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Scenario: Basement/footing issue involving improper drainage and or leaking. You need someone to repair the foundation, so you call a couple of foundation repair companies and set up appointments for estimates. So far so good.  Until …

The first estimator goes into great detail explaining all of the issues that could be causing the problem and explains that if not repaired it could lead to more severe issues down the road. Okay, that makes sense.

You certainly want to protect from major issues as well as addressing the immediate problem.  The estimator then proceeds to put together an estimate that  includes the problem you contacted them about, but also includes an estimate to “protect” the entire foundation for x number of years.  The estimate makes sense, and the work is guaranteed for many years, but the scope (and dollar amount) far exceeds what you were expecting.

Now you have more to consider as you wait for the second company arrive.

The second estimator asks to see the specific area of concern, takes notes and asks a few questions about what you have observed over the course of time you have lived in the house. The estimator then asks what you want to do.

Hmm, obviously you want it repaired, but have been thinking that it was going to require a major amount of structural work based on the first estimate. You tell the estimator you want it fixed, but that you have concerns based on what the other estimator told you (you don’t actually give specifics, just general concern). You’re surprised when this estimator offers a relatively simple (and less costly) solution; address the immediate problem by providing proper drainage and sealing the area where the leak is evident.

But wait, what about protecting against future problems?

The difference between the two estimates is problem-focused versus system selling. One approach isn’t more right or wrong than the other, but the problem-focused company is more interested in solving the immediate issue, while the system seller is addressing the long-term picture.  Probably, the system seller will back up and offer the problem solving approach when you express concern about cost, and the company that only gives you an estimate for the original problem might well offer a further evaluation and recommendation based on what  is observed when the excavation is done,  but wouldn’t it be nice if they offered both options at the start?

Tell me what you’d like from a contractor when you have a problem.