aaron • July 25, 2016 • Comments Off on Hiring a Professional
If you’ve ever gone through the process of hiring a professional to paint your home, you’ve probably found it daunting to select the right one for you and your project amongst the wide range of quotes and contractors available. And if you’ve never hired a painting professional before, there are a few things you should know to get the most out of your selection and maximize the return on your decorating investment.
A good painting professional is easy to find if you know what to look for. One of the most crucial elements of selecting a good painting professional is the confidence and evidence they display to show they’ll be around in a year or two years after the paint has long since dried. By all means, get referrals from your neighbors, friends and family who’ve had good experiences with a painting contractor. But don’t stop there. Favor the referrals from those who have had several successful projects completed by the same contractor. Then look into their level of investment in their company. You should find them advertised in multiple vested forms. Not just on the first page of a Google search for “house painting”. They should be on page one of a Google search for the exact form of painting you require (“concrete basement floor painting”, “exterior wood restoration painting”, “new construction spraying” etc). Then, this same painter should have an ad or two in the leading local business directories for which they would have made a substantial outlay. A membership with your Better Business Bureau and other well established and accountable industry associations like the PDCA (Painting and Decorating Contractors of America) is also a good sign. But don’t take the symbol on their advertising as proof. Anyone can cut and paste a logo these days so call these agencies to verify the company’s status. This will give you the peace of mind in knowing you’re dealing with an industry professional; not an imposter, a seasonal student painter or a fly-by-nighter with a brush out for a quick buck. You should also pay attention to the lawn and truck signs of painters in your area as a good starting point to see if they show up in any of these other established promotional avenues. And if they don’t, they’re either too new to trust your home with or they’re possibly too aloof and fleeting so as to escape accountability should anything go wrong.
So, now that you’ve done your preliminary search for the best 3 or 4 candidates (and if you’ve truly done this homework you won’t need to see more than a few) it’s time to invite them to bid on your painting project. Each one shows credibility and establishment in the community with a web portfolio specifically detailing experience with your type of project. So give them a call. Are they easily reached? Or, if you have to leave a voice mail, does the answering message reveal the company name you were expecting? Or is it an unidentified voice who just asks you to leave a message? Does the recording make you feel welcome and grateful for your call? Do they return your call in a timely manner or leave you hanging for a day or two? And when you actually reach the person responsible for estimating, are they rapid and knowledgeable in their responses to your questions or do they seem to lag, flounder about or remain vague? You’ll always do best with a contractor who can answer your questions straight away in a relaxed and confident manner rather than someone who’s too quick and cocky or slow and uncertain. An experienced professional with your best interests in mind will seem very comfortable with you and the details of your project.
Once you’ve spoken with two or three painters you feel comfortable with, try to set them up to meet with you at either staggered times of the same day or at the same time on different days. This way, you’ll know that each one of your estimators had the opportunity to see the project under roughly the same conditions. It’s very important to compare “apples to apples” when reviewing painting quotations. There are so many variables involved with getting your home from the condition it’s in to where you want it to be. You want to be sure that each of your painting candidates have the same details and most importantly, your specific expectations. If they all have a slightly different idea of the results you’re looking for, then you’re going to get some widely varying quotes which may or may not represent what you expect for your money. The best thing you can do is to make detailed notes of exactly what you want done and how you want it done (where applicable) so that your instructions are identical with each of your estimators.
Then, of course, you want to see who is best connecting with you and the concerns for your home. Does the estimator ask YOU for all the solutions to your problems? Or do they provide you with helpful suggestions and innovative ideas to work WITH you in creating your home? Usually, choosing a painter who wants to work WITH you and not just FOR you is the one who will most care about the results. They should have a feel for what you’re trying to accomplish with your repairs and decorating. For instance, they should understand the difference between “redecorating a house to make it your home” and “fixing up the place so you can stage it for sale”. And this difference will show up in dollars and cents.
So why aren’t all painting quotes roughly the same for the same work?
Painting is a decorative art. Not an exact science nor a precision trade. And just as all homes are different, so are all painting professionals. They range from huge national corporations with hundreds of painters in your local region, to small community rooted painting contractors with a handful of crews, to the independent painter who works by himself out of his truck. There are obvious differences in costs for each of these that reflect in their quotes, but there’s a whole lot more that you should consider when deciding who’s right for YOU.
First, let’s consider the independent painter. There’s a world of range in this option alone. The good, the bad and the terrible! And when considering them during the estimating process, the “Nice Guy” or “Gal” who means well may also be the worst painter you can’t bring yourself to fire. Or there’s the “Picasso” who knows he’s a great painter but won’t move your furniture out of his way and other such “menial” (but necessary) tasks because it’s “beneath him”. Or you may get lucky and find the perfect independent painter who can do a great job for you. But the good one’s can’t start the work when you need them to because they’re spread too thinly. And then a year later, you can’t pin him down when you need him because he’s too busy. Or worse, you can’t find him again at all because he’s left town for greener pastures or left the business entirely due to burn out.
So maybe you should consider trusting your home to the national brand name painting contractor. After all, these are the firms that have been around awhile, have advertising in all the right places, have served thousands of customers, and have so much work going on all the time that they must be good. Not to mention, their overhead and materials costs are the lowest of all painting services. So they must do great work without having to charge you as much, right? Wrong. What they don’t spend proportionally on administration and paint they put into heavy marketing to stay front and center in people’s minds. They know how much your confidence is worth for as long as they have that, the quality of their work is secondary. After all, who are their workforce? Independent painters just like the ones we’ve reviewed. They come in all the same types and calibers of people only they don’t get paid as well as the truly independent. And with lower pay comes lower responsibility. They often don’t take the same care and attention to detail as you would hope for the large corporate fees your paying.
Which leaves us with the local contracting firm; a small business with a dedicated group of career painters. This contractor is not to be confused with your regional chapter of seasonal student franchises whose painters only gain their proficiency by the end of the summer. Look for the contractors who employ the same painters all year round to give you the best performance. This category can also contain all kinds. But there are fundamental differences here that can improve your chances of getting great value and service. In fact, the unique form of this organization can most often provide you with the best of all worlds. The establishment, availability and security of a large corporate firm (without the higher price) mixed with the personal care and attention of a good independent painter. Having several crews to work with, these contractors can usually accommodate your timetable with at least one or more painters ready when you need them. And with several jobs on the go at all times, these contractors have an increased cost advantage over the independent painter. Although they could never get paint as cheaply as the large corporate firms, they do have a much greater savings on materials than you or the independent to keep the pricing under control in your favor.
Still, when selecting your local contracting firm it’s very important to do all the preliminary investigation we’ve covered here to be sure you’re dealing with a reputable and honest company. Unfortunately there are still a lot of shysters out there who set themselves up with a business card and a truck to take your money and run. Or worse, they take your money, damage your home, steal your belongings and then run. And it’s these con artists who can make the homeowner feel wary about the entire industry even though they only represent an average of 10% of the painters out there. Most painting contractors are there to help you honestly. But it’s entirely up to you, the customer, to check them out for all the signs of credibility even before you call them for a free estimate. And don’t let anyone charge you for an estimate as this, too, is a sign that they’re probably not legitimate.
So look for the signs (both literally and figuratively), verify their claims of industry affiliations, and rule out the “low-ballers” and the “high rollers” once the quotes are in and you’ll be in good painting company. The best value and service can almost always be found in that middle range of pricing between the independent and the corporate contractor. And if you’re dealing with a roster of only local reputable companies, you’ll also most likely find your ideal candidate somewhere in the high end of middle pricing. Here is where you’ll usually get the most for your money in both service and peace of mind.