10 Things your contractor won't tell you

News article:
http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid 741445&gt15000
My favorite anecdote:
When asked why it was taking so long to install a garbage disposal, the worker replied: "When they showed me this morning at Home Depot, I thought I understood."
It's sometimes hard to find an honest workman; give him cookies.
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# 11. Dont blindly accept that the copy of his insurance certificate, or lisence that he gives you is real, call his broker, they will inform you if he is covered now and when it expires, a broker usualy will mail you a copy. I recieved one that was a phoney. Call your city clerk also
# 12 Go to your local courthouse, records are open to the public. I hired onecontractor that I found out to late he would loose 1-2 cases a year in court for the last 10 years. Contact anyone listed if there were cases, I hired a guy that owed near 10 people, but nobody could collect since he rented and had anything of value in his girlfriends name. He put in my windows, a week later it rained, they leaked, I went to court and won, I never collected, his nickname was "Speedy" from Ind.
# 13 A permit pulled is your friend, not a tax. You get free unbiased inspections as the job progresses if you request them, put in contract you dont pay in full until it passses the final inspection. [ To many folks get half assed jobs done and dont ever know it until its to late] I am almost never 100% satisfied, and catch mistakes on most every job I hire out.
# 14 Hire someone else that Knows the business to oversee the job and can make sure your contract and job dont get you in the position of partial paying before finish points are met.
# 15 Most important, check refrences and go see work, a guy in business 10 years should have a list so long you will never have time to check them all. If a guy gives you refrences of 10- 5000$ jobs and with the size of his crew and completion time you know it represents 2 months work for him, you have to wonder that he isnt showing you much, because he cant.
# 16 Depending on type of job big advance Down payments can hurt you, as in they dont show up. I attempt to negotiate, to pay most when they actualy start, by check.
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HeyBub wrote:

Hi, Sure I treat them like royalty. Two guys who did our reroofing job(metal tiles), I gave them a bottle of wine, bottle of aged rye each after treating them with a backyard BBQ. They completed the job beyond our expectation/satisfaction. Good ones are still out there but hard to find because they don't need to advertise.
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What a STUPID story...In 20 years of drywall contracting here in Maine with NO licensing laws I have rarely seen any of the crap the story talked about..Getting paid however is the problem I see most...Quite a few jobs I bid on the homeowner adds things on with the old "since your already here" line like that means I'll do it for free or at a reduced rate or the "we've decided to do this instead" and expect me to take rock down and do it over for free or "we thought that was included" line and I have to fight to get paid...I get the money for the materials the DAY they are delivered..Half of the rest when the rock is hung and the remaining when the job is complete plus the add ons per my contract...Usually all I have to do is tell them the rock comes down ALOT faster than it went up to get paid...And yes I have taken it down once when the homeowner refused to pay for the hanging untill the job was complete and RAN not walked away from the job...I also called every other drywall contractor I knew and told them to BEWARE...They won't pay....He must of gotten somebody out of town to do it at a higher rate because of travel....LOL...Screw him...I also know quite a few general contractors who have been running back to jobs for over 2 YEARS trying to get the rest of their money...Homeowners nit picking every little thing or trying to say something was included that clearly wasn't hoping they will just give up and go away even after doing the everything they asked...I asked why they didn't take them to court and they said the judges almost ALWAYS sides with the homeowner regardlees of the facts even going so far as to blaming the contractor for "not explaining things clearly"...Check out the responses to the story....LOL...
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Overly picky or perfectionists customers are quite a challenge.
Percentage wise, they are a small group.
I charge them more on any subsequent jobs for what I term "hazardous duty pay." I also give a heads-up to other contractors. :-)
Andy
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Agree. Many years ago use to fix TVs and developed a good reputation for honest and ethical business. If didn't fix in the house, didn't charge and gave customer alternatives for taking it elswhere or my 'bench job'. That gave customers with limited resources time to decide in a dignified manner. Occasionally one would get an overly suspicious customer (either by nature or had been burnt by some previous repairman?). The sort that would stand over you almost suspecting you of stealing something out of the TV set! In only one case did I 'fix' the deteriorated parts so the customer could not take them to another repair shop and claim that their replacement was unnecessary. One very small item (about 50 cents) was a resistor that 'looked' perfect with bright colours, but it tested open. Knowing that the customer would definitely question that, based on its pristine appearance, I took the propane torch to it and burnt it to the proverbial crisp! Similarly one tube (an #AX4 diode) tested OK but didn't work, whereas a brand new one worked fine. Again knowing the customer might take it to the drug store tube tester and diodes being particularly suspect to erratic test readings might again claim its replacement was not required. So a touch of mains voltage took care of that! And that friends is my public admission of the one and only time I falsified the condition of any parts. Most customers when the replaced parts were brought back with the repaired set, would say "Here chuck em in the garbage" or, if they said "Any use to you?" I would make a point of trashing them myself right then and there. As mentioned suspicious customers were rare, once one's reputation had been established. Later we were in the catering business (weddings and such) and again only the occasional customer was a problem. But isn't it interesting communicating with people?
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Overly picky or perfectionists customers are quite a challenge.
Percentage wise, they are a small group.
I charge them more on any subsequent jobs for what I term "hazardous duty pay." I also give a heads-up to other contractors. :-)
Andy
Seems to be more than just a small percentage around here in Maine , especially the high end homes on the coast... Mostly folk from the cities and the richer they are , the worse they are..Most of the "regular" folk are pretty good...As a result I too have 2 prices..One for the locals or return customers and one for the ones that look like they are gonna be a PITA...I have become pretty good at spotting them after talking to them a little while but if it turns out they aren't a PITA I cut them a break by saying the job went faster than expected and I've adjusted the final bill accordingly....Although I like your hazardous duty pay saying and may use it......LOL...Around here the construction world is pretty small and we tend to look out for each other as well...
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I introduced the "ass*ole tax" concept to a younger electrician I knew.
People that worked for the same corporation, although they had by various means, put the screws to him (including one that tried to get him fired) would take others recommendations to hire him for personal jobs and then they'd -expect- to get a 'staff discount' on his bids.
I told him IF he was going to bid their jobs ( I wouldn't have) to calculate his fair price, and THEN ADD $ 100.00 A-H Tax to his final bid.. He had numerous folks ante up the TAX. This was about 20 yrs ago..AH tax has obviously increased now.
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I do believe there is some truth to this. My Dad had a customer one time, he'd figure his price, and then multiply it by one and a half. Which worked out about right.
--
Christopher A. Young
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"WhiteTea" wrote:

LOL! Andy, we are the flip side of that. My reputation is well known locally (passed by word of mouth). First time, they give me the normal rate. Next time, I get a reduced rate and seem to bump other folks back down the list. It's simple really. I'm polite, nice, pay on time (even running to the bank for cash once in hard times on payday for a smaller outfit just starting out. Registered and all legal, just short on cash and preferred no delay as bank transactions took place). But the killer reason?
I feed the troops ;-) They fight over me because while I call myself a 'good cook' they tend to insert 'fantastic @%^#& cook- GOTTA Have that Job on MY set Boss!!!!' I send'em home with fresh bread not even cold yet from the breadmaker, and whatever else. Last time I had a big group, (9 guys) I made 15 lbs of pulled pork, 1 gallon of 'japanese coleslaw' (an unsweet type, oniony vice sugary), 4 loaves (2 lb each) of bread, 2 apple crumb-cakes, carmelized onions with fresh whole green beans and sesame seed, and I forget what else.
What folks forget is this works both ways. Good reps from contractors about customers who don't abuse them are golden! And hey, I love to cook! It's certainly not painful to get 200$ knocked off the bill and spend 50$ of that largess to feed'em!
Um, folks following this, it doesnt work if you cant really *cook*. We aint talking frozen totino's pizza nuked semi-warm.....
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Things like that go a long way. We always have refreshments on hand, even if the guys are not working for me.
When the town crew was trimming trees on the street, my wife went out with coffee for them. I later found a bunch of firewood on my lawn.
When the house across the street was being built, my wife gave them unlimited ice water and water for other uses, occasional coffee and snacks. . More firewood, plumber fixed my toilet, another guy patched a hole from a tree taken down and a few other little favors..
Three years later, I had a problem with my sewer line. Called the same contractor that did the line for the house across the street. Turns out, it was cause by the utility company moving a pole. He did the repair, billed me and waited until the utility company paid up before he took any money. He remembered we allowed him to use our cleanout to find the sewer line in the street.
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Ed Pawlowski wrote:

Ed, isn't it amazing what happens when you're nice to people? They remember, all small kindnesses add up are are repaid in one way or another.
TDD
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The MSN article was written by a hack and simply stated stuff that has been said a million times before. The comments, at least some of them, were written by kooks. The only real comment that made sense was that there are people looking to get over on people in all walks of life. Again, this is no surprise.
If you have to fight to get paid they you are either not screening your customers carefully enough or your written agreement - assuming you use one - isn't up to snuff.
It IS the job of the contractor to explain clearly to the owner what is to be done and how it is to be done. Many contractors do not like it, but it is a part of the business.
The simplest way to deal with the wallyas (while you're at it) is to have a change order fee in your contract, a clause that says that no change work can be started or other work delayed while waiting on a change order to be signed, that no work is started until it is signed and that all change order work is paid in full up front. If the homeowner balks at this part of your contract before signing, it has done it's job and eliminated a potentially problem customer for you. It is your job to explain why the clause is there and why it is constructed that way.
There are a lot of cowboys in the home improvement business and they don't make it easy to tell the good from the bad as they don't wear white or black hats. Contractor licensing laws came about in an attempt to prevent hacks and scam artists from preying on the unsuspecting. Licensing laws don't eliminate hacks or scams - if you can come up with a foolproof method of separating the good from the bad everyone will definitely listen.
The same as anything else in life, you have to start with a basis of trust and have practices that plan for the worst. You are in business - at least as important as your work skills are your business skills. If you have problems getting paid the business skills need work. It may be your contract, it may be learning how to eliminate the 1 in 10 problem customer that will do everything in their power not to pay you - before you sign a contract.
R
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HeyBub wrote:

All good points. An honest contractor is 1 in a 100. I have had horrible experiences with contractors. But I have finally found one who makes sense. He let's me do all the electrical work except connecting circuits at the panel. He reviews what I've done and makes recommendations on how to improve things. Basically, he does only things I cannot do. Another example - I dry fit all the plumbing and he solders the joints, especially when they are above your head or near wires. BTW he is licensed everything. His charge is $300/day, 8 to 5pm and doesn't take lunch. If you are a DIYer, look for something like that.
Also, it's true that there is no such thing as a bargain. But do remember, that a high price tag is often a polite way to decline a job. When I needed a new roof on the addition and four skylights put in, I got estimates of 6500, 5700, 4300, 3500, and 1900. I went with the 1900. They showed up with a crew of 5 at 7am, were done by noon, removed a useless antenna on the main roof and removed 2 tons of my own construction debris (rationale being, we are here, we have a dump truck - why not). They've been in business for 30 years.
I have recently posted a question about the plastering estimates I've been getting for my kitchen. The first one was $8500, the second $7200, the third $2100, and the forth $1800. I'm going with the $2100 - they've been in business for 50 years.
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