What are your Top 5 Complaints/ Hang-ups with Contractors?

15 Replies

1. Out of curiosity, what do you find are your top 5 problems that seem to come up with contractors that you've used? 

2. What do you think this problem has cost on projects you've been involved with?

1. Unreliability
2. Cost changes
3. Project never completed on time
4. Bait and switch after permits pulled
5. Workmanship

Thanks @Jonathan!  Do you have a specific example from the bait and switch after a pulled permit? Wasn't it something completely unseen or just blatant misrepresentation?

 How did/ have you handled some of those situations? 

The bait and switch is when a gc will give you an estimate to do the work on a project. Then they will pull permits (which can cost thousands and take months in some cities where im from). Then construction materials cost or labor costs go up when permits are recieved, or anything you add to a project (change order) is 5 times the cost it would have been prior to permits. They do this because they know you dont want to cancel permits or even change the gc because it takes time and money, so you eat the extra few grand it costs you because you got haggled. Its common down here in south florida.

Brutal.. Sorry to hear about that. Have you tried writing up and addendum prior that specifies how remaining work will be priced? Or even a guarantee along the lines of having them match a major competitors bid for work after the fact to prevent them from gouging you? 

@Chris Harkins ,

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Top 5 issues with contractors:

1. Quality of work

2. Timeliness (showing up late to appointments)

3. Smoking and leaving cigarette butts on the property

4. Not cleaning up the job site in general

5. Communication

Bitching after price has been negotiated.


"Sure we can take care of that, too."  Then an extra $500 is on the final invoice.  Lovin' the lack of info, GC!

1. Two timing you. (I feel like a mistress)

At demo and initial 2 wks. Very tentative. We are courting, showered with attention.... And then after you are in a relationship......hard to find....at end of project, make-up mode to get my last deposit and reassurance that he gets my next job!

2. Bait and switch after permit. (As explained above)

3. A LA carte issues (oh that wasn't on original quote)

But having worked with him for 2 yrs we UNDERSTAND each other. He knows I have work for him as long as he behaves. And he has straighten up his act. If he is gonna cheat on me he tells me. I say as long as my deadline is met you can go to your other mistresses hahaha

And his workmanship is great, why I put up with his antics, and he is reliable and actually follow through. He is part of my team now.

But I still get other vendor to bid. And I visit unannounced lol keeps him on his toes.

One piece of advice I can give is NEVER pay anything upfront or give an advance. Never get "behind" the contractor because it's hard to catch back up. Money is your only leverage so use it carefully.

One piece of advice I can give is NEVER pay anything upfront or give an advance. Never get "behind" the contractor because it's hard to catch back up. Money is your only leverage so use it carefully.

Also, always have a detailed contract. Add provisions and deadlines so that if the contractor doesn't hit, there is a financial penalty. I would also only pay on projects completed. Have the contract break down the price for each task, drywall, paint, flooring, etc. You only pay on work completed.

Also, if you need to change something, get it in writing and use a change work order. The more organized you are, the more the contractor will respect you.

Change work order

I believe in the general problem posts that GC sticks you up after the permit is pulled, and other complaints, that is because the contract didn't specify it. I am fair but I charge extra 25% extra than what I am suppose to charge, and I do cost-plus method in case of change orders, no disputes on that so far, the 25% extra keeps them owners from changing too much the scope, because they know it will hurt them. Sometimes you got to love time and material based change orders, win for both parties. We do have subs, but I hit them with penalty clause so high that will make their head spin if they don't hit the timeline, I only do this if the contract pays premium and I pay penalties too. You get what you pay for. Structure your contract well, if they violate, go for their contractor's bond, be sure to keep all paperworks, you need it. Be careful not to be too one sided, you might scare good one's away, they are usually to walk first, because they know how to respect a contract and they actually know what it is they are getting into.

@Todd Fox   Food for thought, the contractor has the choice of walking away. So goes for the next contractor or the next or the next.

1. Showing up after project has begun

2. Timeliness

3. Quality of work

In my experience some contractors may also run into money issues and need to leave your job prior to completion to start another job and secure another up front payment. This can go on and on until they are spread too thin. Like @Todd Fox  says, NEVER pay upfront. Depending on job size build a pay structure into the SOW. For example the project can be broken down into phases with each phase paying xx% of total price.

I make a living as a trade contractor; and if it weren't for the complaints and bad experiences that people have about other contractors, it would be a lot more challenging to secure long term relationships within which our company can provide reliable and profitable services.

That said, as an investor, instead of asking, "What are your biggest complaints?", I would flip the question and ask, "What are the top three things you look for in a contractor?".  So... I guess I'll start that thread in the forum.

Remember, there are two sides in every relationship.  We look for long term trade partners that can count on us and upon whom we can depend.  The use of leverage is the last resort, and indicates a break down in goodwill and function in the relationship.  Treat contractors with respect and honor your commitments.  If your contractor needs money down to start a project, then they haven't been in business long enough to establish working capital.  If they DON'T need money to start a project, then I'd be willing to give them money up front.  (It's like when an investor goes to the bank: The more you NEED money, the less they will give you because they assume more risk).  If the contractor doesn't have a track record in your market, then trust them with small stuff.  As you grow, they grow.  Don't drop them for the cheaper contractor after they've proven themselves (It's likely that the cheaper guy isn't running the business well and is just chasing cashflow,  short term win for you, but you'll probably end up with more complaints to add to this list).  Appreciate that there is a cost to running a business that can provide solid service in a timely manner... speed of transaction in a flip or renovation saves you money, and everyone wins.  Now I'm rambling...  I love this topic.

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