Hiring a contractor is much more than getting and estimate and hiring the lowest price. The sweetness of a low price is always offset by the bitterness of poor quality.
I run into so many situations where consumers hire the cheapest contractor thinking they are saving money and being financially prudent only to discover the hard way that it doesn’t always work out that way. In some cases, the story can be fairly ugly. Here is one example that I ran into this week.
I met a new client recently who wants to build a major “green” addition on a home they purchased out of foreclosure in July. It is a fantastic lot in a great location and it wasn’t hard to see why they bought it. The dream is to design and build a passive solar addition that is “green” built over the next few years, but before that can happen a number of repairs needed to occur to get the existing house rented. Once the house rented, we can begin to work on designing the addition and turn the dream into a reality.
Unfortunately, the City red tagged the home when the bank owned it and prepared an entire repair list. Because the repairs to the existing structure were only for rental purposes and because it was not yet clear if the existing home will be torn down or not, the client felt they could save some money by hiring a handy-man type person they had worked with before rather that hiring Amaris to make the repairs. That was back in August.
Turn the clock forward to now. The handy-man person the client hired took nine weeks and still had not completed the work and at some point it became obvious to the client that the contractor was clearly in over his head. In addition to such poor quality workmanship on the interior that the client will just have to live with, the City red tagged the new metal roof they handy-man just installed. Believe it or not, now the client has a list of 8 more problems to resolve!
In the end, the client had to fire the handy-man and hired Amaris to fix the problems. Last week we met with the manufactures rep of the roof materials and carefully went through what we need to do to make it right. The new metal roof is so poorly installed that every single metal roof panel needs to be deinstalled, repositioned and reinstalled. Some of the problems include, improperly flashed roof penetrations, roof panels cut too short, roof panels installed upside down, ridge vent not added, missing screws, rakes on gables installed wrong, etc. I could go on. The labor and materials estimated to fix this problem is going to run 3-5,000. Can you imagine? To make matters worse, after basically paying for the roof twice, it will have no warranty and will not last to the design life.
The moral of the story? The sweetness of a low price is always offset by the bitterness of poor quality.
Before you hire a contractor do your homework. Below are ten tips to help you screen contractors.
1 ) Is the contractor licensed? If you are hiring a non-licensed person you are taking a very big risk. Yes, a non licensed person can do the work cheaper, but many times you get what you pay for. A licensed contractor is required to keep abreast of code changes and needs to keep their license in good standing with the state to do business. Therefore, licensed contractors are much more likely to follow sound construction practices and hire qualified people.
2 ) Is the contractor insured? If the contractor does not carry insurance stay away, end of story.
3 ) Is the contractor prepared to pull permits (if required)? Contractors that want to work under the radar typically will cut corners and many times don’t even know what the current building code requirements are. I would never recommend hiring a contractor that wants you to pull the permit or does not want to pull them at all.
4 ) Is the contractor competent in the area you need work done? Recently I was asked to build a 3 million dollar home and immediately turned it down because I knew that this type of upper end construction is not consistent with the skills of our current team. When contractors are hungry for work, they are more tempted to take on work they have little to no experience, which can turn ugly for consumers.
5 ) Does the contractor have references? References should be recent. If the references are for major work like additions or complete homes the references can be up to a few years old. For simple things like a deck for example, the references should be less then twelve months old.
6 ) Does the contractor have a web site? In today’s day and age if the contractor does not have a web site, I’d stay away. It is not that having a web site guarantees you good work, but legitimate contractors are going to have a web presence.
7 ) Check with the state to see if the company is still active. I have run into contractors with a business name, but when you check with the state the Company is in inactive status or does not exist. If the company is inactive, that means they are not paying attention to important details and that attitude will probably be reflected in the work too. If it does not exist, that means they are comfortable with lying.
8 ) Check with the state to see if there are any pending complaints with regard to the license.
9 ) A referral from a friend can be good, especially if it is for the same work. Ask your family and friends who they have used in the past.
10) As a general rule don’t buy from the lowest bidder. Buy from the lowest “qualified” bidder. There is a big difference between the two. One has a value proposition and the other doesn’t.
Good Luck and Buyer Beware!