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Home Maintenance: How to be a Smart ConsumerJuly 21st, 2017 by
When you own a home, maintenance becomes an inevitability. You may not encounter major issues for quite a while, but at some point, an appliance will give up, or you’ll discover some foundation work that needs immediate attention, or your roof will start to leak.
You get the idea.
There is no such thing as a home maintenance issue that resolves itself or gets better with time, so don’t try to turn a blind eye to problems that arise. It’s far better for your sanity and the protection of your financial investment to stay on top of your home’s maintenance.
Whether you see it as a good thing or a bad thing, part of our society’s foundation is the exchange of goods and services. In that exchange, it’s up to you, the consumer, to do your due diligence to ensure that you know what you’re getting and that what you receive is what you paid for.
That’s a tall order for the average consumer, but the resources we have at our disposal today make the process a lot easier. Join me as I walk you through ways to be a smart consumer when it comes to home maintenance.
Hiring a Contractor
Hiring a contractor isn’t an easy process, and feeling rushed to find someone and get the job started can make things even more difficult. Plan ahead as much as possible so that you’ll have time to entertain multiple bids.
Even if you’re in a hurry to get the work started, here are a few points to consider:
- How does the bid compare to the others? If it’s super high or super low compared to other bids you’ve gotten, be wary.
- Does the contractor want to do work on a handshake? A verbal agreement won’t hold up in court if things take an unfortunate turn; only work with contractors who provide (and sign) written contracts.
- Has the contractor asked for payment in full up front? If so, look elsewhere. You should never provide full payment until the job is completed to your satisfaction.
- Is the contractor licensed and insured? If not, keep looking. Unlicensed and uninsured contractors pose a tremendous liability to you.
- What have you learned about the contractor in your research? If you aren’t able to find anything online about the contractor, it may pay to be suspicious. Ask for references. If the contractor refuses to give you a list, contact a different service provider.
Purchasing Home Maintenance Equipment
If you plan to do any of your own home maintenance, you’ll need some basic tools. Tools can get expensive, but luckily, there’s no need to outfit an entire toolbox right away. Your best bet is to purchase the essentials and then add more as projects arise.
It may be tempting to buy whatever is least expensive, but because poor-quality tools often break or malfunction after only a couple of uses, you will likely end up spending more money on replacements over the years—not to mention negatively impacting the environment when you pitch broken parts and pieces.
To be a smart consumer when it comes to purchasing tools for your home, take the following into consideration:
- Any warranties or guarantees and their details
- If a part does break, will the manufacturer repair or replace it?
- How long does the warranty or guarantee last?
- The construction of the tool itself
- Do any of the parts feel oddly loose or poorly attached?
- Are there obvious stress points that are not reinforced?
- Online reviews
- Are there any issues noted by several reviewers?
- Are these problems caused by the user, or are they flaws with the product?
Internet forums and comment sections are not known for being troll-free, unfortunately, but they can be good sources of information about tools and pieces of equipment. In most cases, a quick search will pull up product reviews as well as plenty of information about flaws and problems that other people encountered.
Read these reviews and forum threads with a skeptical eye, but do take note of recurring themes. If many commenters complain about the exact same issue with a garden tiller you’re considering purchasing, for example, you should probably start researching other brands.
Ready to gather some quality basics? Here’s what you’ll need to accomplish simple maintenance tasks around the house:
- Speed square
- Measuring tape
- Utility knife
When you purchase these tools (and any others you’ll use around the house), buy the best quality that you can reasonably afford. And keep in mind that the most expensive option isn’t always the best. Look to recommendations and reviews to help you decide.
Home improvement scams are virtually an industry unto themselves, and some of them are difficult to spot. Homeowner protection organizations are a good resource for learning more about scams that are common in your area, but ultimately, you’ll need to rely heavily on your intuition. Listen to your gut—if something feels off, it probably is.
One of the most common scams is the contractor who goes door to door offering immediate repair work for an unusually low price. The contractor will create a time-sensitive scenario—he has leftover materials from another job, for example, and they won’t be any good if you don’t act now.
No reputable contractor will engage in this type of high-pressure sales tactic. Furthermore, a contractor going door to door in an attempt to drum up business doesn’t have much work in the pipeline—another bad sign.
Walk away from contractors who encourage you to sign paperwork without reading it or present you with contracts with blank lines that will be filled in later, after you’ve signed everything. There many ways this could go wrong, including you being signed up for loans you didn’t intend to take on.
Take your time reading over contracts and any other documentation, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
The Bottom Line
Being a smart consumer is important, both for yourself and your financial investments and for the health of our environment. Working with reputable contractors ensures that maintenance and repair work is done right the first time, which eliminates a costly redo in the future—a strain on your bank account and your carbon footprint.
Purchasing high-quality tools for home maintenance purposes is a good investment. Tools can last generations when they’re properly cared for; buying the best circular saw you can afford and keeping it in good shape, for example, is far better for the environment than purchasing (and throwing away) saws that break after a few uses.
Home maintenance work isn’t always fun—OK, maybe it’s never truly fun—but it has to be done. Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor, take the time to do your research (like on bestpickreports.com) and make sure the work is done correctly.