This week a “helpful guide” showed up in my email from a local realtor “5 Tips for Winning Negotiations with Your Contractor”. While containing some reasonably good advice, it perpetuates an unfortunate stereotypical scenario, “your contractor cannot be trusted”. You can see one copy of the article here.*
While well intentioned, these missives over-simplify home improvement projects. This article completely omits the most important aspect of any project – the end result rarely, if ever, matches the original plan / scope. For a variety of reasons, as a project takes shape changes are made. It’s the nature of the process and good contractors take it in stride and make reasonable accommodations.
Homeowners need a contractor they can trust. Jumping into the process thinking your contractor is trying to take advantage of you is exactly opposite the base of trust required for a successful and satisfying outcome.
Some thoughts on the five “Tips”:
– Research: “verify contractor’s credentials and experience” Agreed, no brainer.
– Shop Around: “get at least three comparable bids or estimates for the project… ..and read each estimate thoroughly.” Ditto, common sense. You should also ask friends and realtors for names of trusted contractors.
– Buy Your Own Supplies: “Save yourself money by offering to buy the supplies yourself to make sure you are getting the best deals”. Wait. What? Homeowners are going to be extended the same discount as a contractor? Doubtful. Also, if you buy your own supplies, you own them when a problem develops. Your contractor isn’t going to guarantee anything he or she didn’t purchase and improve. Oh, and when your order of supplies isn’t sufficient to complete the work, your contractor isn’t going to foot the bill for fetching more materials and paying for an idle crew – or are you going to leave work and run out for more materials???
– Timing: “If you live in colder climes and you want to add a room to your home, consider calling contractors for an estimate in the winter. The work may not be able to start until warmer weather, but you may be able to snag a lower cost since the business is currently slow for the contractor.” Sorry, had to reproduce this beauty in its foolish entirety. If your contractor books a lower [advance] bid for work beginning in their busy season, you just hired the dullest knife in the drawer. Good luck with that.
– Approach the Contractor as Your Ally: “Treat contractors as allies and they will work with you to find the price that works with your budget.” Huh? After itemizing the various ways unscrupulous contractors separate you from your money, you’re now advised to treat your contractor as an ally?
Homeowners need to decide which path they want to follow: a) manage someone they don’t trust, or, b) invest in a relationship with someone they are comfortable with seeing every day for the duration of the project.
For a more realistic description of the remodeling business, read this article from houzz. Find someone your gut says you can trust, see some of their work, talk to their customers, and find a place where you can stand as equals. Only then will you have a contractor who will do their level best to make your project something you can both be proud to show off.