Handyman: Lowdown on ‘MSRP’ and home remodeling

Glenn Haege
Special to The Detroit News

You see ads on TV all the time where companies are offering 40 to 60 percent off furniture, replacement windows and other household products. But 40 to 60 percent off what? Often, the pitch is about giving you a cost below the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).

According to a consumer alert from the Michigan Attorney General, “Hey! Why Isn't That Price Fixing? The Real Story of Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices,” a manufacturer does have a legal right to set a suggested retail price. The manufacturer also has the right to terminate a retailer who prices below the MSRP.

But while that may be common in certain retail situations, it is not a common practice in the home remodeling industry.

“People in our area can relate to the term MSRP because of the auto industry, but it’s not something that’s common in the remodeling business because the manufacturers and wholesalers we buy products from don’t set the price we can charge,” said Gary Kearns of Kearns Brothers, (888) 355-6700,

Instead, Kearns said the price his customers receive for such projects as siding, windows or roofing are based on the cost to purchase the specific product from a wholesaler, the cost of the labor to install the products and some level of markup.

“When we look out at the market, we generally fall in the middle of the pricing spectrum, and that is fine with us because we want to be a customer’s remodeling contractor for the life of their home, and we have been doing that for 30 years by providing them with quality work at a fair price,” he said. “The ads you see that say you can save 80 percent if you buy before a certain time is just a marketing tactic to create a sense of urgency.”

So as a homeowner, you need to make sure you don’t fall prey to these types of sales “pitches” when you are having work done.

“We always recommend that people resist high-pressure sales tactics, and if someone offers a choice of now or never, choose never,” said Andrea Bitely, the director of communications for the Michigan Attorney General, “We also recommend that you get two or three written estimates for the work and carefully compare the services and materials with the price.”

Bitely added that the Michigan Consumer Protection Act does provide some protection to prohibit deceptive methods or practices in the conduct of trade or commerce like a home remodeling project. Specifically, the Consumer Protection Act prohibits contractors from such things as making false or misleading statements of fact concerning the reasons for, or existence of price reductions.

Michigan’s Home Solicitation Sales Act (HSSA) also gives consumers who are solicited in their homes three business days to decide whether to cancel a contract. But be advised that if you agree to make payments over time for home improvements, such as “90 days same as cash,” your cancellation window drops to only one business day.

Of course, it is one thing to deal with a remodeling contractor that buys products to install versus going to a retailer to buy those home products yourself and then having that company or another contractor install it.

If you think a company is in violation of the Consumer Protection Act, or of another serious charge such as price fixing, you can contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (517) 373-1140 to file a complaint.

If you would like to suggest a question for this column, e-mail If you want to talk to Glenn Haege, call his “Handyman Show” on WJR-AM (760) at (866) ASK GLENN, (866) 275-4536, from between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday. “The Handyman Show” can be heard on more than 130 radio stations.