Did you ever go shopping for a new home? Do you remember the feeling after you visited a half dozen houses in one day, and by seven o’clock you could not remember one house detail from another? Did you ever go shopping for a new car, and the sales person asks you a few questions only to show you three or four cars, even though they had hundreds in inventory? With choosing a house painting contractor, it’s also good to narrow your search early, and work from a set of two to four candidates.
1.What kind of experience does the business have painting other, similar houses and/or businesses?
Like anything in life or business, it takes years to master any skill of value. Painting houses, while we might each have tried it in the past, is a project that offers many ways to make mistakes.
2.Is the color selection advice and support included in the job estimate?
If you ask any house painting contractor, you will know that color selection is one of the most difficult parts of the project. Often, it’s left until the last minute, and therefore increases the chance you will select the wrong color and the project will result in a disaster.
In addition to knowing you will get help with this part of the project, getting it done ahead of time is critical. In the summer months, demand for house painting is at its highest in the Puget Sound, and if you are not ready to let the painting contractor begin the project, you may get bumped to the end of the season.
3.Does the cost estimate break out labor from paint and other supplies?
There is a broad spectrum of pain quality on the market. And like many things you consider, choosing a well-known, national paint product brand is likely always a safer bet than trying to save a few bucks on a cheaper, less known paint product. A painting company can ‘hide’ the real cost by bidding more for the paint product and less for the labor, but in turn, substituting a cheaper paint product to save themselves some money.
Always insist that the paint product is one you know and is trusted by the big, national home product supply chains (Like Home Depot, Lowes, etc.) and get that written into the estimate.
4.An estimate should include paint quantity, but with a guarantee.
If anyone knows how to estimate the amount of paint that will be used, it should be the painting contractor. If they cannot estimate it, then they should still guarantee that they will provide whatever quantity is needed, regardless of how much they estimated. This, in the contract, will allow you to know exactly what the job will cost you, down to the dollar.
5.Good cleanup practices
A painting contracting company should, when the job is done, leave the place spotless. Ask them about including 100% cleanup after all the work is done, and it’s no harm to have that written into the contract.
6.Good reviews on Yelp and other review sites
The great thing about Yelp is, they don’t fiddle with the reviews. Even if they are approached by angry companies asking them to take down bad reviews, they will stubbornly leave them there. That’s why people trust reviews on Yelp more than anywhere. But, there are some things you must consider with Yelp. It is still possible for people to ‘game’ the system by paying people or organizations to write favorable reviews. It happens less and less now – because Yelp aggressively goes after companies that engage in such activities. But still, you need to be aware of that. Yelp review profiles to be wary of are those that have dozens of five-star, glowing reviews, but no lower star reviews. No business on Earth can please every single customer, and even an excellent company will, eventually, receive an unfavorable review, especially if they hundreds of clients of a long period of time. A good review profile, therefore, will have a preponderance of favorable reviews, but maybe one or two unfavorable ones. Read each review, and try to get a feel for what the clients are saying. Good reviews are those that have 4 or 5 stars, and give a detailed description of what a potential customer can expect. If the company has twenty reviews in total, for example, you should read each one, looking out for the longer, descriptive ones, rather than those that are effusive and over-the-top.
7.Another aspect of Yelp reviews to be aware of is the ‘screening’ value of them. Twenty excellent reviews might tell you something of value in making your decision of which vendor to engage, but a sting of low-star (one- and two-star) reviews definitely tell you the vendor is best avoided. I once got a call for services from a car dealership in Burien. While the guy was on the phone, I looked them up on Yelp, where I found no fewer than eleven one-star reviews attached to their Yelp business page. That is, eleven reviews in total, and each of them a one-star review! I politely suggested to him that I would not be able to help him, and got off the phone.
Yelp reviews are a critical part of any business’s online profile now, and you must take full advantage of that helpful insight into any location-based vendor you are considering using.
8.Ask who is doing the actual work of painting?
Anyone who has hired and managed employees knows that not every employee is equal. And humans being what they are, there is always an opportunity for staff problems if you’re not careful. Ask each painting contractor about the level of experience of the people expected to do the actual work. How long have they been with the company? Are they using summer staff who have little experience and will be gone in a few weeks, or are the workers long-term staff who work for the company?
9.Price isn’t everything, but it is important
There’s no point in throwing away money, of course, but there’s a right price for the right job, as long as you know you are getting what you pay for.
Identifying the key elements, above, will allow you to whittle down a short list of say three vendors, to one. It’s usually pretty obvious once you know what to look for, and the above list should get you pretty darn close!
See you next week!