If you want to find a contractor for basic home improvement services like replacement windows, a garage door, a front door, siding, HVAC, you may have encountered Sears Home Services' Home Improvement section.
Sears Home Services' Home Improvement, both a marketing arm for the sale of home remodeling services and a go-between during the course of the project, seems to be everywhere: coupon booklets, freebie newspapers, TV ads, and of course, in Sears stores.
- In one sense, Sears Home Improvement is similar to contractor-matching services like HomeAdvisor because it matches you up with local tradesmen and contractors.
- Sears is different, though, in that it will act as a middleman if there are problems. Online contractor-matching services will not do this.
- After the project is completed, you have a one year warranty on installation services through Sears.
Sears' Brand Name: Good, Bad, or Indifferent?
Sears Home Services capitalizes on the Sears brand name. For older people, the Sears name still carries some weight. For younger consumers, the Sears brand may carry little weight or even a negative connotation if they are familiar with Sears Holding Corporation's flirtation with bankruptcy in 2009-2010.
The home improvement arm of this Florida-based company markets and sells siding, garage door installation, replacement windows, HVAC, cabinet refacing, and kitchen remodeling.
Its connection to the familiar brick-and-mortar Sears stores is tenuous at best. Sears stores act more as marketing vehicles for Sears Home Services.
How The Process Works
As a homeowner, you will be dealing with two Sears Home Services employees--the initial salesperson and the project coordinator--and then with the third-party contractors and tradesmen.
- Selling You: First, you talk to the salesperson, get sold on a project, and sign a contract. You are not limited to Sears-branded products. Sears has a few house brands in the home improvement area. But other than a few Kenmore products for kitchen remodeling and HVAC, there is not much of an opportunity for Sears to cross-sell in the home improvement section.
- Coordinating You: Every contractor doing a job has a project coordinator. It could be administrative staff back at the office or simply the contractor himself. The level of care can vastly range from detail-oriented to no care at all. With SHS, the project coordinator does have a responsibility to see the project to completion and to keep you happy. Additionally, the project coordinator keeps a roster of contractors that he/she feels is most trustworthy. The project coordinator hands off the job to a contractor or tradesman who is associated with Sears but is not an employee of Sears.
- Performing the Work: This contractor comes to your home for an initial inspection before performing the work. By now, you are effectively dealing with that contractor. The project coordinator is always there to keep the project on track and to pass information to the contractor.
- Project coordinator to keep project on track and to police the contractors.
- Greater accountability with national company than dealing with a no-name company.
- One year limited warranty on installation.
- Good communication through the Sears project managers.
- One-stop shop: no need to search for multiple remodeling providers.
- Hidden middleman costs.
- Potentially slower process because of the added middleman layer.
- Home remodeling at its most basic--nothing that will win any home design awards.
- The hard sell: Sears Home Services, being mainly a marketing effort, knows how to get you to buy.
While it is difficult to judge an entire organization based on one experience, I will say that my one experience with Sears Home Services was more or less positive.
When I had Sears install a furnace in Summer 2010, it was installed wrong.
So wrong, in fact, that the HVAC company that initially installed the product was scratching their collective heads and had to call in the Coleman (my brand of furnace) field rep.
Before it was eventually fixed, I went through weeks of indecision and anguish and lots of Internet searching to figure out how to fix the problem myself. So, whose fault was it? Sears? The HVAC company? Mine for choosing Sears?
Accountability was vague. However, since the problem was fixed at no cost to me, I did not have to think about it any further.
To their credit, Sears said they would do anything to fix the problem, even if it mean ripping out the present furnace and installing a brand-new one--no small undertaking.
Sears does not do any of this work itself. While the job contract is between you and Sears, the work is funneled to local contractors who operate under their own flag.
It is difficult to apply a quality rating to the entire company, because they are only as good as the individual contractor they match you up with.
Largely, Sears provides a better level of care than other online contractor-finding services