How do you compare Apples to Apples in a Bad Economy?
Well, the same way you would in any economy actually. But...in a bad economy, there are two other things to consider, making the need for this comparision that much more important.
The first thing is this: When times are tough, you are even more protective of your money. Any construction that takes place at your house is an investment. And, of course you want to get the most for your money and the highest possible return on any investment you make. Most of the people reading this who also invest in the stock market, don't invest blindly - they get advice. But, they usually don't get that advice from their Uncle, cousin or neighbor; instead, they ask a professional. Someone who lives and breathes that industry daily. It should be the same when you invest in a project at your home; you should consult with the professional who has specialized in that one field the longest, has the best record with customer service, and makes the most professional presentations at the most reasonable price. It's not just one of those things - it's all of them and more. Anything less does not produce a proper comparison.
The second thing is this: Since the housing boom declined (or collapsed, depending on how you look at it), many workers have "branched out" and are looking for work in any arena of construction. This means that guys that have been doing one trade most of their lives, or at least for the past 10-15 years, are now being forced to try to do something else. I applaude their resourcefulness and respect the fact that they are trying to feed their families. However, when a framing carpenter that can't find a house to frame hits the streets and calls himself a Deck Builder, it becomes a problem for you and me. There are many different types of carpenters and other tradesmen who have discovered that, while their industry is slow, the residential deck business is still producing some work.
But let's use a house framer as an example to see why we wouldn't want one building our deck. Besides a Professional Deck builder, a framing carpenter and trim carpenter would be the next most likely candidates to build a deck correctly, so we know that all other tradesmen would be even worse than what we are about to show you.
I don't mean to single out House Framers; just use them as an example. There are plenty of alledged "Deck Guys" that can't compete with most of the items on that list! And, as I've touched-on in this website, there is even a local company or two that are Franchises of Nation-wide companies and, some of the flaws with that are: They have to advertise and pay franchise fees to the parent company which costs you more; You may want to ask the owner(s) if they do or have ever done any of the work themselves; They've been known to hire whatever carpenters are available at the time of construction (can't promise same quality on every job); They've been known to over-build the structure beyond what any engineer would require which costs you serious money (when in doubt, over structure). ...Doesn't sound good to me!
And of course there are scores of guys who advertise that they are multi-talented thinking that it will impress you. We know how to do most things as well. We've built entire houses before and gotten compliments as if that's what we specialized in. So, sure we know how to do lots of stuff as well, but we're not going to bounce around all the time and risk being a "jack of all trades - master of none"!
You wouldn't hire a wood floor installer to build your cabinets would you? Just because they both work with wood & saws doesn't mean anything. Just because I've built some pretty amazing solid wood furniture, you wouldn't hire me to build a piano would you? I've always been honest: We build excellent privacy fences and storage buildings, and we'd be happy to build yours, BUT...on those items...someone else might build them quicker or cheaper.
The bottom line is this: Carpenters from every direction have been coming out of the woodwork (so to speak) and it's making it appear as if we have more competition than we used to. Well...No, we don't. Competition is a good thing as long as there are at least two (2) good companies that can provide the SAME like services or products. TEST: Without giving my drawing to someone else, see if you can get ANY other contractor to design you the same thing I do (you'll have to explain it to them just as you did to me, and if they listen they'll at least be close). Then see how close the prices line up. - Here's where it gets tough on you -. There is no way his accessories (benches, tables, planters) or fine details will be of the same caliber. Plus, if his price is much lower, there is either 1) no way he intends to use the same materials, 2) no way he pays his help enough to live on (which translates into them not being motivated enough to show up consistently or respect your property or the deck you're paying for), or 3) no way he is taking care of all the business matters he should to be legit.
And when it comes to cost, I have had more than one person beg me to raise my prices. They were both in Real Estate and very familiar with what things cost and the value of different projects, so they were probably right when they suggested that I could rightfully ask for more money based on our quality & customer care. But, I sleep better at night knowing that I'm taking care of my customers on price too!
We are CUSTOM
DECKWORKS. Even when we build a simple rectangle with a few simple
steps, we pay attention to detail like no other, and we respect YOU like no
other! Don't be pressured, guilted or conned into hiring someone that is not
worth your money. There was one lady who took the plan I drew her, gave it
to some old "jack of all trades" (which means they didn't prove
their knowledge by preparing a plan themselves) and then she paid them $400
more than what I was going to charge her for a deck that wasn't up
to par in so many ways! She realized it later, but it was too late.
This is not Siding or Roofing. There is no way to actually
compare Apples to Apples.