It’s tempting to accept the premise that something has become a commodity and by extension to believe that there is little difference between one commoditized item and another.

What are some examples of commoditized home improvements you might ask?

Let’s use windows as an example.

You might be tempted to rationalize that because Company A and Company B both offer Milgard windows, you’ll get the best deal by going with the low bidder since, afterall, they are both using the same product – Milgard Windows in this example.

Unfortunately, you’d be wrong.

You see, the window itself is just one part of a rather complex installation process, but it’s the one part that you focus on most.

What about the process to remove the old windows? What about the techniques used to water seal the new windows after they are installed? Have you considered the experience of the labor being used to do the work?

Specialization – in other words,

  • Does the company specialize in window installation or are they a jack of all trades?
  • Are they using high quality installation components or is this where they’ll cut corners?
  • Does the company use its own employees or subs to perform the work?
  • Have you spoken with any of their customers that have had their product for more than a year or two? How has the installation held up over time?

Of course, there are myriad questions we could ask, but the point is, while the product itself may be a commodity – windows – the employee’s experience and expertise are not.

Not by a long shot.

As you can imagine, we see this all the time in the solar business.

While the panels are a commodity, the folks engineering, installing, and maintaining these systems have widely varying levels of expertise.

If you had to choose between an established and specialized solar company versus a one man show working out of his garage and learning on your roof, which would you pick?

After all, the solar panels are the same, right?

The answer here is obvious, but many customers don’t ask the right questions and often pass on an experienced quality installer for a ‘Pete in the pickup’ because Pete’s price is lower.

Problem is Pete works out of his house, doesn’t have the proper insurance, and is planning to use day laborers to drill holes in your roof and run high voltage electrical conduit.

Scared? Good, you should be.

We clean up these messes all the time, usually after the system stops working; the roof starts leaking; and Pete is no longer answering his phone or email.

It’s important to understand how long the contractor you’re working with has been in business.

After all, any workmanship warranty you receive from the contractor is only valid if the contractor remains in business.

It also helps if the contractor you select has a service department. Otherwise, who will be dispatched to repair your system should there be a problem?

Chances are that the contractor working out of his garage hasn’t been in business long and the same person who sells you the system, is likely the same person who installs it and services it. Not a very scalable model over time if you ask me.

Remember, the old saying, “You get what you pay for?” It wasn’t created in a vacuum.

Neither was ‘caveat emptor’ aka ‘buyer beware’.

If price is your only consideration because you’re assuming your home improvement is a commodity, since the product itself is a commodity, you’re treading into dangerous territory indeed.

Focus on getting the best value, not the best price.

There is a major difference between the former and latter.

Unfortunately, the majority of consumers these days confuse the two. Don’t be one of them.

To Getting It Done Right !

-Scott Gordon

P.S. – Tomorrow we’ll talk about where the real cost of a solar system is. Many people think it’s the solar panels. That’s not true anymore. Come back tomorrow to see where the real cost is.

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