Friday, March 10, 2017

PSA: How to Get Quotes for Replacing the Siding On Your House (Edited)

We are supposed to move AGAIN *WEARY SIGH* in about 2 years, and our siding DESPERATELY needs to be replaced before we try to sell this house. Even though it's been nearly 4 years since I came house hunting, I STILL remember pulling up to this house and thinking "Ew. It sure doesn't look good from the outside!" specifically because of the siding and the garage door, which were both YEEEEEEEARS old and not in good shape.

Here are some of the things I have learned during this experience of getting siding quotes.

Things to Keep in Mind
Most of these companies are run by people who take great pride in doing their work very well and in having an excellent reputation. Some of the companies are more concerned with making money and doing as many jobs as come their way. I've heard that some companies do terrible work and are out to make as much money as possible; I'm not CERTAIN, since I'm not going to choose that company, but I think I may have found one company like that.

To Choose Which Companies to Call*
*If you know me, you know how I feel about CALLING, but it is nearly unavoidable in this case. Some of the websites did have a form to fill out to request a quote, but the form was basically giving them your name, phone number, and a description of what you want done so someone could call you back. I prefer calling to waiting to be called back.

I asked friends and neighbors, the guy who sold me my new garage door, and I looked through those community coupon booklets (Reach) and envelopes (ValPak) that come in the mail. I ended up with 6 companies from the coupons, and 4 companies from the people I asked. I looked at the companies' websites (some of the personally recommended people did not have detailed websites; this did not bother me because I figure those guys are smaller businesses and busy doing the job instead of designing, or paying someone to design, a website) and checked them on the BBB website. All of the companies I looked at had links on their website to their page on the BBB website.

If you happen to have someone coming to do another home improvement, like I had the garage door being replaced, ask that person if they know if any companies who do siding. I was really lucky because one of the guys who came to give me a garage door quote had been in the home improvement business for a long time, and he also had experience with siding, so I was able to ask him to give me a rough estimate of what I could expect when I had the siding companies start to come. This was very helpful information to get from someone who was not trying to sell me that product. (He said it should cost between $9,000-$12,000.)

Call in February or March
I called during the first week of March because it took me a while to figure out how to choose which companies I wanted to call. April, May, and June are when siding jobs really pick up (depending on the weather where you live). Even calling in March, I am told it will be 4-6 weeks before they can start this job. It's good to plan ahead and leave yourself plenty of time to get this done.

Terms to Know
The frequently used terms for this project are: siding, soffit, and fascia. Here is an excellent article explaining what these are:

In this post, I'm using the term "Quoter" to refer to the person who comes to your house to give you a quote. Sometimes that person will be the owner of the business, sometimes it will be a salesperson whose job it is to JUST sell the siding, and sometimes it will be a person who works for the company and sells AND installs the siding.

To Organize Information
I used a notebook this time, but if I have to do this again, this is what I will do. Start a word processing document; save it as "Siding Quotes". Put the name of the company at the top of a page, along with their phone number and website address. Make notes about the things mentioned in their coupon ad: warranty information, was financing mentioned, is it a family-owned company, what was the coupon discount, etc. When I called to make the appointment, at the top of the page, I wrote the date, time, and person who was coming. I also clipped the coupon to the page. Next time, I will copy the questions below so that I can quickly fill in the answers while I am speaking with the Quoter. I'll print out the page for that company the day before the appointment, put it on a clipboard or folder, and clip a pen or pencil to it so I will be all ready to write things down when the Quoter arrives.

The Basic Procedure
The Quoter comes to the door. I answer the door with notebook and pen in hand and go directly outside. Quoter asks me: what it is I want done (to have the siding, soffits, and fascia replaced), What kind of product do I want to replace it with (good quality vinyl siding and what sort of insulation do you use with that?), Do I know what color I want (see below under "Taking the Stress out of..."), Do I know which style I'm interested in (Dutchlap), Do I also want to replace the rain gutters (you can say yes or that you'd like them to reuse the ones you have; either way you are paying to have them removed and installed, unless you don't have them already), Do I have any questions (this is where I would ask the questions listed below, if they haven't come up already in the course of our conversation)?

Then Quoter tells me he will take some measurements and then check back in with me; this has taken anywhere from 30-90 minutes. Quoter knocks on the door again, or calls me from my driveway, I go back outside with my notebook and pen, and he either tells me that he has all the information he needs and will work up a quote for me (I request that he email me a detailed quote), or he explains the detailed quote right then and hands me a copy. I ask any questions I've forgotten to ask before or that have occurred to me while I've been in the house mulling things over, and thank him for his time. If he tries to put out any feelers about other quotes I've received, I either say, "I'm still waiting for them to get that quote to me" or "So far I've been quoted (the general amount of previous quotes)". If you give them the numbers of the previous quotes, this gives them the chance to improve their price and/or explain to you why the other guy's price is so low (and what they say is revealing: do they say the other guy's price is so low because he does crappy work or do they say the other guy has just given you a really excellent price?) But if you're not in the mood to take the chance that someone is going to explain to you in great detail why the other guy is terrible, stick with "I'm still waiting for the other quotes to come in" or "I'd rather not talk specifics". (I'm not saying some companies don't do crappy work, and it would be good to know that; you can generally tell by the other things the Quoter has said if he's giving you valid information or just trying to badmouth the other company(ies).)

Taking the Stress out of the High Pressure Sales Tactics
High pressure sales tactics are NOT MY FAVORITE. So far, none of my Quoters have been very pushy. It might help that I am asking questions which indicate I have some knowledge about this procedure, and I am also writing things down, and occasionally flipping back to something a previous Quoter has told me, as the current Quoter talks to me.

To further head off any pushy sales tactics, casually mention sometime during your conversation that you are currently getting quotes from a number of companies. A good time to do this might be at the beginning, when the Quoter asks you about your color preferences. They all have similar colors, and you can also find that information on the manufacturers website, so, unless your sole purpose of replacing your siding is to get the colors you've always dreamed of, when the Quoter asks what you're thinking about colors, say something like, "Oh, I'm still gathering information right now; I'll look at colors once I've decided which company I'm going with." This lets the Quoter know that a) color is not your first concern, b) you are not desperate to get this done TODAY so you have time to think about your decision, and c) you are looking at multiple companies. It also shortens the time you have to talk to him since you then do not need to have a lengthy discussion about colors. (Although, asking what he would recommend is another good question for finding out what kind of person he is and what kind of experience he has, as mentioned in the next topic below.)

Upon finding out that you are considering multiple companies, Quoter will likely fish for information about which other companies are giving you quotes; some are more subtle about this fishing than others. This set off my "this seems like a socially unacceptable/rude/TMI question" alarm bells the first time it happened, so it's good to know this is likely to be coming. Decide whether you'd like to say, "I'd rather not go into specifics" or "I'm getting quotes from these companies:_________; what can you tell me about them?" Again, this is a good opportunity to find out what kind of a person you are dealing with. Are you dealing with someone who tries to grow their business by badmouthing other companies? Does this person have the integrity to give you an honest assessment of the other companies, especially if it is a positive assessment?

I was very impressed with garage door Quoter #2 because when I told him who I got the other quote from he said, "Oh, they do really good work and sell a good product!" He was also honest with me about the excellent price the first Quoter gave me and that he couldn't meet that price. I will happily recommend him, along with Quoter #1, the next time someone asks about getting garage work done!

Asking Questions
Asking questions is a really good way to find out about the integrity, personality, and experience of the person you are talking to. It also tells the person that you have enough information to be able to ask the right questions and so are not completely at their mercy. It is good to ask some questions that you already know the answers to so that you can see how this person would treat someone who didn't know the answers.

I recommend having something like this ready, "We're also thinking about replacing (something that doesn't actually need to be replaced) because (we aren't sure how long it's been here or we aren't sure if it's in good shape); what would you recommend for that?" In my case, I ask them about the siding on the sunroom that was added to the house sometime in the past few years. So far, only one of the six Quoters has tried to convince me to replace that siding (which does not need to be replaced).

When the Quoter starts giving you his sales spiel, he will tell you LOTS of things. Chances are he will mention the answers to the questions I will list below, but, if not, these are some things that you will want to know:

*******Edited to add*******
How did I forget the BEST QUESTION EVER?! Depending on your personality, and to keep him on his toes, it might also be fun to ask your Quoter which Hogwarts house he is in =D!

-Do you use subcontractors or do you have a siding crew on staff? (Many of the Quoters frown on subcontractors because their quality of work may not be as well-known as on staff crew.)
-How many houses do you side each year? (You want the company to have experience, but do you want a company that's fitting in as many jobs as possible?)
-Do you use fanfold/backerboard insulation or the insulation built-in to the siding? Why do you use that instead of the other? (The built-in insulation is more expensive; most of my quoters use fanfold or backerboard insulation behind the siding, although that kind doesn't add much to your energy efficiency. The fanfold/backerboard insulation was 1/4" with mention of a possible 1/2" and an R value of between 1-2.)
-What is the thickness of the siding? (.044" thickness has been the standard answer in my experience.)
-Which brand of siding do you use? Why do you prefer that brand? (The two brands I've been quoted are Crane and Mastic. There can be some strongly held personal opinions about which brand is better.)
-What is the charge if you find any rotting wood when you take down the old siding? (Some quoters itemize this charge-meaning, they listed the price that would be charged if that came up but that wasn't included in the quote, some have included it as part of the total job. This is a place where you could end up with additional charges, if this is not included in the total job.)
-How many vents are included? (Again, some quoters itemize this charge, some have included it as part of the total job.)
-Does the quote include the cost of any fittings (where lights, faucets, etc are on the siding)? (I did not know to ask this question until the last Quoter mentioned that this cost was included in his quote.)
-Which color(s) would you recommend for this house? (As he answered, it became apparent that one of my Quoters had a good eye for design, so I was glad I asked!) (Because I cannot visualize how something is going to look until it is done. Which is too late.)
-How far out are you scheduling this job right now? (4-6 weeks has been the standard response here.)
-How long will the job take? (I've been told anywhere from 1-2 weeks, weather dependent.)
-Do you offer a teacher/military/police officer/firefighter discount?
-What is your warranty for parts and labor and is it transferable (if you know you'll be selling your house)? (I've been told that, since we know we will be selling the house soon, I can get a transferable warranty, which is supposed to be a good selling point.)
-Is your company bonded and insured? (This has generally been mentioned in the coupon ad or on the website.)

Things to Write on Your Paper about Each Company
-Did Quoter arrive on time for the appointment or call to communicate any delays?
-How quickly did someone return your call if you had to leave a message somewhere?
-Did Quoter email the quote when he said he would?
-Did Quoter speak respectfully to you?
-Did Quoter try to sell you something unnecessary?

Once all of the quotes have come in and I've decided on a company, I will blog about my experience with each company's Quoter, but for your information (in case you're in the middle of this right now and need some hope), keeping in mind that the garage guy said to expect between $9,000-$12,000, here are the quotes (which I will comment on in more detail in the next post) I've received so far: $9675, $9800, $10,575, $14,050, and $18,750. 


Liz Miller said...

That is quite a range! Such good information. I'm sorry it looks like you'll be moving again, I remember so clearly your adventures in moving last time.

Suzanne said...

Wow, I loved this whole post! So helpful! It almost makes me want to replace my siding just so I can follow your thorough notes! (You don't happen to have any advice for getting a deck refinished???)

What a wide range of pricing for the quotes! Fascinating!

Can't wait to read the next iteration!