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jmoniz06
How do you choose a contractor?

Hi,

I am a single, 25 year old first time home buyer who has recently purchased a 115 year old home. I don't really have anyone around to help me when I meet with contractors (or recommend one), so any advice people have about how I should select one would be greatly appreciated.

One issue that really perplexes me is the "quote" business. Sometimes contractors will issue a quote on the spot, while another contractor, quoting the same job, will take up to a week or longer to issue a quote. What is that all about? I'm naturally more reluctant to work with someone who takes that long to give me a quote because I expect they're "up to something" if they need that much time to come up with a figure. Is that wrong? Please help...

Re: How do you choose a contractor?

You aren't the only one who is worried when searching for contractors. It's confusing. A contractor who wants your job won't take a week to give you a Quote. Its a sign that he doesn't want your work. 2 days is the maximum to wait for an estimate. You can never be too sure so insist on having everything in writing, even down to the expected time line for longer projects and a cost breakdown. If a contractor does not want to give you a detailed cost breakdown then look the other way and find someone else. It could be a red flag that they are taking too much profit and overcharging you. Expect a 15-20% profit margin- this is average and fair to expect. Good luck, to an internet search, check with the BBB and trust your instincts.
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canuk
Re: How do you choose a contractor?

pretty much as jkirk penned.

Just beware of contractors that show up 1/2 hour after you call them---- good contractors are generally busy and probably wouldn't get to you that quick. I'd also be wary of online contractors ---- good contractors aren't usually part of those types of services they generally get lots of work from referals.

A. Spruce
Re: How do you choose a contractor?
Marcy Tate wrote:

A contractor who wants your job won't take a week to give you a Quote. Its a sign that he doesn't want your work. 2 days is the maximum to wait for an estimate.

That's a little presumptive. Small easy jobs may be able to be bid in a day or two, but anything of any size or import can take a couple weeks for a busy, one man business to put together. The higher the value of the job, the longer it will take to put the numbers together.

Marcy Tate wrote:

You can never be too sure so insist on having everything in writing, even down to the expected time line for longer projects and a cost breakdown.

Yes, most nuances of the job should be in writing, and certainly any changes to the original work should be in writing and approved before continuing, however time lines and delays are not always under the control of the contractor, such as supplier difficulties or natural disasters such as local storm flooding. It is not unreasonable to get a ballpark as to the duration of the job under normal circumstances. Asking for a cost breakdown is unreasonable. Line iteming of a bid is one thing, but justifying those costs is not.

Marcy Tate wrote:

If a contractor does not want to give you a detailed cost breakdown then look the other way and find someone else. It could be a red flag that they are taking too much profit and overcharging you. Expect a 15-20% profit margin- this is average and fair to expect. Good luck, to an internet search, check with the BBB and trust your instincts.

Our job as contractors is to determine the value of our expertise and execute our work within industry accepted parameters. If the homeowner agrees with our valuation of the project, a contract is signed and work commenced. If the homeowner doesn't agree with our valuation, that is where competitive bidding comes into play, giving the homeowner the choice of the price they are willing to pay. Asking for the type of financial information you suggest is like asking your grocer to supply his profit and overhead sheet before you buy your groceries, to make sure he's not nicking you for your purchase. Profit margins fluctuate vastly from job to job, as the saying goes, "you win some, you lose some".

Marcy Tate wrote:

trust your instincts.

Above all else, this is the golden rule and it applies to both sides of the table. Hiring a contractor is only one side of the equation, the homeowner is being interviewed at the same time and being judged whether or not they will make a good client or not. Not all homeowners make good clients, just as all contractors are not worthy of their title.

canuk wrote:

I'd also be wary of online contractors ---- good contractors aren't usually part of those types of services they generally get lots of work from referals.

Agreed! A good contractor doesn't have time to spend trying to generate an online presence. In my day, I barely had time for the paperwork and bidding process, let alone find time to be online. Good contractors work through word of mouth, those in need should ask trusted friends, coworkers, and family for recommendations.

Re: How do you choose a contractor?
A. Spruce wrote:

That's a little presumptive. Small easy jobs may be able to be bid in a day or two, but anything of any size or import can take a couple weeks for a busy, one man business to put together. The higher the value of the job, the longer it will take to put the numbers together.

Unless the job is a huge overhaul or major addition, etc. I believe still that 2, maybe 3 days should pass. If you are having a major kitchen remodel and plans need to be drawn, then this is of course another situation and would take longer. A contractor expresses to the customer that he will need extra time to put a proposal together.

A. Spruce wrote:

Yes, most nuances of the job should be in writing, and certainly any changes to the original work should be in writing and approved before continuing, however time lines and delays are not always under the control of the contractor, such as supplier difficulties or natural disasters such as local storm flooding. It is not unreasonable to get a ballpark as to the duration of the job under normal circumstances. Asking for a cost breakdown is unreasonable. Line iteming of a bid is one thing, but justifying those costs is not.

Time lines are important. Natural disasters are not the contractors fault and neither are supplier difficulties. But a general timeline, with the understanding of these variables should be supplied. I am not suggestion that every nail and screw get accounted for in a cost breakdown. But I want to know where my money is going and how much of it is for plywood, paint, other supplies, labor, etc. I don't think this is unreasonable at all. There are some homeowners who will go crazy over every cent and those customers are red flags for contractors. They don't understand what it means to build a job and will give the contractor a hard time throughout the job. Just like homeowners should look the other way on wary contractors; contractors need to look the other way on wary homeowners.

A. Spruce wrote:

Above all else, this is the golden rule and it applies to both sides of the table. Hiring a contractor is only one side of the equation, the homeowner is being interviewed at the same time and being judged whether or not they will make a good client or not. Not all homeowners make good clients, just as all contractors are not worthy of their title.

This is very true.

A. Spruce wrote:

Agreed! A good contractor doesn't have time to spend trying to generate an online presence. In my day, I barely had time for the paperwork and bidding process, let alone find time to be online. Good contractors work through word of mouth, those in need should ask trusted friends, coworkers, and family for recommendations.

I think this is presumptive. There are many excellent contractors who benefit from an online presence. These are often larger contracting companies, but it certainly isn't a sign that they aren't good contractors. In fact, its often the staff of the contarctor who is working in the online presence allowing the contractor to be on the job more and focus more on the customers.
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sparky1
Re: How do you choose a contractor?

id agree with spruce on most things! If the contractor is "good" he is busy, and it is hard to get the quotes done on a couple days notice. Hes probably already putting in 12 hour days trying to finish up at so and sos place! this is where the homoeowner has to try and feel em out and you should be able to get a good indication if the contractor is full of shit, lazy or what ever else!! This goes both ways as spruce said, if i run across a homewner thats a "dick" i flat out tell him im not working for him, we cant have customers trying to get everything for free!!Now going off of what Marcy says, its really not the homeowners buisness what the profit margin is!! this is what makes us successful as contractors... Now asking for a price break down is totally acceptable.

A. Spruce
Re: How do you choose a contractor?

I'm sorry Marcy, but your posts show just how little knowledge of the construction industry you have and that your presence here at TOH is solely to promote the circle of websites with which you are affiliated, as evidenced by your ever changing signature line.

A. Spruce wrote:

A good contractor doesn't have time to spend trying to generate an online presence. In my day, I barely had time for the paperwork and bidding process, let alone find time to be online. Good contractors work through word of mouth, those in need should ask trusted friends, coworkers, and family for recommendations.

Marcy Tate wrote:

I think this is presumptive. There are many excellent contractors who benefit from an online presence. These are often larger contracting companies, but it certainly isn't a sign that they aren't good contractors. In fact, its often the staff of the contarctor who is working in the online presence allowing the contractor to be on the job more and focus more on the customers.

You're proving my point. Good contractors are busy. It is a luxury to have an estimator or office staff, let alone a web developer. While having a web presence may not be the mark of bad contractor, conversely it is not indicative of a quality contractor either. I will stick to my original statement and reiterate that good contractors work through word of mouth.

Nathalie
Re: How do you choose a contractor?

Choosing the contractor with the best referrals and life long experience has always worked best for me.

travistane
Re: How do you choose a contractor?

When I choose for contractors, I see to it that they are good referrals and have quality service that they provide on their past clients.

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