Choosing a Pool Builder can be a daunting task
If you are thinking about building a pool, you are going to have lots of questions. What size pool? What shape? How deep? Chlorine or Saltwater? Gas or Electric Heater? How much will it cost? How long will it take? But the most important decision you will need to make is who to hire to build your pool. Is there the perfect pool builder in my area?
There are likely many pool builders in your area, so how do you compare them? How do you decide?
We have all heard stories of projects gone bad. So how do you know who you can trust? What can you do to protect your story from turning into a project-gone-wrong story?
Selecting a pool builder does not have to be that daunting or stressful if you take the time to make an informed hiring decision. Who can say what a “perfect” pool builder is? What you can hope to say is that you did your research and selected a pool builder who met your requirements. Below are some tips to help you through the selection process:
Tips for selecting a pool builder (it’s not just about price)
Tip 1: Search for builders in your area.
There are many online sites and services that will help you identify pool builders in your area and from there, you can check out their websites, reviews, and other publicly available information to assess their experience, qualifications and past customer experiences.
It is always helpful to ask people you know. Do you have a friend or neighbor who built a pool and can give you a recommendation?
Tip 2: Narrow down your choice to at least 3 pool builders to interview.
For your protection, you want to check their qualifications and only work with licensed and insured builders and ones that comply with local regulations, specifically related to permits.
If you check out their websites, you might see information on their experience and photos of their work.
- License information is public and should be easily found online for each State. In Florida, for example, you can verify that a builder is a Certified Pool/Spa Contractor at www.myfloridalicense.com. This tells you that this Company/Representative has had extensive training and testing. This certification cannot be awarded to an entire company but speaks volumes about the certified individual’s qualifications.
Reading reviews online can be helpful too. Read both good reviews and bad ones. Not all customers write reviews. So be cautious relying on them too heavily. One strategy is to ask your builder about any negative reviews you read to get their side of the story.
Tip 3: Interview your prospective builders.
This is your chance to meet the person in charge, ask them questions about what you care about and get a sense of how they will be to work with. Be sure to clearly explain your needs and expectations. For example, you cannot be on site before 9:00 AM, or the work area needs to be cleared when work stops, etc.).
Below are some common questions to ask:
- How long do you expect the permit process to take? The builder you choose will likely have to apply for a permit and comply with all requirements. This process can take time and be very thorough. It may include a review of property surveys, site plans, design drawings, etc. Also, inspections of the work to ensure compliance to code. Asking this question will give you a sense of how familiar they are with the process and what’s required for your project.
- I saw mostly good reviews online, but can you explain…(give example of bad review). They should know the customer and situation and be able to give you an acceptable answer. You want to know that they tried to set things right and make the customer happy.
* Regarding online reviews, it is also helpful to ask the builder how many pools they have built in the last year. The number of bad reviews should be proportional to the number of pools. For example, 4-5 bad reviews one year for a builder who built 200 pools is acceptable. However, if they have 4-5 bad reviews and only built 20 pools, that is a big red flag.
- What type of pool do you recommend for my space and budget? An experienced builder should be able to assess your needs and make recommendations. There are many choices when it comes to pools and you’ll want your builder to help you make informed decisions.
- Get your estimate and all agreed upon conditions in writing. Costs can add up quickly! You will want costs to be itemized and know the expectations for payment. It is common for builders to expect payments at certain milestones (such as excavation, gunite, etc.). Ask about timelines and get all promises in writing! Builders should have no issue backing up their claims and proving their trustworthiness to you in this way. A reputable pool builder will also likely have an abundance of reading material for you and be happy to answer any questions you have. Do not sign anything unless you feel your questions have been answered fully to your satisfaction.
Tip 4: Inquire about Financing/Set your budget. Tell your builder your budget
- Know your budget. Setting a budget can be difficult. If you plan to pay cash, you might be clear on what your budget will be for the pool. However, if you are thinking that you might want to finance all or part of your project costs, then you might set a monthly payment budget.
- Pool Financing: There are loans designed specifically for swimming pools and other major home improvements. These loans have reasonable rates and tend to have payment terms longer than your typical personal loan (up to 20 years in some instances). A more expensive pool may only equate to a few dollars more per month. This is another area where you could do some research before meeting with your builder. It will help if you know what financing you can get before settling on a budget for the pool. There are loan payment calculators online so you can estimate what your monthly payment would be on different size loan amounts and rates.
NOTE: Viking Capital offers a free loan consultation. All you have to do is apply online at www.poolloan.net (it won’t hurt your credit). Your loan consultant will be able to tell you your options based on your personal needs and qualifications and help you figure out your project budget based on the monthly payment you are comfortable with. This service is free and there is no obligation to accept the loan.
The Bottom Line
All things being equal in terms of the project, when choosing a builder, you want to find one who makes you feel comfortable, and has the experience and proper credentials. If they are reputable, they should have no issue conveying their professionalism to you. Do your research so you can make an informed and confident decision. Feel free to walk away if you are not completely certain of your choice.
Other Helpful Information
For financing: www.poolloan.net
For lists of builders in your area and reviews:
- Home Advisor
- Angie’s List
- Yellow Pages
- Better Business Bureau