For Flip or Buy-and-Hold Investors: What Makes A Stellar Contractor or Construction / Remodeling Firm?

10 Replies

I'm curious - besides the obvious (licensed, bonded, insured, reliable), what in your opinion, as a flip or buy and hold investor, makes a stellar contractor or construction firm? Think about the contractors and firms you've worked with that during the rehab or build process that you'd give your business to again and again and recommend enthusiastically to clients. What were those really little (or really big) things that made you decide that they were great? Big or small, I'd love to hear details of your experiences with stellar contractors or firms in New York, Georgia, Florida, Maryland, Washington, Michigan, Colorado, Alabama, Texas, Virginia, California, Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington D.C., and New Jersey. And if you're feeling up to it, please do provide a link to their website.  Thanks, all!

Kai, it is all about the relationship. Warranties and papers are sometimes just more of a pain in the ***. The best contractors I've dealt with, they don't have huge business, they are just small shops of people that really like the trade they do. 99% of the time I am dealing with the owner of the company and I like that very much. I also "test" them. I don't just sign a whole project to them, and usually, when I find someone good, I still keep looking for other ones. Good people are busy and it is hard to schedule them all the times you need. 

I do buy and hold.

Ability to be "on time" and "on budget"

Remember it is a two way street, treat them well, know what you need in order for a contractor to give you a good first impression. Sometimes, if we feel like a customer does not know what he wants, we would like to stay away, ie if we say how much per sf do you plan to buy on your tiles, we expect an answer like 1-1.50/sf and "not like oh I want a pretty one, not expensive but good quality", reversing the situation, I don't want a contractor to say "i have a friend who could build a beautiful cabinet that is cheap", you will probably get a particle board cabinet when you want all birch. Consider this picture.

http://www.accella.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/scopecreep.png

@Kai R.

 I have experience in NYC & Maryland. In my opinion it's their ability to offer good suggestions that is quality, will look good & still possibly save me money. Also, honesty is key for me. I have a concrete guy here in Maryland that I overpaid $2500 by mistake & the next morning at 7 am he rang my doorbell with a check telling me I paid him too much. As far as I'm concerned, he's priceless.

If you want a great contractor, be a great client.  Know what you want, not state some airy fairy abstraction.  you can certainly ask for suggestions but part of the process is your own ability to learn what product works, what products costs and why some are more appropriate than others.  Don't say "I want an inexpensive middle grade faucet" instead do your own research and say "I want xyc model number xxx".  If you expect your contractor to read your mind that is a bad idea. It is like expecting your wife or husband to know without input your desire.

Yes, it is more work for you but it is part of the learning process. You are going to spend a lot of money doing a flip so do you want to trust it to someone you just met?  Even with great credentials and referrals if you cannot communicate the level of quality and have a clear budget they will not be a good contractor for you.

These are all great perspectives. Thanks so much, everyone!

Originally posted by @Martin Scherer :

If you want a great contractor, be a great client.  Know what you want, not state some airy fairy abstraction.  you can certainly ask for suggestions but part of the process is your own ability to learn what product works, what products costs and why some are more appropriate than others.  Don't say "I want an inexpensive middle grade faucet" instead do your own research and say "I want xyc model number xxx".  If you expect your contractor to read your mind that is a bad idea. It is like expecting your wife or husband to know without input your desire.

Yes, it is more work for you but it is part of the learning process. You are going to spend a lot of money doing a flip so do you want to trust it to someone you just met?  Even with great credentials and referrals if you cannot communicate the level of quality and have a clear budget they will not be a good contractor for you.

 This is pretty much the best advice you could get, I couldn't say it any better. To add, go to HD, use their app and add items to cart, generate your list. We, the contractors don't need the number of quantity you need, it is the budget and level of finish (my mid grad could be at $120 and yours could be $40). It also gives you a more comparable bid, more of apple to apple bid, not apple to orange. you know how you shop for comps before you buy the house? that is exactly the same. A good item also is an existing floor plan, it will cost you time and a tape measur, but it will save you a lot, once we don't know the dimensions, we add a couple of percent allowance in order for us not to underbid.

Originally posted by @Manolo D. :
Originally posted by @Martin Scherer:

If you want a great contractor, be a great client.  Know what you want, not state some airy fairy abstraction.  you can certainly ask for suggestions but part of the process is your own ability to learn what product works, what products costs and why some are more appropriate than others.  Don't say "I want an inexpensive middle grade faucet" instead do your own research and say "I want xyc model number xxx".  If you expect your contractor to read your mind that is a bad idea. It is like expecting your wife or husband to know without input your desire.

Yes, it is more work for you but it is part of the learning process. You are going to spend a lot of money doing a flip so do you want to trust it to someone you just met?  Even with great credentials and referrals if you cannot communicate the level of quality and have a clear budget they will not be a good contractor for you.

 This is pretty much the best advice you could get, I couldn't say it any better. To add, go to HD, use their app and add items to cart, generate your list. We, the contractors don't need the number of quantity you need, it is the budget and level of finish (my mid grad could be at $120 and yours could be $40). It also gives you a more comparable bid, more of apple to apple bid, not apple to orange. you know how you shop for comps before you buy the house? that is exactly the same. A good item also is an existing floor plan, it will cost you time and a tape measur, but it will save you a lot, once we don't know the dimensions, we add a couple of percent allowance in order for us not to underbid.

 I don't know about you, but we won't take measurements that anyone but ourselves or a trusted architect took... seen situations where the HO/Investor measured a house and got it off by feet. If I base my pricing off those measurements (or worse still, order cabinets off them), who do you think is going to be held accountable for the difference?

@Kai R.,

I have to agree with @Joe Cummings  and @Rafael Floresta on this one. Like so many other replies have stated, being respectful of my business' time and money and being responsive takes one contractor head & shoulders above another, similarly qualified, firm.

If it is not a win-win relationship then it is time to find another partner. Start small and let the trust build project by project. Successful investing to you!

Originally posted by @Aaron McGinnis :
Originally posted by @Manolo D.:
Originally posted by @Martin Scherer:

 I don't know about you, but we won't take measurements that anyone but ourselves or a trusted architect took... seen situations where the HO/Investor measured a house and got it off by feet. If I base my pricing off those measurements (or worse still, order cabinets off them), who do you think is going to be held accountable for the difference?

 Are you talking about bidding or doing the work? I would take a foot difference any day, it is called contingency in my case. The goal here is choosing the firm, and not knowing what The investor want really puts the investor on comparing apples to oranges bid. It is much more easier for contractors to verify with his tape the floor plan, rather than draw it at site which takes much more time.

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