The Top Five Mistakes Homeowners Make When Buying Replacement Windows and How You Can Avoid Them.
So you decided you want or need new windows for your home and now you have started on a journey to learn as much as you can about windows in an effort to get the right window, done right at the right price. If you haven’t already, you will soon discover that buying new windows for your home is not as easy as a walk in the park. In fact, buying windows can prove to be one of the most difficult home improvement decisions most homeowners have to make. (It has been compared to the mattress buying process. Yikes!) Recent studies show that many homeowners drop out of the window buying cycle due to frustration and confusion. There are so many brands to choose from and there are so many competing voices that are all telling you they have the best window. Eventually, many people give up in the process of buying new windows because they do not want to make a mistake. This is tragic on many levels. Sometimes naïve homeowners get suckered into a product or company they later regret because a manipulative salesperson twisted their arm into making a purchase “on-the-spot”. Other times people make a purchase out of frustration and get less than perfect installers because they did not do their vetting prior to making a purchase. And then there are people who get paralyzed in the process and never buy anything and wind up suffering from ugly, drafty, and inefficient windows for the duration of their time in the home. I wrote this article in 2012 and updated it in 2018. I have heard from hundreds of grateful homeowners who have told me this article saved them from making a mistake and I also learned some new tactics that dishonest window companies are implementing in their sales pitches. I trust this article is beneficial to you as you journey through the decision of purchasing new windows and doors for your home. – Jeff Ludy
1. Going for Cheap
Everybody wants to find great value in their window replacement purchase, but there are some things you shouldn’t cut corners on. There are dozens of window replacement companies in Houston that offer windows for outrageously low prices. We have seen window prices as low as $179! Buying one would be a costly mistake. While a cheap window might be tempting, you need to be aware that it’s cheap for a reason. Before you settle on any window, you should do some research on the specific brand and model. Oftentimes the replacement window shown is not the same one they end up installing in your home. Unscrupulous window replacement contractors will sniff out your motivation to save on the price and take advantage of you by providing inferior products, faulty installation, poor performance, shallow warranties, and bait and switch tactics. You would be better off selecting the best window for your needs and installing them in phases, if necessary. This is better than settling for cheap windows that are sure to bring additional heartache and expense down the road. Protect yourself from this common mistake and you will be far happier in the long run. One of the things that we have learned is that 25% of the windows we replaced in the last 5 years were already double-pane windows. They failed in less than 10 years! Do not buy a cheap window, you will pay for it twice!
2. Going For Broke
This mistake is as common as the mistake above. The only difference is that it appeals to the opposite spectrum of window buyers. This is when an unsuspecting homeowner is pressured into buying a window that is way too expensive, too fancy, and offers nonessential amenities. You’ll know you’re being “sold” when the person booking the appointment for an estimate insists that all decision-makers are present during the visit. This is usually an indication that the replacement window company has highly trained salespeople assigned to “hard sell” their windows to you. I have heard of window companies in Houston staying in people’s homes for over two hours as they attempted to convince them that their windows were worth $1,500 each. In reality, their “exclusive” window is simply a mass production window with a private label, so you cannot compare it to other popular brands on the market. The best way to protect yourself from paying too much for a replacement window is to delay the urge to buy the first, most expensive window you see. Instead, ask for details, product brochures, and a copy of the manufacturer’s warranty. This will arm you to do your online research to see if their windows are really worth what they’re asking you to pay. A recent tactic we have seen is the “One-Year, One-Day” closing technique. Here is how it works. The salesperson will give you a price that is good for one year. It is typically much more expensive than you thought it would be. Then they tell you that their manager told them to offer you a much lower price if you would buy right now. They go on to explain that time is money and that if they can close more deals quicker then they can move on to another prospect and thereby create more opportunities for the company to succeed. They tell you that if you want to make a decision right now, they can lower the price by $____. This is usually about 20% or more. When you balk at making an impulsive decision, they tell you that you will have 3 days to change your mind and get all your money back. But if you do NOT buy today you will never see that special price again. “What do you have to lose?” is what they will tell you. If you decide to sign the agreement and later try to cancel, they will have a manager come out to your home to protect the deal and he will strong-arm you into keeping the contract. In fact, most people tell me that it was the most uncomfortable two hours of their life when the “Hit Man” came out to their homes. Some buyers have told me that they finally had to get verbally tough with him and kick him out. By the way, the 3 days they mentioned are something that you are entitled to by law when making any purchase in your home. They just make it sound like it is a courtesy to you from their company. Trust me, if you called them back a week later they would still offer you that special price!
3. Improper Installation
Ok, let’s suppose you didn’t make the mistake of buying a cheap window and you didn’t get suckered into overpaying for a good window. How will you know if the window is installed properly? This is a difficult problem to predict and can lead to costly mistakes. Many homeowners assume that whoever is installing their replacement windows is qualified to do so. But unless homeowners do their homework, they run the risk of having their windows installed wrong. So what can homeowners do to ensure they’re getting quality installation? Quality control at the factory level is usually great. The manufacturer implements standards, processes, and scientific data to ensure that their windows meet the level of excellence consumers expect. But once that window leaves the factory, it could end up in the hands of installers with little to no professional experience. Major window manufacturers tell us that nearly 90 percent of warranty claims they receive point back to failed installation procedures, not window problems. With replacement windows gaining in popularity, more and more companies have decided to try their hand at window installation. Roofing companies that are great at roofing are not necessarily great at installing windows. You wouldn’t let a roofer work on your plumbing, would you? The best way to be sure your windows are installed properly is to ask the replacement window company if their installers are trained by the manufacturer. After that, take a few minutes to verify their claim. Any reputable Houston window replacement company will gladly offer training verification. Another thing to be aware of: Most replacement window companies in Houston don’t even use their own employees. Instead, they hire subcontractors. In this case, you want to be absolutely certain to verify training and credentials. You should also insist on having AAMA Certified Master Installers installing your windows and doors. Another important item is to verify that the installers have general liability and worker’s compensation insurance in place.
4. No-Name Game
At Houston Window Experts, we visit with hundreds of homeowners each year. We hear their stories, meet their families, and learn how we can help them. Often we get calls from people who are experiencing problems with their recently-purchased replacement windows and need our help. Many of these homeowners encounter problems after purchasing “John Doe” windows—or those whose brands cannot be identified. This is further complicated if the window fails. Window replacement companies will not be able to locate the necessary parts, and window repairs become almost impossible. This is usually the outcome of a common scenario: A homeowner had a few companies show her some new windows for her home. Several of the companies told her about the brands they carry—who the manufacturer was, where they were located, and how long they’d been in business. (She would later regret that she didn’t buy from one of these companies.) One of the replacement window companies told her that, due to their great reputation and high sales volume, they created a special, exclusive window just for their customers. They told her that she could not find this window anywhere else, and that all other windows were inferior to this one. Not knowing much about windows, the homeowner fell for it. However, the window was not special in any way. It came from one of the many subpar manufacturers that makes private-label, inferior products for greedy companies and takes advantage of trusting homeowners. These no-name window products may seem great at first, but you never know what problems will emerge years down the road. And when you need that company’s help with repairs, they are nowhere to be found. The solution is to stick with brand-name windows from reputable manufacturers. That way, in the event that the company that installed the replacement windows is out of business, you can still find parts, service, and warranty work. At Houston Window Experts, all we offer are products from national brand-name window and door manufacturers who we know have a history of servicing their products. This assures you that even if our company went out of business you would still have a source for parts, labor, and warranty work.
5. Due Diligence
When buying replacement windows, nothing is more important than due diligence. You should never rush into a purchase without taking the time to ask questions. As you ask more questions, you’ll feel more comfortable about the company, and you’ll know what you’re getting. If you don’t, you should probably continue your search. Here’s a list of questions to ask any window replacement company you intend to hire:
- Is the contractor insured? Ask for a current copy of their liability insurance policy and worker’s compensation coverage.
- Do they have references? Don’t just get them, call them too!
- Did they quickly reply to your initial inquiry? A slow response indicates poor service.
- How long will it take to get your new windows?
- How much is that “free financing” really going to cost you? Contractors often pay a 4 to 12 percent premium to buy those financing incentives. They bury it in the price of their windows.
- Google the name of the contractor plus the word “complaints.” For example, “ABC Window Company complaints.”
- Ask if they plan to get a permit for your project.
- Avoid the pressure to “buy today or lose the special discount.” They’ll most likely give you the same discount next month if you call them back.
- Is everything in writing? Be sure to get a written agreement indicating exactly what you will be getting for your purchase—plus any promises.
- Check their online reviews. Yelp and Google are the best places to look.
Replacement Windows Are Great!
By doing your homework and listening to your instincts, you can find a window replacement contractor that offers a great window at a great price—and installs it professionally. At Houston Window Experts, we’re here to offer you expert advice about whatever window you need.