You know that contractor from Tennessee I discussed in yesterdays blog post about the length of contractor forms, specifically, the length of your home improvement contract? Well he did end up faxing over a copy of the home improvement contract form he was using for re-siding a house... You know the one that was 8 PAGES long without the federal cancellation form! .... You know, the contract form that cost the contractor a $9000 re-siding job because the customer "needed to look it over" before signing and never called back?
When I pulled the papers from the fax machine, I expected to see a generic, "try to do everything", contract form that was overly long and "scary" because it included much more than was necessary for home improvement work. I was right... and I was wrong.
What I saw was a wordprocessor based form, downloaded from the internet as a contract for all "construction and improvement projects" sold to a Licensed Tennessee Home Improvement Contractor, that had notices and terms from at least TWO other states! and... This same Tennessee Home Improvement Contract, was missing the Tennessee required notices. It did not even have the the most basic TN notice... the notice giving contact information for the Tennessee Home Improvement Commission (THIC)!
Why was this Home Improvement Contract 8 Pages Long?
It had notices that the creator typed in from not just one, but two other states!
Instead of using the correct, home improvement 3-day cancellation notice, a single, small paragraph, the creator incorrectly used a "recission" notice for the sale of merchandise that took up half a page by itself.
It had a 3-day AND a (7-day) notice of cancellation form which the form creator included because, in their own words, the seven day notice is a "mandatory contract inclusion in many states". Guess what, the ONLY state that has a seven day notice to cancel is CALIFORNIA, so why add pages for that in an agreement for Tennessee or for any other state for that matter?
It had long detailed provisions for things like setbacks, lot lines, excavation, hard earth, things that are completely unnecessary for most home improvement jobs and certainly not needed for re-siding a house.
It was created in a wordprocessor program instead of a professional, page layout program... and wordprocessor forms are ALWAYS longer because wordprocessor programs are limited in what they can do.
The layout of the contract was very "homegrown" and not well thought out. This is the difference between typing and "typesetting". For example, things that should have been placed side by side were placed on their own line taking up twice the space.
No wonder the homeowners panicked when they saw this thing.
Be careful that the contractor forms you use meet your specific needs. Generic, "one size fits all" contractors forms can cost you much more than the forms themselves. Ask questions and look at samples before you decide on which form to use. And make sure your home improvement contract is not too long for the customer to "swallow" because it contains too much of the wrong "stuff" and too little of the right!
Have you had an experience, good or bad, with the home improvement contract form you use for your business? Do long contracts matter to the average homeowner? PLease leave your comments below so we can all learn!
home improvement contract,
Every contractor knows they need a good contract form to protect their interests and to keep them in compliance with federal and state laws. But what about the impression the forms you use leave with your customer? Here are a few things to consider:
Can your customer understand your bid?
If you're using a combined proposal/contract, is it really the best way to present your bid? Would a bid form without the "legalese" make your offer easier for the customer to choose you over the "other guy"? It seems to me that in any bid, the customer wants to know the benefits and value of choosing you to do their work and if you have more benefits and value than the other bids, you'll get the job. Why introduce legal boilerplate into the situation at this point to confuse and "turn off" the customer. After they agree to your bid, a separate contract form can be used to cover the legal requirements of the transaction. Since they have already committed to you by accepting your bid, getting the contract signed is a "slam-dunk"!
Do your contractor forms allow you to include pictures in an easy way?
One picture is worth a thousand words. An old addage but very true. We humans are visual creatures. If you can tell your story to the customer in a visual way, by pictures or photos, your customer will like you better than someone else who forces them to get the information by reading. Some things must be viewed and cannot be described. Find an easy way to include pictures in your bid and sell more jobs!
How LONG is your contract? Does it scare you? Think of what it's doing to your customers!
Is the length of your contract appropriate for the work you are doing? A contract "book" that is pages and pages long is appropriate for large, complicated jobs. If you are doing most home improvement, 4, 5, 10 and 20 page contracts are not only unnecessary, but would frighten the hel* out of me. That's longer than the contract I signed to buy my WHOLE HOUSE! Page after page of contract says "LAWYER" to me and I, like most others, cringe at the word! Don't justify using an intimidating, overly long contract to yourself because you downloaded them for cheap on the internet in word format which, incidentally, was never designed to make forms, from somebody who hasn't a clue how to make a form in the first place... there are better contractor forms out there to use with your computer... hint, hint!
Let the customer trust you!
Would you like to do business with a winner or a loser? Do you want someone who is trustworthy and businesslike working on your property, someone that you know can get the job done right? How do you show a potential customer that YOU are trustworthy and can get the job done? Easy, by giving them a list, with PHOTOS, of completed jobs you have done. Nothing says you can trust me and I am competent like a documented track record of beautiful (photos again), completed jobs.
Help Them Trust You even more. Give them a copy of your warranty as part of your bid!
There are so many rip-off contractors out there that every customer is wary. You know, the guys that get paid up front and then are no where to be found! Give the customer the sense that you will be around for them before, during and AFTER the contract is signed and the work is done. How? Give them an extraordinary warranty and give it WITH THE BID. Give the warranty after the job is done like most contractors do and it works for the customer. Give the warranty before the job is done and as part of your bid and it still works for the customer but it also works FOR YOU!
Do you believe that the right form can help you sell the bids you go on? Are we wrong... in your experience? Please comment below.
MS Word forms,
how to bid