Why is it so Hard to Find the
According to the Better Business Bureau, complaints against home improvement/home repair contractors are among the most common consumer complaints received. Complaints range from high‐pressure sales tactics and confusion over contract terms to poor or incomplete workmanship and overcharging for the amount or quality of work provided.
One study of approximately 1,000 homeowners conducted in 2007 by Qualified Remodeler Magazine revealed that 50% of them would not hire the contractor they originally chose to remodel their home, and 48% said they would not refer the contractor they chose to their friends.
Fortunately, much of this can be avoided with a little research and due diligence. Hopefully this blog will help you to recognize the unprofessional and disreputable contractors that unfortunately do exist and won’t let the temptations of a low price keep you from seeing the “warning signs”.
The 3 main questions a homeowner will ask during their interview with a contractor
- “How much will it cost?”
- “How long will it take”?
- “When can the work get started?”
Are we right? Even though these are good questions they are NOT the MOST IMPORTANT. It is amazing how few questions are asked about the contractor, i.e. processes he or she uses to complete the project, questions about the employees, subcontractors, materials used, proper scope of work, etc. Up until now, these are the reasons why it is so hard to find a good contractor.
- People don’t know what they should ask.
- They don’t know how or are too afraid to ask.
- They take too much for granted.
Homeowners dangerously assume that most contractors follow “standard” business practices that don’t really vary much from one contractor to the next.
Proceed with Caution
Every industry has its share of bad players. The remodeling industry is no exception. But what about when someone is not attempting to intentionally be unscrupulous?
I’m referring to the honest contractors that are either inexperienced, incompetent or both. They may mean well, but their lack of skill or knowledge or inability to be able to complete or manage your project correctly can be just as devastating as the work of a truly unscrupulous contractor.
In other words, it’s not always the bad guys you need to look out for.More often than not, in this business, it’s the honest guy that doesn’t know what the heck he’s doing that you need to look out for most.
There’s a big difference between being willing and being able and there seems to be no shortage of people willing to do your particular job.
TIP #1. Did the Contractor Appears Unkempt and Disorganized?
We all know not to “judge a book by its cover,” but a disorganized contractor means a disorganized project.
- Did he/she arrive on time for the appointment?
- Did he/she “look” at your project or did they do an assessment of the requirements?
- Did the vehicle they arrived in look well maintained?
- Did the vehicle proudly display the name of the company?
TIP #2. Unverifiable Credentials
If you can’t verify a contractor’s company, name, address, and phone number, it’s a sure bet that trouble lies ahead.
Many of these fly-by-night contractors are called “pick-up-truck” builders. These guys don’t have verifiable businesses and are mobile enough to pack up and leave your job without a trace. A verifiable address is a must.
TIP #3. “High-Pressure” Sales Tactics
With the remodeling business becoming more and more competitive each year, many contractors resort to high-pressure tactics to get you to sign on the spot.
These people generally have their own private agenda. They are not interested in you or the eventual outcome of your project as much as making the sale, and will sometimes promise anything to get you to sign. You should never feel pressured into making a decision about choosing your contractor.
If you ever feel pressured by a contractor or salesman, politely ask them to back off. If they persist, it’s time to look for another contractor. High pressure usually leads to a poor decision when remodeling.
TIP# 4. Unusual Payment Terms
Beware of the home improvement contractor who asks that you pay for the entire job upfront or asks you to pay in cash.
There are too many horror stories about contractors who disappeared with a homeowner’s money without finishing the project. A reputable, professional contractor will generally ask for a reasonable deposit and will propose a reasonable payment schedule.
A professional home contractor will present an equitable, mutually acceptable payment plan, usually based on the progress of your project.
TIP #5. The “Price Reduction”
This occurs when you say no to or show a bit of reluctance to the initial offer and in response the salesperson offers a lower price for the exact same work.
Substantial reductions in price without changes in the scope of work or specifications likely signifies that the contractor is trying to get a higher price for something that is worth less to begin with and is just trying to “save the sale.”
Personally, we think this practice suggests dishonesty on the part of the home contractor. If you can’t trust him now, you surely can’t trust him later.
If you and the contractor negotiate different materials, methods or circumstances that clearly have an impact on the cost, this would be fine. Otherwise, the “price” should be the “price.”
TIP #6. BIG ONE-No Contract or Proposal
Insist on a thorough contract or proposal that includes all the details! We can’t tell you how many headaches and how much frustration could have been prevented if only there were a carefully drafted contract with a defined scope of work, clear specifications, and detailed terms.
A professional home improvement contractor will ALWAYS provide a contract, detailed scope of work, and a schedule. Do not assume it is included unless it is spelled out in writing!
In addition to the benefits that come from knowing what to expect, if a contractor takes the time necessary to compile a detailed document, there will be far fewer unforeseen issues and misunderstandings, which will result in less stress for both parties and a project that moves along much more smoothly.
If there is ever a misunderstanding, chances are it can be easily cleared up by referencing this critical document.
TIP #7 Incomplete Specifications or Unclear Terms
Pay particularly close attention to the “Scope of Work” and “Specifications” section of the contract or proposal.
This is the part of the proposal that defines exactly what work will be completed (the scope of work) and exactly what products or materials and which methods are going to be used (the specifications).
Every project should have clearly written specifications. Not just vague generalities. Again, most contractors fall short on this so when you see a well-defined set of specs, chances are good (but not guaranteed) that you have found a good contractor.
TIP #8 The Contractor Asks That You Get the Required Permits
A home improvement contractor may ask that you get the required building permits. This could be a signal that he is either unlicensed, the work is outside the area in which he is licensed, or he is not able to get a permit due to improper or inadequate insurance coverage.
The contractor may also not be in “good standing” with the building department. In any case, a reputable contractor will always obtain a permit on every job requiring one.
When a contractor obtains the required building permits, you are more likely to have things done according to the applicable building codes. Also, many homeowner insurance policies require that a permit be issued on any major remodeling project to be properly insured.
Not all contractors will do this. Many prefer not to because of the time involved and the inconveniences of dealing with the building department.
Tip #9 The Schedule or Time Frame Seems Too Good to Be True
If the schedule you are quoted seems too good to be true, it is.
Professional contractors make it a point to set realistic expectations. A contractor who knows his business will give you a realistic work schedule/timeline. Don’t be lured by the contractor who promises an overly optimistic completion date.
Chances are, he is promising something he can’t deliver.
Tip #10-The Contractor Doesn’t Warranty His Work
New York State law that requires a remodeling contractor to warranty his work a minimum of 1 year.
Warranties are essential to any remodeling project. A professional contractor will comply with the standards set forth in the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Residential Construction Performance Guidelines, at a minimum.
These are a set of performance guidelines or standards that was compiled by NAHB to help determine whether or not a contractor’s work requires corrective action in cases of dispute.
Most professional contractors know about these guidelines and may refer to it in their warranty. They can provide you with a copy.
Remember this: Contractors committed to quality workmanship and client satisfaction warranty their work at least one year and many offer two years or more. In any case, make sure your potential contractor offers a warranty and that it’s in writing!
Finding the RIGHT Home Improvement Contractor
Finding the right home improvement contractor should not be hard. By following these rules you will substantially increase your chances of being satisfied and not be another statistic.
Many problems stem from people going ahead with someone they feel “good about” and taking too much for granted.
Now you can rest your head at night knowing you chose the right contracting team for your home improvement project because you asked the right questions, and you read our blog.
Eager to learn more about How to Chose the Right Contractor for your next home project?
by Long Island Creative Contractor owner, John Petsco
This incredible FREE - E BOOK provides tips on What Makes a Project Successful, Most Common Misconceptions about Home Remodeling. Costly Mistakes Buyers Often Make and How to Ensure a Smooth Project.