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Negotiation Strategies with Plumbers and Other Contractors Part 2

Negotiation Strategies with Plumbers and Other Contractors Part 2

Notes on Negoation by Marty Latz, Latz Negoation Institute

My Dad knew a ton of things. But how to fix stuff around the house was not in his “toolkit.” As a result, I knew very little about home repair issues when I bought my first house. But over the years I’ve asked questions, listened carefully, and I now recognize many typical home repair issues and fix them, too. The internet helps.

Last week, I recommended two strategies in negotiating with home repair professionals: 1) research the market and check references, and 2) build rapport and create a relationship. Here are two more.

1. Educate yourself on the problems

I can do some basic repairs myself. But I also know just enough to be dangerous, so hire experts when needed. This doesn’t mean, however, that I just point out the problem and walk away.

Instead, I am constantly in information-gathering mode. The more you learn from these contractors about how all this works, the better you will be to evaluate your contractors’ recommendations. This is crucial when various options exist to fix your problem.

My father-in-law recently had an issue with his refrigerator leaking. So, he called the store where he bought it, thinking he had to schedule a service call. But he got to talking with the technician, who used to work for the manufacturer, Samsung.

What did my father-in-law learn in asking questions? Samsung had issued a service bulletin that applied to his issue. It was a fix he could do himself. And the part only cost $13!

My first Golden Rule of Negotiation is Information is Power-So Get It! This applies here, too.

2. Bring creativity to the table

Several years ago, we had two solar water heaters installed. Each requires flushing every year or so. We recently scheduled our plumber to do some unrelated work and asked the scheduler if he could flush our water heaters, too.

She said yes. But when he arrived, he didn’t have their flushing pump as the scheduler forgot about it.

While he was replacing an unrelated valve, I asked him how flushing worked. He told me it was straightforward but still took two hours as he had to wait for each tank's flushing to occur. I was curious why, as I figured he could get both heaters flushing simultaneously.

That would be ideal, he said, but they didn’t have many customers with solar water heaters and only had one pump. I asked what the pump costs, and he guesstimated $150.

Since his hourly rate was around $150, we discussed two options that would satisfy both our interests: 1) they buy an extra pump for our job and for others with multiple solar water heaters, or 2) I buy the pump, and they use it for us now and in the future.

Either way, we save money, and they increase their efficiency and get a more satisfied customer. They bought the extra pump.

Two creative mindsets led to this solution.

Latz’s Lesson: Lifelong learning on the home repair front plus creativity will lead to better solutions.


Marty Latz is the founder of Latz Negotiation Institute, a national negotiation training and consulting company, and ExpertNegotiator, a Web-based software company that helps managers and negotiators more effectively negotiate and implement best practices based on the experts' proven research.  He is also the author of Gain the Edge! Negotiating to Get What You Want (St. Martin’s Press 2004). He can be reached at 480-951-3222 or

ICLEF • Indiana Continuing Legal Education Forum, Indianapolis, IN • Premier Indiana CLE


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