23 Replies

I am reaching out to my fellow professionals on here: I am wondering how do you find a contractor you can work with and trust? I am not happy with my current contractor and am looking to replace him.

What is the best way to find a contractor?

BTW looking in San Antonio...

If your working with a realtor that is familiar with working with investors, he/she should be able to help you find a good contractor. The Agent im currently working with is JJ Gorena and he has access to some good contractors in the SA area. Or so he says, I haven't actually closed a deal with him yet.

Contractors seem to be trial and error. If you hire the cheapest guy every time there is a good chance your going to have some hiccups. You just gotta find the right one who is an honest worker with a fair price. When you get him make sure you work well with them and build a solid relationship. It will make your job much easier.


Thanks for the reply. My realtor is my business partner (she has her real estate license) and we are just starting off in San Antonio. We have 1 rental, 1 sold, 1 under contract, and 1 in process. However i believe i have all the systems in place to be successful except for the contractor. Some are over priced, others are really contractors, and just hard to find one that you can trust.

I've used Craigslist with varying degrees of success, but one of the better sources I've found is calling small local supply stores and asking for referrals.

Found several great people that way.

Meets of my crew has been personal referrals from people I know and trust.

My biggest problem is timelines. If a contractor is good he has a endless supply of work and sometimes I'm left with a project sitting while I wait on my guys. It's frustrating at times, but I consider it a cost of doing business

The best way is to ask for referrals, especially from people in the business you trust. But just asking at a REIA group is a good way too. Regardless, make sure to check their references carefully, and hold their feet to the fire. Don't be afraid to switch or even fire them if they aren't getting the job done.

Awesome Joseph! Then your a lot further along than I am. I was listening to a podcast the other day here on BP. They mentioned something I thought seemed like a pretty good idea if all else fails.... something along the lines of going to the local Home Depot first thing in the morning and find the contractors that are up early to get their jobs started. The ones that show up later are "the lazy ones or the ones that forgot to buy enough material for the job". I thought this was funny, but makes sense.

I've had luck using Angies List. It's relatively inexpensive and I've found some quality roofers, electricians, plumbers, painters and handymen.

I don't use craigslist and homeadvisor anymore. Had real bad results using those.

Finding a contractor at a REIA has been hit or miss. Since a good contractor is like gold, I haven't found rehabbers willing to share.

@Joseph Canini The best contractors I have found have been recomendations from other investors or they have been preferred vendors from REI clubs. Attend some of the REI meet-ups in town, there are usually contractors in attendance, an often other investors will have suggestions and feedback. One thing to keep in mind is contractors are like a loaf of bread, they have a shelf-life. It seems to be without fail, even the best contractor will fall off over time.

i agree with bit and pieces of the reponses. angie's list is paid and they pay to eliminate the bad feedback. so i dont use it.

craiglist, i got a lot of junk, but it's the lowest price, which i like.

calling stores - it works and i get good work, but i dont tell them who reffered me or else the quote is automatically higher.

REIA - every single time the quote is higher when they find out that another investor is referring them.

seth got it right - you have to have a constant supply of fresh contractors becuase they start charging more and more on each job or their quality goes down. i keep a spreadsheet and need to update with new contacts very often. it's the nature of the business.

The key in this buisness is knowing what your doing. I wonder, how do you know if you get a "good contractor" or not? Do you understand the scope of work? Do you know what they are talking about when they speak about plumbing or electrical? My point is you are always going to get ripped off or overcharged until you know whats going on. If you or anyone plans on doing this long term they need to get beyond the basics on the systems within the house. Once armed with this you will have great power when dealing with a GC and you wont need anyone but yourself to tell you its good or bad.

@Joseph Canini I agree with Seth, as pure referral is now the only way that my colleague in San Antonio and I find contractors; that said, if you have the time, you may want to look over these other posts, as I just got burned myself by a San Antonio contractor, and I'd love for you not to do the same.

Good luck, and invest smart!

Referrals work well, but it takes time to find a good fit. Never pay upfront and make sure to get scope of work. Personally, I like to sub out work, but I oversee my projects...

I have been in the construction industry working with contractors and sub-contractors directly for over 9 years now.  (My dad was a GC).  The Home Depot suggestion is good.  Asking at your local supply houses is a great way to get referrals.  They will know who is staying on schedule (because they order up-front, instead of constantly calling in emergencies), and they will know who pays their bills.  

In addition, I like to ask the contractors they have to work with.  For instance, if you are looking for a good GC, ask your favorite Electrician, Plumber or HVAC contractor.  If you are looking for good subs, ask the sub contractor that has to follow them.  Like, ask a painter who is their go-to drywall contractor, or Vice versa.  Ask your HVAC contractor what Electrician and/or Plumber they like to work with.  Its the people that have to work with the contractors to stay on schedule and budget that will give you great referrals for other dependable contractors.

Just my two cents.


Great question. I have a contractor that I have worked with on several projects. Now that we are working on a major reno, the budget has expanded 4 times the original scope. I'm not comfortable proceeding. Curious what you require in a bid? I asked for a scope of work and itemized budget. The contractor said she would not provide it, only a total. We will need to get other bids now so wondering what you would require.

There are a couple of other resources to pull from that may be better than Angie's List or certainly home advisor. They are Best Pick reports and 5 Star Home Services review. Best Pick actually requires a company to turn in a minimum of 500 customers for the past 3 years and they actually called everyone of ours. You have to rate a 95% approval or above to qualify being listed in their directory and they only supply their directory to target "house rich" areas. So they are extremely picky about who they put in there listings. 5 Star is the same. Try to find the one who is not pricey but cares about his reputation more than the dollar! 

Hi @Joseph Canini  ,

Have you tried going to the city permit department where your project is at and asking who do they regularly see filing for permits (more permits = more biz = more clients) Another route might be your local housing development or city housing authority, if you are in a depressed area of the city they might offer cheap loans for rehab and might have a list of GC's are approved to work with their programs

@Nancy Brook

I know its been a while since you posted this, but here is some feedback for future use.  Any contractor worth a darn will be willing to give you an itemized scope and breakdown of their estimate.  Some really great contractors will be willing to give you an open book estimate - that means you get see their costs, overhead charges and profit margins.  They are in the business to make money too and should be willing to show you should also be willing to pay.

Thanks, @Laureen Youngblood  

We were able to make it through and get some additional visibility into why the project changed scope. I expect people I work with to make money. I just want to understand why costs increase.

Your Welcome, @Nancy Brook  

Good to hear they were willing to open up to you.  I can get pretty skeptical when a contractor is not willing to discuss scopes, costs and changes.  

Best source for a GC to do full rehabs would be your local REIA group. Just be careful and at least line up 3 contractors to bid. I try to stay as close to $4 a sq.ft as possible. But thats my general guideline for a rental. Flipping is a different game. Ask to see pictures and referrals. Once you find a few reliable contractors that can work within a timeline, dont fall into the trap of using the same contractor over and over. They will sneak up prices on you after they have you hooked. Always get several bids. I have a paint rehab right now, i'm meeting with 5 painters today. Always meet them at the property and never take a quote over the phone. I've had craiglist contractors underbid a job and decided they would just take the 50% i paid up front and not answer the phone. Don't pay until work is complete if you dont know them.

Price, quality or service/speed... pick two but you can't have all 3. You have to understand contractors and the world they live in. Most new "investors" are operating with a tight budget and they don't have their process dialed in so they are frustrating to deal with. The scope of work is missing items, things are constantly changing and payments are spotty. If you have good projects, a sound scope of work and you pay as agreed, better contractors will work with you and give you their best pricing. If you have uninspiring projects and come across like a disorganized cheap skate... you get stuck working with bottom tier contractors. Good contractors connect with good clients and they have margins and expenses that push them out of the "lowest bid" territory. Hackers connect with hackers and they fumble through projects together with mixed results. How many times do you see someone on here looking for a master tradesman and they want to pay "$20-30 per hour" with no mark up on materials? Then they wonder why they can't find a reliable contractor who does great work.

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