After 35 years in business I have learned a few things about what my customers do and don't do right when it comes to buying a pool. I thought it was way past time to share what I have learned about this, the most important part of the process. So let's take a look at what I believe are the most common mistakes and the most common correct decisions.
1. What do I want to budget for my pool? One of the most common mistakes is not having a budget for the project. This is one of the most important things you need to know at the start. If you were going to purchase a new home you would have an idea of what you could afford or want to spend. Otherwise your realtor would be showing you $50,000.00 homes and $900,000.00 homes. It would be a total waste of time for both of you. It is the same with purchasing a new car. When I want to buy a car I don't go look at Ferrari's and Yugo's. That would be a waste of my time and any sales person I would be dealing with too. I decide what I want to spend or can afford then I go look at vehicles within that budget. So land on a number that you want to allocate for the pool project.
2. As a continuation of the first question this is also important. How much can I afford vs. how much do I want to spend? There is a huge difference in each. What you can afford is the limit of what you can purchase. So if you have saved up $60,000.00 and don't have access to any more money (borrowed) then you can afford a $60,000.00 project. Versus the budget set by what you want to spend. This is usually a number arrived at by talking to other people about what they have spent on their pool. Meaning you may have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank but have decided that you are going to spend $60,000.00 on you pool project. Either is fine as long as you understand what that amount of money will buy.
3. Bidding a pool project vs. estimating a pool project. Why are my "bids" all over the place? The first thing to understand about a "bid" is that it in order for it to be a "bid" you must have a design of what you want with specifications of how it is to be built in hand. This design with specifications would be given to the pool companies that you have decided you may want to build your pool. This way you will get back numbers on the project that you can compare with each other. The most common way it is done in my market area is to get "estimates". You end up with different pool designs, materials, equipment, decking quantities and so on. This is really a huge mistake and can lead to choosing a pool builder based on false equivalencies. This is the method of choosing a builder by price. Unfortunately it has nothing to do with the actual value of the project and can lead to a misunderstanding with your builder. Which leads to my next question.
4. Who is my pool builder? This is something you need to know before you call any pool builder to come out to your home. The very best resource for much of this information is their website. Many pool builders websites are lacking basic information that you should be on their site. Because this is actually going to be many questions for you to get answered. I will make a list for you to use.
- 1. How many years have they been in business? We have competitors that have been in business more years doing other things (arbors, plants, yard work, fencing) than they have been building pools. This is a huge lack of information you need.
- 2. How many years have they been building pools? It is misleading to claim, for example, 17 years in business when they have been building pools for 2 or 3 years.
- 3. Where is their office located? Many pool companies do not have an office, warehouse, equipment or employees. Be sure you visit their office before they come to your home. No office equals (NIMBY) Not In My Back Yard! You can find a reputable pool builder with an office I assure you.
- 4. Who is the owner of the company? I have looked at many of the pool builders websites in my area and many don't mention an owners name. This should be a huge red flag.
- 5. Who is going to oversee the building of my pool? Do they have a project manager or are they the project manager? You need to know up front who you will be dealing with during construction.
- 6. What can I expect the time to be to complete my pool? With out a set schedule you may end up having your project drag out way past the promised completion date. So get it in writing on the contract.
- 7. What cost may arise that I am not aware of? Unfortunately many pool builders come back after they start working in your yard and ask for more money. They will say something is not included that you thought was. Find out up front what is not included.
- 8. Does your company have workers compensation insurance? This is very important and most people don't bother to ask or just don't know to ask. If a worker get injured on your property and the pool company does not have workers compensation insurance, you may be liable for any medical costs that could arise. Trust me on this one, you can't afford it!
- 9. Does your company have liability insurance? What happens if the pool company destroys some part of your home or neighbors? If they have liability insurance you are covered. If not - Once again you can't afford it. Make sure they show you their liability insurance certificate.
- 10. Is your company financially sound? Does there company have the financial strength to withstand any potential problems that may arise? If not you could end up with a partially finished project. This is a very expensive mistake to correct. Get a list of vendors or sub-contractors and call them. Ask if they are being paid on time. If this offends your pool builder, tough! Protect yourself.
I hope this information is helpful in your quest to find a pool builder. Thanks for reading!
John Oliver, Atlantis Pools & Spas Inc., Tulsa, Oklahoma. www.atlantispoolsandspasinc.com