How To Choose the Best Swimming Pool Contractor
Are you financing a swimming pool? Make sure you choose the right pool builders for your project!
From residential backyards to Olympic-sized recreational centers, pools are a major investment that require significant skill to build and complete properly. When you have a pool installed, you want to make sure you are working with a pool builders that are competent, trustworthy, and highly recommended. Most of all, you want someone who will finish the job without going out of business in the meantime!
Concerned about choosing the right contractor for your swimming pool? Here are 10 warning signs that you may be looking at an unskilled or insolvent pool builder.
1) Huge Down Payment
For most projects, the builder should not ask for a down payment of more than 10% before starting work. Some reputable companies may require up to 20%, but around 10% is the standard. If they ask for a much higher up-front payment, this could be a sign of poor cash flow and a struggling business. High down payments could indicate that the contractor does not already have enough cash on hand to pay employees and subcontractors.
2) Big Up-Front Draws
The amount of money you pay pool builders during construction should be appropriate to the project’s timeline. If you have paid half of the cost of the pool, you should expect the pool to be halfway done. For example, consider a pool builder who asks for a 40% payment when they dig and another 40% when they lay concrete. This would require you to pay 80% of the cost when they have done much less than 80% of the work. If this business folds before completion, you lose a significant amount of money.
3) Tiny Final Draw
Too little payment at the project’s completion is another bad sign. Pool contractors should have a financial incentive to finish the project. A final payment of 2-5% means that if you have a disagreement with them or some other setback, they don’t lose out much if they never finish the job. Look for builders who accept a final draw of at least 10%. Some of Viking Capital’s lenders even require a hold-back of up to 25-30%, which protects property owners.
4) Quick Contract Signing
Be cautious if the pool builder wants you to sign the contract on your first meeting. This does not always indicate that the builder is a risky choice, so you may not want to make it a deal-breaker. However, it is something to look out for; you don’t want to work with a builder who makes you feel too pressured.
5) Unreliable and Discourteous Behavior
Everyone runs late or has personal emergencies sometimes. However, it’s bad business if a contractor never seems to be on time to an appointment or constantly misses a sales call, without the courtesy of a heads-up. Building a pool takes weeks or even months, so choose a reliable company that you can work with for that long.
6) New on the Scene
Every company has to start somewhere, so being a new pool builder is not a bad sign by itself. However, many pool companies fail within the first few years of business. To reduce your financial risk, consider choosing a company that has been around for at least 5 years, if possible. If being new is the only drawback, however, don’t dismiss them immediately. Just remember, there is a difference between being in business for 10 years and being in THE BUSINESS for 10 years. Many contractors that go under resurface under a new name and claim to have been in the pool business longer than the current company has existed. If they went out of business once, it’s very possible that it will happen a second time. Being a great pool builder and a great business owner don’t always go hand in hand.
7) Unresolved Complaints
When considering a pool company, make sure to check any online reviews and local BBB (Better Business Bureau) rating, if applicable. Seeing one or two negative reviews may be fine. However, check any responses to customer complaints, and look out for any unresolved problems or disputes. If you see lots of negative reviews, or a lack of resolution to customer issues, you may want to look for another swimming pool contractor. Keep in mind that a few complaints about a company that builds 200 pools each year is much different than the same number of bad reviews for someone who builds 20 pools per year.
8) Pool Builders That Can Start Right Away
It sounds convenient to have a pool contractor who can start a project immediately, but don’t get too excited just yet. The best builders not only have a list of satisfied clients, but also a schedule full of current clients. The ability to start working for you right away indicates a lack of ongoing projects. Or, they may be overburdening their schedule because they are desperate for money. Both of these should warn you to proceed with caution. In many cases it simply means the builder has the staff to deal with the seasonality of his business and manages projects properly. The worst combination is an unusually low price along with the ability to start right away.
9) Lack of References
The pool contractor should be able to give you a list of past clients who have agreed to be contacted for a recommendation. Some pool companies may not wish to provide past client names if the clients are major celebrities, but this is a relatively rare occurrence. A lack of references could indicate a relatively new business, but if they cannot give you the name of any happy customers, and can’t explain why, consider that a red flag.
Helpful tip: Ask your pool builder how many projects they completed the previous year. Then ask for a list of references you can contact. If the number of references is much lower than the number of completed projects, that indicates a low satisfaction rate, and a bad sign for you.
Note that this also applies to any subcontractors the pool builder may work with. You want to be sure that every company involved in building your pool is reliable, solvent, and qualified. Your choice of pool company should provide you with sufficient information about their network of subcontractors. By the same token, don’t rely too heavily on references. Even a builder who has mad clients all over town, he will still have a bunch of great reviews so this should be a smaller part of your decision-making process, especially today with on-line reviews so easy to find.
10) Poor Communication
When choosing a pool installer, it’s normal to ask a lot of questions. Take this opportunity to evaluate the contractor on not just the answers to your questions, but how he or she answers. If the pool builder fails to answer your questions satisfactorily and does not strive to relieve your concerns, or speaks to you rudely, impatiently, or otherwise unprofessionally, consider finding a different builder.
You should feel secure in your choice of pool builder.
Viking Capital maintains a network of approved pool builders that have received thorough background checks, giving you confidence in working with qualified contractors. Contact us to get started with a reliable pool company who can help make your dream a reality.