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  1. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
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    SoCal
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    6,539

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    My mother used to say: "The cheap comes out more expensive, in most cases".

    How true.

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Location
    South Carolina
    Posts
    28

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    If I don't know how much something should cost, I start with the 'due-diligence' (as described by A.Spruce) and then ask questions (and am ready to listen) as I gather quotes. This works for a turn-key renovation, a new house, or a new transmission in the family car. And today it just makes sense to get as many quotes as one can, whether building or dealing with a home issue you're not an expert in...like replacing the septic tank/drain field in the backyard.

    MLBSF started with the scenario w/ that crazy-low price of $65K. That should have been a red flag when the other quotes revealed the real value of the work. I'm not saying I haven't stumbled in this area myself. I once got the file for a $1.1 mil. job placed on my desk. The estimate was thrown together quickly & a real mess. I was stretched thin and putting out fires on multiple jobs with too many issues and trades to count. I had to find a contractor for a $100K scope and brought in someone who was sure they could do it for $50K. They couldn't. This wasn't an epic disaster, but just an extremely annoying lesson. Even now, I might take the low bid, but when it's way out in left field, you have to realize something is wrong and throw out it out.

    If you have five quotes, $500, $1,000, $1,100, $1,200, and $1,700 it's pretty obvious the value of the work is near one grand. You can add or drop zeros and apply this same thinking to anything.

    There is so much good advice by the others on this thread; insurance, bonding, change orders, ect., but hiring a contractor is comparable to plowing through all those books when you're about to become a parent...you read as much as you can, apply what works for your family as needed, and realize that some of what you read was meant for someone else. Just like raising a child, there's not one way to do anything...including construction.

    Furthermore, people move around and this is sometimes a factor in their expectations on how much things should cost. What something costs out east may not be the same in the Midwest, the south, or west of the Rockies. Getting 3,4, or 5 quotes will be a reality check, but you have to ready and able to pass on those prices that don't belong.

    Blood, Sweat, and Pig's Ears

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Location
    Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    64

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    Hi all,
    this is an excellent topic and thank you all for putting together this discussion and expressing your, (contractors') point of view.
    All that said I think there is considerable selection bias here. You guys represent the best of the best of your trade. You are passionate about your work, honest and dedicated. This shows in your posts and willingness to help, taking time to write and share.
    For us selecting a contractor - is a huge job. I agree that choosing the cheapest one - is not the way to go. On the other hand - there is no guarantee that the middle or higher priced one will do a good job! I know - we have to check and ask for references... But you cannot imagine how many of mediocrities and dishonesty are out there.
    Some will post their friends as references, other will became rude to you right after you sign up...
    Now with internet advance it is little easier - you can read reviews on certain sites, but even then - no guarantee... I saw contractors' dirty wars on internet as well...
    We try to go through a complete check list, checking, doing all that stuff suggested on Mike Holmes show, still - no guarantee...
    Personally, we started to go with big retailers - HD, Loews ..etc for our big projects. I know, it may sound subpar to you but at least there is standard price and guarantee and we can at least complain if we are not happy...
    Thank you for understanding,
    P

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    7,053

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    Quote Originally Posted by Housedoc View Post
    Personally, we started to go with big retailers - HD, Loews ..etc for our big projects. I know, it may sound subpar to you but at least there is standard price and guarantee and we can at least complain if we are not happy...
    Thank you for understanding,
    P
    The Evil Big Box has created a whole new problem. Yes, pricing may be standardized, but all you've done is add a middle man and his fingers to your pocket. You are NOT getting the best quality materials or workmanship, that is a guarantee! I have had several clients who have chosen to go the route of a Big Box sub-contractor and to be able to make money they have to cut corners, which means that the quality of workmanship suffers greatly.

    Yes, you can complain, which can get the contractors fired by the Big Box, but the problem may not be the contractors themselves. Again, because they are a sub-contractor to the BB, the BB tells the contractor what they will charge to do an installation. What happens when you try to pay someone $500 to do a $1000 job? They are rushed and don't do their best work. They may use practices that are less than industry/manufacturer approved, and a host of other issues.

    Finding a good contractor is no harder than finding a good doctor, auto mechanic, lawyer, or any other tradesman. You MUST use common sense, you MUST use due diligence, and you MUST ask questions. The best time to find a good contractor is BEFORE you need one!
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Posts
    1

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    To MLBSF,

    why can a full reno be done for $50k on a tv show (shows on HGTV) and notfor everyone else ?
    To have my attic finished and have a bathroom put in I am getting quotes around 40k.
    It is hard to be in a old hosue that needs a gut reno (I wish I had the money) but watching people get a full reno done for what I am expected to way for one room only adds salt to the wound.

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Posts
    7,053

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    Quote Originally Posted by kamalmisc View Post
    To MLBSF,

    why can a full reno be done for $50k on a tv show (shows on HGTV) and notfor everyone else ?
    For the same reason that Extreme Makeover: Home Edition can build a ground up new home in less than a week. It is cheaply constructed, no attention to details, shoddy workmanship, poor materials, and sponsors donating 90% of the necessities for the project.

    Do you really want to be on the receiving end of something that isn't going to hold up for more than the time it takes the contractor to get his truck out of the driveway, much less have to pay for such a thing?
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    93

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    Once you found the contractor you're comfortable with start them off with a smaller 2-3 day project to test the waters. This way you're not too deeply committed and can get a feel for them. Sort of a first date.

    But don't give them the line "I have lot's of other work". We here it all the time and it's one of the biggest turn offs you can tell a contractor. It's like you're hanging the proverbial carrot in from of them enticing them for either a cheaper price or "if you're a good boy we'll give you more work"
    Don't do it, it's very insulting and it's a red flag for me, and you only get three red flags and you're out. That's right, contractors feel out their potential clients as well. It's a two way street.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Houston Texas
    Posts
    2,969

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    When I was young and stupid I fell for the "If you give me a good deal on this project there will be more work later" trick a few times.

    Now that I am old and stupid, I stopped doing that.

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    SoCal
    Posts
    6,539

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    How about this line: you give a discount now, and I'll get you referrals later.

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Needham, MA
    Posts
    559

    Default Re: How to hire a contractor

    i go nuts hearing customers telling me that "i saw them do a gut bathroom renovation on tv for $3,500, why is your price $17,000?"

    if it's that cheap and easy then do it yourself, you don't need us.

    our costs include

    time doing an estimate
    time meeting with the customer
    time purchasing materials
    labor for the job
    trips to the dump
    trips or labor to buy things for all the change orders that come with every job
    cleaning up at the end of every day
    our gas
    our simple mateials, screws, nails, etc
    use of tools we spent thousands on
    liability insurance
    workers comp insurance
    time sitting there for hours doing nothing waiting for an inspector to show up
    coordinating and arguing with our subs
    our licenses are not free for anyone to get

    and guess what, this list goes on and on and on.

    it all boils down to "You Get What You Pay For"

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