Red Flags When Looking For a Fence Contractor
Top Red Flags to look for when hiring a Fence Contractor in the greater Sacramento area:
We have been hearing from customers about an increased number of unlicensed, uninsured, and unprofessional people providing estimates and doing work for local homeowners. We usually hear about this because of the bad experiences that these homeowners had with these individuals.
These were learning lessons for these home owners and we hope to help you learn from these experiences as well. There are some red flags to watch for when you are getting bids on a fence project.
What we are all looking for is a fence company that provides us the best quality work for an affordable price and with great customer service! The merging of these items is where value is found. Lets talk about some of the things you should look for when in your search process.
1: Licensed – California State Contractor License Board
The first place you should start is asking for and checking a contractor’s license on the California State License Board Query Search Site. That site allows you to check a contractor’s license, bond, and workers compensation status.
You are looking for a C-13 license. This is the license for a company that specializes in fences, gates, and retaining walls.
We have found some people say they are licensed, but they give you a license number that is city business license number. This does not protect you at all. This is just a city license that every business of any type has to had for tax revenue purposes. This does nothing to ensure that you have a properly trained and insured person in front of you.
One site that also helps check licenses to the best of their abilities is Yelp. On Yelp a verified license will show as a blue shield icon with the link to “Verified License” next to the business name. You can click on the shield icon to see more about the license details. In the end, the best place to check a license is the link about for the state license board.
2. Complete and Detailed Estimate
We are all temped by a proposal that has a low price listed, but many times things that seem too good to be true are. We have been seeing estimates written by unprofessional and not properly licensed companies that incomplete in two ways. 1) Small print clauses and pricing 2) Lack of Detail
First, fence contacts should not have any “clauses” in their contact that allow the contractor to charge you more if certain things happen. Like, it might say “Hard Digging Clause” – in this instance they note that if the digging is hard due to rock, clay, or any reason that they will be charging you an additional $100 - $200 per hour for this. While we cannot see in the ground, experience has taught us what the digging will be like in certain areas. At Superior Fence the price provided is the price we will complete the project for, no matter how hard the digging is. This is true professionalism.
Second, we have been seeing competitors’ estimates that are missing clear and exact details about what is to be installed. Clear details about footages, design, and materials are many times missing. While the price may be low, usually it is because you are not going to get what you want in type or quality. Our fence proposals are detailed on materials, design, and sizes. This allows our customers to see our focus on attention to detail right from the start that we will carry through your fence replacement project. The level of detail and order in a fence proposal will speak to the quality of service and fence installation you are to expect.
3. Written Contacts are Needed
A written contact is must for all home improvement projects! It makes no sense to do business with a contactor that doesn’t want to clearly state in written contact what they are going to perform and for what set price.
It is absolutely necessary to make sure all of the details of what you are expecting to be performed are noted in their written document prior to starting work. These pages ensure there is clarity between homeowner and contractor. Our experience is that companies that work without written contacts usually provide an equally unprofessional end product and customer experience.
Yes, it takes time for a contractor to write up a proper proposal/contract, but this helps ensure that you and your neighbors get the fence you were hoping for. Additionally, it helps a truly professional fence company provide you the best customer service.
These fence contractors allow us to split the billing with your shared neighbors in the manner that you both agree to.
It allows us to keep your neighbors in the loop as the project progresses, relieving you of being in charge of this.
It allows both the contractor and the customer to both have a clear gameplan in terms of materials, design, installation, billing, and warranty.
Lastly, written contacts will explain payment process and schedule. This is important different contractors have different processes. Something to note is that most residential fence contractors do not require any type of deposit before the project and certainly we will NEVER ask for cash payments. If a contractor is requiring cash payments it is definitely a red flag. Cash payments leave almost no paper trail and is a bid sketchy. A business that wants to do good business with you will have a clear payment process, might accept cash payments if you want, but it will NEVER require it. Trustworthy companies are happy to take a check or credit card payment that provides you with a physical or digital proof of payment. Additionally, the contractor will provide a proper receipt of payment.
At Superior Fence Construction and Repair Inc, we never require a deposit at all before the work is performed. We collect payment in full upon completion of the project mostly in the form of checks. On large projects, sometimes we have noted progress payment points of completion stated in our contact with the customer.
4. Numerous and High Review Ratings
We all use online reviews to help us narrow down who to talk with about our home improvement projects! These online reviews are helpful because they provide us with quick and consolidated information about the type of overall experience that customers have with potential customers. As well, you can drill down for more detail about specific customers experiences. The most common review tools are Google Business Profile Reviews and Yelp. While these tools are fantastic and efficient, as a smart consumer you must understand that they you cannot just select the highest rated company and everything will go perfectly. Just because someone has a listing on Yelp or Google does not mean that they are licensed, insured, and a truly specialized professional of the trade that are looking for. Here are some of our suggestions:
Look for a company that has a large number of reviews and also an aggregate high score. The aggregate of recent reviews is really a telling sign of how much the company cares about the happiness of the customer. While companies may speak to and also perform work for thousands of customers per year, only a few will write reviews. Seeing the overall trend and reading the details will tell you a lot about if the customer satisfaction or dis-satisfaction seems relevant and justified to you.
Check their contractor license to ensure that they are a C-13 fence contactor specialty. Just because a company has an online listing does NOT mean they are properly licensed, trained, and insured to do the work that you are wanting them to perform. There are lots of people doing unlicensed side work that have listings. It is important to protect yourself by checking for their license and insurance on the license board website.
Look at the posted pictures and read the reviews to see if they are what you are looking for. Looking at the pictures that customers have posts can tell you about if the attention to detail is what you are looking for from this fence contactor. Just because two companies say they install dog ear redwood fence, does not mean that the quality of install will be the same for both. Check out the pictures. Additionally read the comments and see how you feel about them. Maybe you feel that an unhappy customer is justified in their comments and sometimes you may feel they are a bit irrational. Follow what your intuition tells you about what you see and read in these reviews.
5: Communication and Professionalism
We hear a lot of fence companies are not responsive and polite to their customers. Those types of contractors are NOT true professionals and this should tell you the level of attentiveness they will have when doing their work and after their work is complete.
Superior Fence Construction and Repair Inc, employs only true professionals who focus amazing communication and customer service from the first site visit to estimate your project to follow-up after your project is done. Success with your fence project is not solely dependent on the installation, but also on the level of responsiveness before and after the project. Communication is customer service. An awesome customer experience requires amazing responsiveness and thoughtfulness on behalf of the fence company. True professionals understand that this level of attentiveness is the true basis of a fantastic customer service.
Hire a Professional and Properly C-13 Licensed Company
While we hope that this list of red flags is helpful, it is not everything that you should be evaluating when interviewing a contractor for your fence project. You should also we following your gut and taking recommendation from other people you trust who have used companies that they have liked in the past. Along the way when talking with a potential contractor if you have weird feeling about them you need to take this into consideration and do not ignore it because you like the baiting price or timeline. Trust all of the points above, trust your gut, and trust word of mouth recommendations from people you know.
For more information from the California State Contractor License Board on the 10 Tips when hiring a contractor check out their YouTube video.
Have more questions about hiring a fence contractor to build a new fence? Read our answers to Frequently Asked Fencing Questions »