By: Rob Traugott
Shopping for a pool is like shopping for anything: a computer, a pair of runners, the latest GPS or a bag of beans. Fundamental rules apply, and while we’re not too keen on laying down too many rules, we’ll share a few tips to help you negotiate with swimming pool builders. After all, your banker was willing to lend you a princely sum for that fancy pool you’ve always wanted since you moved into your private estate up in the mountains.
If you live atop a mountain, you have to make sure that your builder can haul up his materials. Don’t laugh. We heard of one story where a pool builder was forced to cancel out of a sales contract because he wasn’t aware that his client lived not only outside city limits but at an elevation of a few thousand feet above ground level.
“Oh gosh, my men won’t be able to make it that high, sir. Besides, I got an antiquated truck.”
Tip # 1: Go for more than one bid. Two to three are ideal.
It’s the same principles that apply to re-doing your entire basement. You want an expert who understands basements and how to position the air ducts so that the heat spreads evenly.
As in a pool, your builder has to observe the standards for excavation protocol so that the pool surface is even and stands on good foundation. Building a swimming pool is a specialized activity and experience is always the best teacher.
Your builder should have many years of experence building the kind of pool you’re interested in; you also want someone who can provide an all-in-one package in case you decide to throw in accessories. Read the fine print and do a comparison of the three to four bids.
Price is an important consideration, but if the other man has a better delivery schedule or uses better materials, then price shouldn’t be your only consideration. Be flexible when evaluating the bids. The idea is to get bang for the buck, but not to the point where you have to sacrifice quality.
If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask!
Tip # 2: Look out for incentives
Some pool builders will offer bonuses to get your business. They know that homeowners like freebies. You may be offered a pool filter, a replacement pump, a vacuum or a pool cover. It would be nice if they can state these bonuses on their bids, to save you the embarrassment of having to ask.
Tip # 3: Ask for testimonials
An honest and reputable pool builder will give you the names and numbers of people he has served in the past so you can call them for references. Word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing strategy and good pool builders know what makes business sizzle or fizzle: reputation. They just don’t build concrete, they also build long term relationships because they believe that customers are their bread and butter.
Tip # 4: License with a capital L!
You’ve heard the horror stories of pools that were structurally weak because they were not built up to code. Swimming pool builders have to be licensed in some states and some states have web sites that will post complaints filed against contractors and builders. Your family’s safety is your # 1 priority.
Tip # 5: No need to pay cash upfront
Many homeowners are not aware that certain states set maximum percentages for down payments on in ground swimming pool projects. Look up your state’s recommended amount and pay only that amount when you sign the contract. A pool builder who asks for more should be viewed with suspicion.
Tip # 6: Set up project milestones
Building an in ground pool involves a whole network of workers: contractors, plumbers, equipment and chemical suppliers and special workers. Discuss and finalize payment schedules so the project is not delayed. There’s a difference between holding back payment unreasonably and a justified delayed payment. You only make the final payment when the pool is 100% finished and you’re 110% satisfied with the work.
Tip # 7: Keep all documents and receipts
Should a dispute arise in the future and you have to resort to legal action, your pool receipts and documents will be required as proof.
Tip # 8: Maintain honest communications with your builder at all times
You’ll want to know who to call if a problem comes up. You need to tell your builder if you’ve built any additions to the pool after it was completed. He has to respect his guarantees and you should follow his instructions regarding care and maintenance. Your pool builder will have to brief you on when NOT to use your pool (e.g. after a sandstorm or when dangerous chemicals have been accidentally spilled).
Author Resource: Tim Dillard is currently the host of Tops In Texas (http://www.topsintexas.com) and president of Dillard Local Branding (http://www.dlbllc.com), a Houston-based web design, Internet marketing and search engine marketing firm.
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