Working with Contractors!

Hello! In this week’s blog post, I’ll be talking about working with building trade contractors and how to develop successful, friendly relationships with them. Whether you are looking to rehabilitate a rental property, gut and flip an entire home, or are just looking to switch out a few light fixtures prior to selling, you’ll likely want to hire a professional. But what happens when the professionals aren’t very… well, professional? I’ll start with a quick story of a recent job I had done. The job was a total failure. I decided to have a new door installed in a bedroom of a rental home that I own. My normal contractors were too busy for a small job like this and I wanted it done right away. I put an advertisement on a Facebook local “buy/sell/trade” page to have the work done and hired the first person who responded. This person was on time, and personable, but did not have the experience or knowledge to do a quality job. The door was hung crooked and was totally beat up by the person who installed it. I was so disappointed. We both agreed it was not to standard, so I paid him a discounted rate and now am going to pay my normal contractor to fix it when he has time. Even when you have some experience, choosing the right person for the job can be TOUGH!

Tim with a rental property he owns before the major remodeling began!

Like any industry, wading through the bad to find the good can be challenging, but it’s very doable. As an active real estate investor and someone who helps my real estate clients find and hire contractors, I have a lot of experience finding and working with contractors. Here are a few quick tips to having a great experience with the contractors you decide to hire!

  1. The guys that call back should always have a leg up. Contractors are notorious for being poor communicators. I understand that good contractors are often busy and don’t answer their phones when they are on the job sites. However, if days or weeks go by without a returned phone call or email, that’s not a good sign – it’s a sign of a disorganized business or someone who just doesn’t want your business. Start looking for someone else. I think it’s always a good sign if a business has a secretary or administrative assistant. Yes, that probably means that they won’t be the cheapest contractor around, but it’s indicative that they run a good business.
  2. Take recommendations. If people have a great experience with a contractor, they will likely want to tell you about it. Ask friends and families who you know have used contractors and find out who to use, and just as importantly who to NOT use! Beware of someone whose cousin, uncle, etc is “sort of in that trade”, is a handyman, etc. Sometimes that can work, but if the experience goes poorly, it might damage a friendship or create tension.
  3. Hire people who do what they say. If a contractor agrees to meet you at 8 AM on Monday to take a look at your roof, but doesn’t show up until 10 AM, that is a NO-GO. Like any business, that’s just rude and if they’re still trying to earn your business at that point, what do you think they will do once you’ve officially hired them.
  4. Set VERY clear expectations. I am a trusting person. Overall, this is a good thing, but sometimes (see story regarding the door!) it can really bite you in the ass. I recommend setting out exact standards and expectations for the work to include timelines, exact scope of work to be completed, what they need to do if they run into “problems”, expectations of quality, etc. Something as simple as who is picking up building materials needs to be discussed. Once, when I was having a project done, there was a breakdown in communication and both the contractor and I bought the building materials. Guess who went to return their portion…. yep, me.
  5. Inspect what you expect. Once you’ve set your VERY clear expectations, go ahead and inspect the work once it’s complete. This is important. While you don’t want to nag your contractors, you’re paying a lot of money to these contractors to do the work, so you don’t have to. Reviewing their work and ensuring that they’re doing the work to your standard is imperative because if they get too far, it can be disastrous to go back and “re-do” everything. At that point you might have to live with the work that was done, so it behooves you to inspect the work periodically and approve the work that has been done or have it corrected before it is too late.
  6. Pay your contractors right away. Simply put, if you have a great contractor that looks after you, look after them. If you can, pay them the same day at the job site. That goes a long way with these men and women, who have payrolls to meet and many other bills to pay. Also, if you are known as a guy or gal who pays right away and doesn’t unnecessarily hassle your contractors, they will want to come back and keep working for you! This is how you build a lasting positive working relationship and can procure good help on short notice consistently!

With all this being said, there will always be hiccups when working on large or small scale construction projects. But, if you learn to manage the projects, the contractors, and your patience/expectations, you will be successful far more often than you are unsuccessful! Good luck with your future projects and if you have any tips or advice that you want to share or that you feel that I missed, please comment below! I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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