Tips for women dealing with contractors

8 Replies

My question pertains to how to avoid being ripped off by contractors. I had an experience recently where I asked for a bid on a project and it seemed pretty high. When I asked them for another bid with a couple of things changed, he wouldn't give it to me and instead wanted to know "what my budget was." 

At that point, I was kinda annoyed because he wouldn't give another bid and it felt like he was trying to rip me off. I ended up getting someone else to give me a bid on the project (with the changes I asked the original contractor ) and went with them. Turns out I saved quite a bit of money!! 

I've talked with a couple male friends and they've told me that women need to especially be careful dealing with contractors because "it's easier to rip off women."

I totally understand contractors need to make a profit and there's nothing wrong with that. But I also don't want to get ripped off either! This whole experience really demonstrated to me the importance of getting multiple bids and not disclosing a number to "my budget." 

What else can I do to make sure I'm not getting taken advantage of? I'd really love to hear from some female investors, but I know men can get ripped off, too!

I have heard the same thing before. Not in construction but I have been asked to go with girl friends (not girlfriend) when buying things like cars, larger sporting items, etc. it's a shame if there are people out there acting like this.

Woman or man, it is always best to get multiple bids on a project. Chances of getting 3-4 contractors all trying to rip you off is slim.

Regarding him going from removing costs to asking your budget, I have actually had that happen as well. After he bid and you asked to remove items, he knew his bid was more than you wanted it to be. His thought was, "tell me your price and I'll see if I can do it." Not a great way to do business but it does happen sometimes. Glad you found someone else who had a good price.

The key is repeat business. If a contractor believes there is more business to be had, they are more interested in a fair price and doing a good job. Networking with other people for vendors is the easiest way to be part of repeat business. I do a ton of work with a select few contractors and they give me a fair price and great service. One of my properties was broken into on a Saturday night and by Sunday afternoon the house was secured by making one call. I also send him 3-5 jobs a month.

The lowest cost provider is rarely a good strategy, it is often more expensive in the end

My other piece of advice is to educate yourself. Google will give you a ton of info on the details of roofing, A/C, flooring, etc. 

Use referrals, get multiple bids, regularly inspect work, and try to get scale.  It's all you can do and you will still face communication and work challenges.  A gender change won't fix the situation.

@Kathleen K. . I'm a woman investor so I hear ya! It may sound silly, but I do my homework first BEFORE I talk to a contractor. What I mean by that is I research the range of costs in my area first for the work. Then I go onto You Tube to see how and what projects need or require. Then I let the contractor talk and start asking questions based off of a base knowledge I have educated myself on. I almost always go off of referrals and like the males in our industry once I have my good team I stick with them. Regardless of gender there are just some bad contractors unfortunately.

@Kathleen Kish I am also a female investor, on one property I have a female partner. When both of us show up we know prices will be 30% higher--just from my experience. However--- homework is key!!! In fact I just finished J Scott's book on Estimating Rehab Costs and it was very helpful.

Once a contractor understands that you know pricing it levels the playing field.

Good luck!!!

As a contractor, I don't think asking for your budget is out of line whether you are male or female. There is a lot of work out there currently and the contractors are pre-qualifying you as much as you are them.

Having a solid scoop of work is #1, then getting referrals from trusted sources is #2. When you meet with the contractor be friendly and personable. The small talk eases the situation before you start talking numbers. I completely agree with @Lesley Resnick on repeat business. Once you establish a good track record you're golden.

I negotiated on the price for a roofing job and saved $200. The contractor was happy, I was happy, and can't wait to call him for the next property. 

I am as male as they come and although there are some challenges you face as female dealing with a male contractor, I can assure you there are plenty that will try to rip a male off just as much as they would a female. It is just that some contractors have a preconceived notion that a female does not have as much knowledge about construction so they can talk in riddles and quote whatever price they want and also add in all of the fear factor talking points.

Lets use the example of replacing a roof as a job for contractors. 

I will get five bids and no less than five bids.

At least one will be so high that I know they are over charging.

At least one will be so low that there has to be something wrong such as shoddy work, no insurance, going to find all kinds of issues once they start the job that will cost more dollars, will take a deposit and never return etc.

It is the middle three that usually make some sort of pattern or sense to their quotes. I almost always pick from the original middle three.

Some other pointers that have worked for me:

Never hire a contractor by the hour. They should quote the job and put it in writing.

Make sure they have insurance and ask for a copy of it so if there is an issue your insurance company can handle it directly with their insurance provider.

Let every contractor know that you are getting multiple bids. I promise you this will save you money. You will also have a contractor say I understand that and there are probably guys that will out bid me. This person may not be overcharging but may be doing the job right by using quality materials, quality tools, actually has the knowledge and the business license and insurance to back it up. These contractors are usually the most straight forward and comfortable with their bid. They know what the job is going to cost them, how long it will take and how much they need to make.

If there is a contractor that is putting pressure on you to pay them on the spot for materials or sign a contract right then do not do it. Sleep on it. The pushy ones are usually pushy because they are starving for work and no contractor today should be hurting for work if they know what they are doing.

Ask them to sign a back ground/credit check. It is no different than running a credit check on a tenant. You might change your mind if you saw they had two sexual assault convictions and 11 pending lawsuits from homeowners that are suing them for work not performed.

And once you have gathered quotes do all of the reading on line that you can about that specific job or work that you are hiring.