Major purchase? Go big or go local.

Being a homeowner means having many perks: paint the walls, plant a garden, all the freedom of choice that comes with direct ownership. Unfortunately, homeownership also comes with all the responsibilities and continual upkeep a property requires. At some point, a homeowner will have to make a few major purchases; anything from furniture to appliances, roofs to HVAC systems. With these big purchases come some big decisions, and one of the most important decisions is not what to buy, but where to buy. For these major purchases, a homeowner usually has two choices: go Big, or go Local. Which is better depends on the homeowner’s wants and needs.

Go Big
Big retailers have a lot of advantages, not the least of which is the retailer’s name. Advertizing and brand familiarity appeal to consumers; people often feel more comfortable with nationwide big-name store chains for the simple reason of knowing the company and what to expect. Big chains have big support, 24hour hotlines, smooth websites, wide selections, big warehouses, and lots of employees. However, the best reasons to go with a big chain are Financing and Credit.

Big store chains can offer great financing deals, store credit cards, cash rebates, broad store warranties, zero down payment offers, and long interest-free periods. These can be very helpful to homeowners with little cash on hand.

Big retailers can afford to take more risks, so homeowners with poor credit or no credit can often take advantage of these offers. This can be a great way to repair or build credit. Just be sure to make payments on time, and close out the account when it’s paid off. Homeowners with the cash on hand can take this type of loan, wait a few months for it to hit their credit report, and then pay it off for a relatively fast credit boost.

The negative side is that with a big chain, you may pay more, a lot more. This is because big chains are middlemen. They order from (or sometimes directly represent) the manufacturer and send out a company trained salesperson, but typically hire local contractors to do installations and repairs, and ‘free’ 24hr service centers and numerous employees cost money, which all comes together to add up the cost of doing business into the purchase price. Financing offers are also usually padded on the front end to offset the loan, even when they’re called ‘interest free.’

Go Local
Local retailers and service providers can seem a lot more risky because their names are relatively unknown. It is important to properly research local businesses for reliability, quality, and customer satisfaction. Check up on the training, certifications, and licenses that might apply to the business, and always make sure the installer is properly licensed and insured. The best reasons to go local are cost or personal contact.

Local businesses can actually be a lot cheaper when it comes to major purchases. This is because they are often a one-stop shop for purchasing and installation. Local businesses are also easier to negotiate with, because owners can be influenced by business pressures to get sales and have the power to adjust their prices (within reason).

Personal Contact
With a local business, you can talk to the owner, deal with the owner directly, and in some cases the owner is the one doing all the sales and installation. Interviewing the installer upfront can ensure quality service and clarify expectations. When a small business is specialized in what they sell or do, they are often more knowledgeable of brand and trade specifics. This personal touch and continuity of service is great for homeowners. Local businesses rely on good customer service to keep them in business; they are motivated to make homeowners lifetime customers and spread good word. Good local businesses stand by their work and can often be back at a moment’s notice to fix any problems that may occur.

There are some downsides to going local. If a local business goes under, their contracts and guarantees can disappear with them unless they are bought by another company. A small local business will not have the financing power of a big chain, and while they may have financing support, it is often costlier and more difficult to acquire than a big-name store. Smaller businesses typically work with specific manufacturers. This may mean a lack of selection on site, but many local stores are able to order any model from the manufacturer (or in some cases manufacturers) they represent, but it can take longer. During busy times, fewer employees can also mean longer waits for service.