Would you give over $20,000 of your money to a stranger? If you would, then read no further. Buying a pool is serious business, and you should take precautions to protect your investment. Because most people are unfamiliar with the swimming pool industry, we have put this guide together to help the consumer to be a more informed buyer. If you know the right questions to ask, the answers given will help you to make the correct choices. The following questions are not all inclusive, but will put you in the right direction for making an “educated buy.”
- How long has your company been in business?
- Who are your main material suppliers?
- Are you state licensed?
- Do you carry Workers’ Compensation and Liability Insurance?
- Have you ever declared bankruptcy as an individual or as a pool company?
- Does your company have any real property assets?
- What “material and workmanship” warranties do you offer?
- Who does your warranty service?
- What does each of your warranties cover, and what does it exclude?
- Does your company use a contract which spells out exactly what is being bought and what the “conditions of the sale” are?
- Does your company have local ownership with “day to day” operational involvement?
- How many pools has your company built in the local area?
- Is your company a member of the Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA) or any other trade organization?
How long has your company been in business?
Many advertisements indicate things like: “28 years experience,” and “since 1985,” when in fact the company may have only been in business a short time. What they are using is the sum total of years in the “industry” by all their employees.
Ask how long the pool company has been incorporated. They say they have 25 years of experience, but have they only been incorporated for 2 years? Is the owner of the company on their second pool company attempt, third or even fourth pool company ownership attempt? Don’t let them keep practicing owning a pool company, failing and then trying over again in your backyard.
Who are your main material suppliers?
If a company is in financial difficulty, normally their suppliers are the first to feel the pinch. This shows up in “slow paying of bills” or over-extended credit resulting in “cash & carry purchases only.”
Are you state licensed?
A contractor must be state licensed to pull a “building permit.” Some contractors will try to do business with only a locally-issued competency card. These types of contractors will need the homeowner to pull the permit for them. State licensing is required by Florida law, and any contractor working without one is breaking the law. As a matter of fact, if you knowingly hire an unlicensed contractor, you are also breaking the law.
Do you carry Workers’ Compensation and Liability Insurance?
Ask to see a copy of the insurance binder. These insurances protect you, the homeowner, from lawsuits resulting from injuries sustained by the contractors and their employees while they are working on your property. Don’t feel so assured if your pool builder claims they are “Workers Comp Exempt”. As well, if they provide you with their exemption card ask to see workers comp from everyone on the job.
Have you ever declared bankruptcy as an individual or as a pool company?
Florida has very lenient bankruptcy laws. It is possible for a pool company to go bankrupt, then change one word in their company name, and resume business. Bankruptcy does not always result in the loss of the contractor’s state license. For example, XYZ pool company can declare bankruptcy. It can be dissolved of all its debts and warranties. The license holder can then change the name of the business to XY pools and spas and resume business in less than a month.
Does your company have any real property assets?
Many pool companies operate out of their homes. This practice is common with out-of-town companies testing the “economic water,” trying to decide whether or not they want to stay in an area. Under-capitalized companies also do this because it is a cheap way to operate with low corporate exposure.
What “material and workmanship” warranties do you offer?
Most warranties offered are backed by the pool company. Some have manufacturer warranties. Be sure you understand which is which. For example, most pumps and filters have warranties backed by manufacturers. In many cases, these manufacturers are national companies and will be around a long time. Warranties like “lifetime pool shell” are backed by the pool company. If the company is no longer in business, then the warranty is gone.
Who does your warranty service?
Some companies have “in-house” service departments, and some contract out for their warranty service. Some contractors do their own selling, building, and warranty service. This often spreads their time too thin and doesn’t allow enough time to do what needs to be done.
What does each of your warranties cover, and what does it exclude?
Many people hear the word warranty and think that it means “everything” is covered. For example, a 10-year filter warranty normally only pertains to the filter housing. All internal parts are not covered. Usually it is the internal parts that need replacing from time to time. Another example is pool cleaners. Some carry a three-year warranty, but it only covers the cleaner head. Often times hoses, brushes, bearings, etc. are excluded from the warranty.
Does your company use a contract which spells out exactly what is being bought and what the “conditions of the sale” are?
The days of “hand shake” deals are long since over. Written contracts, which are specific, eliminate “gray areas” and reduce possible disputes later on. A happy consumer is the one who gets everything they think they bought. Remember, if it’s not in writing, it may not happen.
Does your company have local ownership with “day to day” operational involvement?
Sometimes owners are not accessible to the consumer. This leaves all corporate policies subject to employees interpretation. If it becomes necessary to settle disagreements, talking with the person at “the top” is a consumer’s right.
How many pools has your company built in the local area?
It’s good to know the level of expertise you are dealing with. Very often, new pool companies or companies with high turnover rates are training their people “on the job.” That’s right, in your backyard, and at your expense.
Is your company a member of the Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA) or any other trade organization?
Membership in the Florida Swimming Pool Association (FSPA) or any other trade organization is not an absolute guarantee for the consumer, but it does demonstrate the company’s commitment to bettering the industry, as well as working to keep their company abreast of the latest pool technology. The FSPA sponsors seminars, product displays, and offers technical assistance to its members. Because it is a national organization, it can draw from a tremendous wealth of information. This helps both the builder and the consumer handle challenges before, during, and after construction of the swimming pool.
Our office is open six days a week and we look forward to your call.
This buyers guide has been prepared by Griffin Pools, Inc. We believe a happy customer is our best advertisement and the more informed we can make a consumer the better the public will view our industry. I’m sure you may even come up with some questions of your own. These are just some thoughts which will help you make the choice of who you will give your money to in exchange for a swimming pool. Do your homework before you give your money to a stranger and make your pool buying experience a happy one. We would be elated at the opportunity to discuss these and any other pool questions that you might have.