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Are You an Installation Contractor!
By George Porter
For the last few years one of the questions I ask during my
installation seminar is, "how many people here are installation
contractors?" Usually half the class raises their hand. Then
I ask the folks with their hands up, "how many of you use
contracts?" Usually 95% of the hands go down. This is an
industry problem, if you don't use contracts then I guess you
can't really call yourself a contractor can you. It would seem
that you could only call yourself a "Hand Shaker".
Please don't get the impression that shaking hands on a deal
doesn't mean anything. It means that you have given your word
that you will do what ever you agreed to. In most states it is
a verbal agreement that binds both parties. A couple of witnesses
would be nice is you ever had to go to the wall with this.
You are probably familiar with the expression; "the devil
is in the details"? Well, in the case of home installation
the opposite is true. The devil is in the lack of details and
hand shakes/verbal agreements seriously lack details. The details
today can provide you with the ability to run a business or they
could put you under, it is just that critical.
- 1. What do you do if you pick up a home at a dealers lot,
take it 50 miles to the site only to discover that it is impossible
to get on the lot because of a large ditch? If the dealer or
his representative told you everything was ready but you ran
into this problem would the dealer pay you for your wasted time?
If so, how much?
- 2. Who fixes the cracks in the home? If they are just little
things then you should do it as part of set-up but what if it
involves changing several wall panels or repairing a whole ceiling,
it that a freebie? Exactly when does a little crack become a
big crack and if you do charge for the repairs, then at what
- 3. What do you charge for extra height? Does a home two blocks
high cost you the same to install as one that is ten blocks high
on one end?
- 4. Exactly what do you do for the price you quoted the dealer?
Do you anchor? Who supplies the blocks and or anchors? How about
plumbing? If you do plumbing then how far will you run it away
from the home?
- Whose insurance covers the home during installation?
- 5. If a multi-section home is already spotted on the lot
then is there a maximum distance between the two halves? A home
20 feet apart and stuck in the mud is much different than one
3 feet apart when you don't have a truck.
- 6. If your state has installer licensing and you find the
lot is not prepared to code what do you do? Who pays you to do
it? In most states your license is the one they go after and
you will pay any penalties.
- 7. Does the length, width or style of the home change the
And the list goes on. The point is, the good old days were
great but they are gone. Life is more complicated now and you
need to have a very clear understanding of what is going to be
If this all sounds like the installer needs to protect himself
from dealers then please bear in mind that it also protects the
dealer. Retailers probably will not write bigger checks for something
they have fewer specifics on than installation. Most simply want
a good price and no customer complaints, whatever it takes. It
might be good to mention that most, if not all, legal actions
involving installation include the dealer who sold the home. Without
a contract what have you got to take to court? This applies to
both sides, dealer and installer.
You need to make a list of what you do for whatever you charge
along with a list of "what ifs" and what you will charge
for them. A "what if" could be any of the 8 questions
asked earlier or you could make up a few of your own. When you
have this list in order, take it to an attorney and have him "legalize"
it into a contract. This may cost you several hundred dollars
but it can pay for itself in one day. It will also eliminate 99.9%
of any hard feelings and misunderstandings with your customers
in the future.
One last thought, contracts do not make people honest, but
they do vastly improve the memory of honest people. Besides, you
really can't call yourself a contractor without one now can you?