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Being Too Penny Wise and Very Pound Stupid

Updated on November 2, 2023

Electric Nightmare

At First

Mr. Ling bought a lovely home for his family. There were only two bedrooms, but there was land space for expansion.

The first addition to the house was done by a prestigious company just before his son was born.

Professional workmen arrived at the precise time and set to work. Everything was done to meet or even exceed standards.

The Bill Mr. Ling had to pay was, in his reality, exorbitant.

He paid the bill, vowing never to use the company again.

World Class Cheap

When he needed another room, he spoke to a do it your-selfer from down the road. The guy gave him a price he liked and he hired him.

The do it your selfer recruited a gang of so-called workmen he could pay pennies.

Mr. Ling felt he'd gotten a bargain although the seams were obvious, the roof leaked. The windows weren't sealed, the floor wasn't even, the door didn't close properly.

The wiring was done by another guy and the switches and power were askew so that if you flicked the light switch the ceiling fan came on.

The leaking roof was dealt with by sending up a guy with a bucket of tar. At first the tar would drip when the sun hit it, leaving smelly black bumps on the uneven floor tiles. Eventually the dripping stopped.

Mr. Ling hid the seam of the new room by wallpaper which he did himself.

Even Cheaper

A few years later, Mr. Ling decided to add a bathroom. He felt he could do it himself. There was no lock off on the pipe so it started to run and he had to call a plumber, (a friend of a friend) who chopped into the wall to stop the leaking.

Subsequently, Mr. Ling had him add a new pipe so that the shower could be used.

One has to know how to 'operate' the bathroom to use it, because it makes no sense and is rather crooked.

But, Mr. Ling saved lots of money.

The Result

When Mr. Ling died, the family moved away. They moved to a house where no pipe leaked, where all the light switches turned on and off what they were supposed to, where the floor was even, where all windows fit snug against the frame.

Deciding to sell the house, (years before the bottom dropped out of the housing market) the family, schooled by Mr. Ling in the Art of Cheapness, tried to do it on their own.

Of the few buyers, every one offered far less than the desired price, some 50% less.

Mrs. Ling, breaking out of a lifetime of cheapness, went to a broker. He examined the house., He could discern by the water marks, that every pipe leaked. Looking at the abundance of switches on the wall he knew the wiring was not the work of a professional.

After a thorough investigation, Mr. Broker told Mrs/ Ling to have the house professionally cleaned and painted. Further, she should show the house in the late evening when the light wasn't as strong.

Mrs. Ling, falling back into cheapness, went to clean the house herself, and along with her daughter and son, painted it.

When the broker returned he found a lot of areas that hadn't been properly cleaned, and that the paint job looked amateurish. Unless they wanted to stick at the low figure, they'd have to have the work redone.

As the cheapness mentality was so baked into them, they would sell it for the lower figure.

The house, which had been valued at Two million dollars, sold for less than Nine Hundred Thousand.

Cheapness had cost them 1.1 Million dollars. Had professionals done the work, the house would have been valued at 4 Million..

The costs of professionals doing the plumbing, the wiring, the building, would not have cost 100k.

As the 'improvements' were done over a twenty year period, the expense would have been unfelt.

But the Cheapness Gene in Mr. Ling lost perhaps 3.1 Million Dollars.

When To Spend

The reason there are professional companies doing home improvements is because they do them correctly.

If the Professional does not perform there's the handy lawsuit. If something goes wrong or doesn't work, a telephone call often supersedes the need for a lawsuit.

The word Professional when it comes to home repairs is key. This is different from a 'guy' recommended by a neighbour, different from doing it yourself.

Professional jobs look professional and add to the value. Unprofessional jobs save a few cents, cost a few dollars, and deduct thousands from the value of the premises.

Always hire the best in the field. Take your time to question. If you don't like the answers, (and this Does Not only Apply to the answers for Cost) move to another firm.

Get a contract and read it, or hire a lawyer to read it so that you know exactly what you are paying for, the liability, and can sue on it.

Professionals who have a reputation to uphold will not do shoddy work. If shoddy work appears to have been done, contact the contractor immediately.

Monitor expenditures.
Ask for an itemised bill.

If six bags of cement are charged, make sure there are six. If you notice the job is almost done and one bag remains, either demand it be deducted from your bill or that you get the bag.

Stick with companies that produce good work. Don't be distracted by others who claim they can do the work cheaper. Cheaper often means stretching the cement with more sand, scrimping on iron to go into blocks, and other such activities which give you a second rate job.

The reason that the guy from across the gulley can charge so little is that he has all the qualifications of a guy from across the gulley. The reason this licensed plumber charges so much is because he's a licensed plumber.

Don't put yourself into the position of the Lings, having to sell a house which, if the improvements had been professionally done, would have easily netted them Four Million Dollars, but must consider themselves lucky to offload the house for Nine Hundred Thousand.


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