Sunday, August 17, 2014

Surveying the landscape for honest businesses yields a gem

As a small business owner trying to generate sales, is it ever a good idea to advise customers to not avail themselves of your services?

A few weeks ago, homeowners in parts of the Northeast where I live began to receive notices that revised flood plain classifications made it necessary for us to start carrying flood insurance on our homes. This wasn't exactly a surprise, since there had been talk of the revisions for some time. The unknown factor was how much coverage might cost.

The notices and subsequent discussions with insurance providers or banks holding mortgages began to make the costs clear.

My wife and I were among those who received a notice a couple of weeks ago from the bank with holds our mortgage, telling us the bank could sell us flood insurance. The banks quoted a price, but encouraged us to shop around among other providers for the best rate.

Our insurance broker informed us that to pinpoint an accurate price, she'd need a flood elevation certificate. While we knew we were in a flood plain and could consult FEMA maps to see what elevation zone we were in, no elevation certificate yet existed for our house. To get one, we'd have to hire a surveyor, which would cost between $600 and $1,000.

What we didn't know was whether the surveyor's findings would result in a lower premium than what our bank was offering. Because we and our neighbors were in the same boat -- most of them had no flood elevation certificates, either -- we couldn't compare prices on insurance.

The bank wasn't particularly helpful in letting us know how it determined the cost of our insurance without an elevation certificate. Uncertain what to do, we asked a surveyor, who'd done work for us before, whether it was worth spending the money on his services that could equal almost half of what the bank quoted as a price for flood insurance. He said it could just as easily turn out that once the elevation certificate was completed, other insurance company premiums might be lower -- but they might also be higher than the bank's quote.

If the surveyor had told us he thought the wise thing to do was go ahead and get the elevation certificate, we would have hired him for the job. Instead, he said, "I'd wait." He advised us that rather than spend money on his services, he'd recommend going with the bank's offer, then speaking with neighbors about their experiences. If it became clear later on that the elevation certificate was worth it to receive a lower rate, he'd be glad to handle our insurance.

He didn't turn down the job because he didn't want it. He works for a small company in town and could use the business. He advised us not to rush into hiring him because he believed this was honest advice and the right thing to do for a valued customer. When the time comes to get a flood elevation certificate or any other surveying services, his company has our business. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Anonymous said...

If the surveyor was a smarter businessman, he would have offered a cut rate and done your whole neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Not everyone is greedy.
I was arrested once for victimless crime where I felt I had a reasonable explaination. I called a newly ordained lawyer I knew and asked him to represent me. He asked key lawyer type questions and stated that the fine, in all probability, would be much less than his fee. I was to attend the first round and plead my case in the manner he suggested. Should the case be changed to "criminal", he would assist. Well, I followed orders blindly and the case was dismissed.
Well, he certainly had the chance to get a slam dunk case and chose to be fair in a financial sense.
Well, he certainly has my admiration, gets a few votes well deserved from me and my family as he is a minor elected public official, and has earned the upmost respect for integrity.
So not everyone is greedy.
Integrity can triumph in the end.

Alan Owseichik
Greenfield, Ma

Anonymous said...

As electrical contractors, we are often asked for service estimates to "rewire the whole house" or "upgrade the breaker panel" or "ground all of the receptacles in the house." All of these are very costly, and have generally been recommended by a friend or a general (non-electrical) inspector. In most cases, these are unnecessary, and we do not hesitate telling the potential customer not to throw out his money. We have had more than one customer become a repeat customer, knowing that we are not padding our pockets at their expense.

Patricia at Fine Electric Co.
Richmond, VA

Azalea Annie said...

My old friend and his wife were in town for a short visit. They were in the process of moving his mother, who was incapable of living alone due other illness. This good son had arranged for sitters and housekeepers to care for his mother while she recovered from her last hospital stay, but it was apparent she could no longer live alone and she needed to be close to family. We went out to dinner. I had always liked his mother's house, and told him I would like to buy it. The next day, I met them at the house, and we agreed on a price and shook hands on it. I had taken a real estate contract along. I told him I would be happy to complete the contract and give it to him. He said, "No, a handshake is good enough for me". Three weeks later, we sat down at the closing of the real estate transaction, same house, same price. He had two or three offers on the house after we shook hands that morning. I'm told a verbal agreement is worthless, but a handshake used to be the method of choice for selling property. That was 1999, not that far back. If you are honest, a handshake and your word are priceless.......not worthless.

Can I skim some books from my friend's donation?

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