been consistently in business for the last three years; it quickly becomes apparent that he must be doing something right. There are many weekend warriors with shingles on their tail gates but no track record of doing business in your area. Of course, you always want to help the underdog and give someone new a chance. Can you afford to as well if they decide this line of work is not for them and don’t show-up?
Bob has a black Labrador, Roger, that is vacationing in my back yard for the afternoon. I know Roger will have something to say when Bob’s fence contractor returns. It is either going to be a lot of tail wagging or teeth showing.