I'm not super active in this sub, but I saw the recent post about tips and tricks for hiring a contractor and thought I could offer some good insight from a contractor's perspective, especially for noobs. For context, I'm a residential painting contractor (existing homes). My company is family owned, we have 12 full time employees
. We've been in business over 50 years and have a good reputation in our community. I guess you could call us a "premium" priced contractor, but we work for all types of people and accommodate all types of budgets.
I'm going to respond to the previous points in order.
Original thread: https://www.reddit.com/HomeImprovement/comments/jymbik/hiring_a_contracto?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3 "Call a minimum of 3 contractors to get bids from."
This is pretty decent general advice. Obviously vetting multiple options is very important, but strictly shopping this way can be a misnomer. What I would say is this -- if you find a contractor that has been recommended by reputable sources, is within your budget and you are confident
in -- hire them. As a contractor, I don't want to price-check for someone who already has an idea of who they would like to use before I have a chance to bid. It wastes my time. Most of our work is from word of mouth (or text) referrals, and we try very hard to go the extra mile for new prospective clients when they have been recommended by an existing customer. Please be reasonable and don't waste our time if you can avoid it. What to look for?
Things we do to earn your work right away: We respond to estimate requests within 24 hours, or the following Monday if over the weekend. We call you back to set up a time to visit. We will feel the project out on the phone to make sure we are a good fit for you. We will then schedule a firm time for an estimate meeting. We'll show up when we say we will, or call you well in advance if we have a conflict (happens rarely). We return estimates promptly. One or two days for small jobs, or by the following Monday if we need the weekend to get the quote done. We are looking for people that want us
to work for them. We screen calls immediately to make sure our schedule (6-8 weeks minimum) is acceptable to you. We always ask where you were referred from -- have a good answer at the ready for this. "I don't remember" or "Someone on Facebook" doesn't help us out -- letting us know your referral source helps us know how to approach the project. "Ask a lot of questions"
Yes, yes, yes! Folks with no questions scare me. Do they not care? Do they already know what to expect? Am I just here because they needed another price?
Questions give me a starting point to explain how we will do our work and add value to the project. I always ask if folks have questions, and if they don't, it really seems like they don't care. Ask about scheduling, quality of the materials, or how the work phases will be structured. Anything to get a conversation going. We want to get to know you and make sure we are comfortable working with you, as you want to know the same about us. "Ask for references, check to see if they have liability and worker’s compensation insurance."
Yes -- somewhat. It is never a bad idea to ask for references, and reputable contractors should always be able to provide them upon request. But you should not be depending on these references alone -- by the time the contractor gets to your home you should have already done some investigation on your own. Remember the references the contractor gives you will only be good ones -- so doing your own research will be your best insight into whether you want to hire them
Don't hesitate to ask about WC and insurance. As an above-board contractor that has employees, pays our taxes, WC and insurance, I am always happy when people ask about this. I can proudly say "Yes, we are legitimate!" I can't really ever remember being asked to actually provide proof -- but I could within hours if I needed to. "Be specific in what you want completed."
Prospective clients that are indecisive are a nightmare. Please have a plan for what you want done. Don't nickel-and-dime your contractor by asking them to estimate every little detail separately (this can actually make things more expensive). If both partners in the household are making decisions together, both of you should be there. If one person is "in charge" of the project, make sure they are present for the meeting. There is nothing more frustrating that meeting someone for an estimate only to find out they are only there to open the door for you -- and that their spouse who is "in charge" of the project is at work.
Don't ask us to estimate projects you're "curious about doing in the future, because you're here now". Start with the initial project and work on the next one later. "Don’t put down more than a third as a down payment."
This is mostly true -- but don't expect your contractor to custom order anything for you with that mentality. As a painter, we don't ask for any deposit because our material costs are such a minor portion of the job, and we have enough liquidity to pay our employees. On a $1000 project, only $150 of that might be in materials, so our model makes sense for us. One the other hand -- we work with remodelers that will order $60k worth of custom windows for an $80k project. It's your responsibility to pay for those (or a large percentage) before they're ordered, since they cannot be returned. Other contractors that order custom materials can probably do a better job of explaining this area than me. "Communicate with your contractor if you are unhappy."
Yes! The end of the project when everything is in the truck and we've cleaned up is not the time to ask for touch-ups (or worse yet, once we've left). You should be an active participant in the success of your project. We want to make you happy because it gets us paid and we hope you'll recommend us to your friends. IMPORTANT --
Understand that mistakes and errors happen. They just do. We are working in your occupied home, and we try as hard as we can to make sure everything goes perfectly for you. But please be reasonable with us -- allow us to make things right for you when they go wrong. Yelling, screaming or being a Karen will not get your anywhere. We feel terrible when we mess up, but if you've done your homework before you hired us, you should already know that we will make it right for you. Please allow us to do so if that happens. It is as uncomfortable a situation for us as it as for you. "Let your contractor work and get out of his way. Don't be watching everything he is doing."
Yes and no. Once again - you should be an active participant in the success of your project. Don't be afraid to check in with your workers. As them if they have any questions for you. Offer a water of coffee. Get to know them and be kind. (Pro Tip: People will do better work for you if they know you care about them).
But please do not bird-dog us. We are happy to explain what we are doing or why we are doing it, being genuinely curious is fine, and we most people are always happy to talk about their work. However, it is extremely uncomfortable when someone is quite literally peering over your shoulder all day long. We are professionals (remember, you should have vetted us!), please let us work our magic and do what we do best. How would you like someone literally looking over your shoulder for 8 hours while you were at your job? "When he is finished and you are happy pay him what he is owed. If you are not satisfied, give him a chance to correct it."
Yes! Please pay promptly. We are in fortunate position in our business in that we don't even need to collect money at completion -- we invoice via mail or email within a day or two. We appreciate your prompt payment. You hired us and you knew the project cost when you did so - you should be prepared to pay as soon as we request payment, once the project is done. If you don't pay promptly we will likely blacklist you. We should never need to bug you for payment for a project you hired us for voluntarily.
And yes -- please let us make it right if we make an error. We rarely have situations where money is withheld at completion because of issues. However, we have remodeling contractors we know that have had entire bathroom renovation budgets ($50k) withheld for having a missing door handle or other somewhat-minor issues. If you need to withhold payment, it should be roughly equivalent to the cost of the issue you need corrected, but not more. In the door handle scenario -- maybe withhold $500, max. It'll piss off your remodeler enough to make them correct the issue, but it's not putting their business in jeopardy. Be reasonable. "If he does a great job, recommend him to your friends and use him every time you have a project." ALL OF THIS.
Once you hire us, we want you to only hire us going forward. We want to be "Your guy". That doesn't mean we want to rip you off in the future or expect to do work without an estimate -- but we want to give you a great experience so that you will never want to use anyone else. Once you're "our" customer we will bend over backwards for you. For our repeat clients we do favors, take care of little time-waster issues and look forward to working for you again. It's extremely disappointing to be in a competitive bid scenario for a customer you've worked for for 20 years. Do we not have your trust yet? Do you not by now know we will give the best price we can and do our best work? We want to earn your business and your repeat business.
And also yes -- we really
want you to recommend us. Tell your friends. We get calls from new clients that say "My friend Jane said I HAVE to use you guys -- there is no one better". We love to hear that. "Most contractors are small business people and do good work and take pride in what they do."
Absolutely. Good contractors are in this for the long haul -- and we are a rare breed. We want to earn your business, your repeat business and your recommendation. We want to make you happy and build or uphold our reputations. Please understand we are not in business to rip you off -- that doesn't help anyone in the long run.
EDIT -- Thanks for my first Gold! This post obviously can't cover every situation. Everyone has unique experiences, good or bad. I just wanted people to have some insight into what we deal with on the contractor side of the relationship and how you can use that to get better results on your end. More and more it seems like people have no idea how to deal with contractors. We're a dying breed, unfortunately. Just know that their are good ones out there and they can be found if you know where to look. Sorry for those of you who have had bad experiences in the past -- hopefully you can find contractors that can give you better results in the future.