New families and householders are moving into Amherst. Some folks are recent retirees and there are also heads of household who travel extensively and are not tied to a company office space. Then there are some who are self-employed and work out of their home...wherever home may be. Amherst is a draw for many families since real estate is very affordable.
I have had the pleasure of getting to know some of the new Amherstonians, and I have also become aware of ways our community has failed some of the newcomers. One of those ways revolves around the trials and tribulations a couple of newcomers have faced in bringing their living spaces up to snuff. One couple indicated they have learned what mistakes not to make.
This couple hired a person, referred by their real estate agent, to install their natural gas heating system. Unfortunately, the old pump which distributes water to their radiators was not up to the job and they ended up with a flooded basement.
The pump should have been replaced. Zoning was mentioned before the work began but no zones were put in place. They were later informed zoning couldn't be done. They have since discovered that is not true - and it will now be done after the fact. Not being able to turn off some zones has resulted in extreme heating bills.
This couple also thought they were being wise in hiring the carpenter/contractor recommended by the company where they purchased their kitchen cabinets. The kitchen area was the homeowner's priority but the contractor and his men did a hit and miss approach.
Bits throughout the house were worked at with nothing completely finished - except the repair to three ceilings. Tile in three bathrooms has been done and there are issues with all three spaces. The kitchen area has been mostly gutted, and that is how the “homeowners priority” remains at this time.
The situation is now at a point where the kitchen cannot be done until more funds are added to the budget. I am thinking that this is certainly clever and maybe not totally above board on the part of the contractor. People really need a kitchen. By putting the first priority into last place the contractor may have hoped to guarantee a bit extra income.
Unfortunately, the homeowners accepted some of the hit and miss approach because the carpenter hinted at having a new home to build - and would have to put them on a “wait list” unless he could put his crew to work. Talk about pressure!
Hindsight might be a bit late. However, the lady of the house indicated she has learned a lot with this experience. She indicates that she knows they did not ask the right questions, and they needed to get much more in writing. They also learned that quotes are not always quotes. The homeowner needs to know the quote is firm, thus the need to have it in writing. A good question to ask is how the work is going to be billed. Billing must be broken down.
One place where the homeowner's might have benefitted from a written agreement was in dealing with the town and with the town's excavator and plumber. The old lead water lines needed to be replaced and the homeowner's took on great expense to bring in an up to date waterline, costing them some extra expense, and saving the town big problems and expense. This meant that the front of a neighbour's driveway was used to circumvent extra digging for the town.
While the town replaced the first four feet of other homeowner's driveways they left that particular drive unpaved - thus placing that responsibility on the new residents. The conversation regarding savings to the town was verbal - a conversation no one seemed to be able to “recall.”
A good tradesperson will know how much time and materials a job is likely to require. They will indicate up front the hourly rate for each person involved. The contract can be open to changes if additional problems are found, but any changes must be discussed and put in writing.
Marc Buske, the town's building coordinator, made a very good suggestion for those looking for a good electrician, plumber, or carpenter. Get references - the more, the better. Then check those references. Did the cost meet the estimate or quote? Were all aspects of the job done well and on time?
This family has found some wonderful new friends in our community. They have also had some eye-opening experiences which have resulted in hindsight. We can only hope the new friends outweigh the eye-opening experiences.
Shirley Hallee’s column appears weekly in the Amherst News