This is a very dangerous time of the year for most pool buyers. The reason is very simple – the questions no longer are about the quality of the pool, or the abilities of the builder. Now the most asked question is, “when can you start?” I had a first hand example of this last week, when I answered the phone. A lady told me that she and her husband were thinking of putting in a new fiberglass pool. She wanted a deep pool, with a diving board and a slide, and when could I start? I explained that we were now accepting deposits to build in July. She said, “well OK – thanks”, and hung up the phone. About 30 minutes later I answered the phone again, and I heard the same voice again. She told me she wanted a fiberglass pool that was a deep pool, with a diving board and a slide, and when could I start. I was taken aback, but I answered as before, and again she said, “OK, thanks” and she was gone. Then I realized she was calling everyone in the book, and I happened to come around twice. She was unconcerned with price, ability, quality, references or anything except, “when can you start?”
There are many problems with this kind of shopping, but the biggest one is that some builders will succumb to the temptation to promise an early start, and then leave the project until other jobs are completed. This means you are then committed to waiting and hoping the builder will come back and finish before the season is over. If the builder has a public office you can always go in during business hours and insist on seeing the person in charge, but otherwise you are stuck. Expect things like: “mailbox is full please call back at another time”, or “please leave a message and I’ll get back to you”, and many variations on that theme. You are now completely at the mercy of the builder. What can you do?
The best thing to do is determine in the beginning if the builder intends to stay at the project until the job is completed. You will not find any builders (usually) who will agree to a firm completion date, but I would advise any buyer who is concerned, to insist the builder add a clause on the agreement that states they will work on your project every weekday for at least six hours until the project is complete. Of course there should be a note about weather permitting, but if they will not commit to working every day, then you should proceed with extreme caution.
It is our policy at ABLE Pools to start a project in the order in which it was sold, and to stay there until it is complete. There are certainly going to be days when we cannot be there – while waiting for an inspection perhaps, but otherwise we are there to get the job done and move on the next.
The biggest leverage you have is your payment schedule. NEVER under any circumstances make a deposit in excess of 20%, and you should be certain you have seen substantial work before you make any more payments. Be careful you do not breach any of the terms of the agreement, but be very careful about paying out any more money until you see how the project will be constructed. If your builder delays and delays and makes excuses, and then shows up to do a flurry of work and asks for another payment, I would suggest that would be a good time and an excellent reason to get some sort of statement about future intent, and revisit how you will make payments. It is reasonable to expect that if you pay out more money you will see a continuation of the work progress you saw at the beginning, and unless your builder signs an agreement to stay at your home until the project is complete you might not see him until he needs more money.
At ABLE Pools we compete with some very good builders, who have an excellent work ethic, and while we think we build the best pool, there are others we believe who do a good job and are worthy competitors. There are others we would caution the homeowner to be very careful of when hearing promises about start times. It is natural to want your pool as quickly as possible, but it is a fact that this time of the year builders are usually working for people who first contacted them in January. When you ask about start times and hear they will start next week, be certain to stop and gather as much information as possible, and ask a lot of questions, or you might see your June pool completed in October.
While start times are important, if you are not comfortable starting at a later date, you might be wiser to delay the start and ask for a better price to start late in the season or in the fall when builders are slowing and are anxious to keep their crews busy. That puts you, the homeowner, back in control, which is where you should be in any home improvement project.