is in full swing and contractors around the country tell Angie’s List they’re still willing to negotiate prices to win jobs from homeowners planning to repair or improve their homes.
“Nearly half of the respondents to our latest contractor
survey expect homeowners to ask for price cuts from the original bids they receive,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “This is a little surprising as demand for remodeling work is peaking. But consumers are getting used to bargain shopping, and it seems their deal hunting is having an effect in the marketplace.”
Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local contractors and other service professionals, has collected consumer reviews
for 16 years and often surveys the companies to check trends and issues.
In January, 80 percent of the contractors responding to an Angie’s List survey said they were willing to drop their prices to get a job. In 2009, only 43 percent were willing to drop their prices.
In a May Angie’s List survey, a majority of the surveyed contractors said business was steady or increasing. Still, 81 percent were willing to drop prices to get work. Nearly 30 percent of the contractors were willing to trim 10 percent from their original bid.
“No one wants to spend more than they have to, but when it comes to home improvement, there’s more to consider than dollars,” said Hicks, who cautions against hiring on price alone.
Haggling over price isn’t the first step to hiring a contractor, Hicks said.
“Before you belly up to the bargaining table, do your basic research or you could be wasting a lot time,” Hicks said. “Check out things like licensing, insurance, accreditation and local reputation. Once you have a few contractors who meet the standards, then talk discounts.”
Most companies will ask for down payments before the job begins, and based on a June survey of contractors across the country, 20 percent or more is the normal asking price, Hicks said. “But even here there’s room to haggle: 75 percent of the companies say the down payment is negotiable, too."
It's not uncommon for contractors to ask for as much as 50 percent down.
"That might be OK if you're covering materials, but that's as far as you should go," Hicks said. "Don't pay for services or labor up front, and hold back at least 10 percent until the job is done to your satisfaction."
Angie’s List 5 tips to hire the best and avoid the worst contractors in town:
If you run into problems:
- Slam the door on door-to-door solicitors, those who accept only cash payments or pressure you to make a quick decision.
- Verify the company you hire is licensed to operate in your area.
- Ask for several references from happy customers who’ve had worked completed. Visit the job sites if possible to see how the work held up.
- Never sign a contract with blank spaces, and understand every word of it. It should spell out expectations, responsibilities, time lines and what happens if something goes wrong.
- Get at least three written estimates that you can compare as you decide who to hire.
- Let the contractor know you’re unhappy. Ask for specific action to remedy the situation.
- Follow up with a letter. Keep records of all written correspondence as well as receipts, canceled checks and credit card statements. If a business requests documents, send a copy, never an original. Keep a log of all conversations, including the date and time of the call, what was said and who you spoke with.
- Report suspected unethical or illegal behavior to the proper authorities
Angie’s List collects consumer reviews on local contractors and doctors
in more than 500 service categories. Currently, more than 1.5 million consumers across the U.S. rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie’s List
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