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The Winter season is THE best time to get a contract in place for your Spring parking lot projects. The last of the asphalt plants close around the beginning of December so it allows for time for contractors to look at your project outside of the busy construction season and most often will give you the opportunity for better pricing! There is no shortage of commercial parking lot paving contractors within the Chicagoland market. For example, a quick search on The Better Business Bureau website using the term “paving contractor” specific to our area will provide a result of 297 individual businesses, many of which have a rating of “A+” according to their standard rating system. Let’s be conservative here and say only ⅓ of those companies are actually commercial paving contractors; so all YOU have to do is choose from the near 100 remaining! Have fun! 🙂
Where do you start?
Proximity to your projects are important. Given the opportunity, every one of those contractors would gladly travel as far as necessary to complete your project, however, you have the ability to see where each of those companies are located. Tighten up your Google search radius to only those companies within a reasonable distance from the property that needs work. I find it beneficial to search something similar to “paving contractor near me” or “paving contractor near Roselle, IL” which will ensure the result is providing you a contractor that can offer you their best pricing because they don’t have to account for the additional travel. Shrinking your sample size based on location should limit the number of contractors to choose from and enable you to get a better sample of competitive proposals for the work. I recommend a Google search because they make it extremely easy for you to see which of the contractors are closest and they include a rating, 1 star to 5 stars, based on the Google reviews each company has received. Be wary of the ads at the top of the screen. We will likely be using these same adds in the near future because there is a benefit to this marketing, however, when trying to find the most qualified contractor in your area, these ads offer little help. The ads are from contractors who have paid for that ad space regardless of proximity.
One caveat for those property managers who have developed a relationship with a paving contractor that has successfully completed parking lot projects for them–your time is valuable–so lean into that relationship to ensure you are getting the quality you know you can rely on. However, if needing to reach outside of that relationship, please pay attention to not only the rating of the review, but the number of reviews as well as the content.
Online Reviews: What do you look for?
Although obvious, the rating is where I suggest you start. As someone who uses reviews in purchasing services for my own property, I would rather choose a company that has 4.5 stars than 2.5 stars any day of the week. For example, chances are if you see a company with dozens of positive reviews that amount to 4.5 stars+, you have found one worthwhile to consider. No matter how big the company is, they would have a tough time manufacturing that sort of response online! The alternative is also true, however, if you come across a company with dozens of negative reviews that amount to 2.5 stars…you know to steer clear.
I must mention that I understand our tendency as humans is to only take the time and review if something major does not go according to plan. So in addition to the rating, please take into consideration the content of the reviews. What if the company doesn’t have any reviews? Hopefully they have some decent content on their website for you to look at, otherwise you are back at square one and need to find your own content for that contractor…
Content of the review is important. It used to be we would provide a list of references to the property managers who were considering using us to pave or maintain a parking lot and then leave it up to the property manager to call those references to get the peace of mind they needed to move forward. Online reviews have dramatically diminished the time in which it takes someone like you to qualify a potential contractor. Customers tend to be most honest when they are speaking to a keyboard and screen rather than to a person who has just completed an asphalt project for them so you get the most helpful information. This gives you an opportunity to weigh the good with the bad and make a decision on whether or not it makes sense to give the contractor an opportunity to bid.
Based on the content of those reviews it can become evident a contractor is better geared for a certain type of project. For example, if you see a plethora of reviews that read, “ABC Paving paved my driveway and I couldn’t be happier. It’s the nicest in the neighborhood!”. Chances are you have found a really good, residential driveway contractor. Could they do your commercial parking lot? Maybe. But I would rather choose a contractor who has proven expertise with the project I need assistance with.
When should you be thinking about your parking lot project?
As stated above, the winter months are the best time to sign a proposal for the upcoming Spring construction season. Contractors are trying to book as much work as possible for the Spring and can most often offer you more competitive pricing. In addition, you want to be on their project list as early as possible in the Spring so you can get the full benefit of either your asphalt paving, concrete or sealcoating project. The sometimes necessary items such as approvals, boards, permitting, coordination of completing the project; can stretch the time you think it would take for a project to be completed. These factors added to the already busy workload you have can push these parking lot projects very easily into late Summer or Fall. If you are a seasoned veteran of the Commercial Property Manager world, you likely have had a project in the past which has not been completed due to some of these external factors delaying the project.
My suggestion, as a paving contractor, is to get a jump on the process as soon as possible and receive all the benefits of having the project planned and on the schedule of a positively-reviewed, professional contractor you can rely on!