How to find a GOOD contractor

10 Replies

Good Day BP,

I have listened to all of the Bp podcasts and it seems like finding a contractor and finding a good property manager was two of the most troubled topics spoke of. So a carpenter I just wanted to give a couple ideas that I thought might spark some new ideas on finding good contractors.

Josh and Brandon like the idea of going to home depot or lowes in the early morning and talking with those guys. That is one approach that could have positive results, however it's a numbers game.

I humbly say that in my current career as a carpenter I am working with one of the best residential construction contractors in northern California. The company I work for does homes for very, very wealthy people that stand over us to make sure we are within a 64th of an inch in measure or better and we perform well, though not all customers are like that, that was an idea of the types of customers we work with and enjoy it at that. We plan, clean, build, complete, clean and clean again. It's a very interesting niche coming from the 49er stadium when it was build, build, and build as fast as you can and then open the doors. Saying this I wanted to give some perspectives of what I thought a good way to find a contractor would be.

I am speaking from a high end residential perspective to maybe this won't apply to small towns or rural areas. 

1. Don't always rely on home depot and lowes to a good contractor these are not considered a worthy place to buy materials.

2. Instead of HD or Lowes try a lumber yard this is where the good contractors shop or get materials shipped from 

3. Go the places a good contractor shops and ask the business department, which contractor do they do the most business with this could be

- Lumber yards

- Truss manufacturers

- specialty shops

- Reclaimed wood and material stores

4. Look at homes you want your house to look like and walk up to the owners and ask who they used. 

5. Go to homes being worked and ask the guys working on the home if they have any projects coming up and if they are interested in yours

6. If the guys don't want to give you the time of day cause they're working ask if you buy them lunch or even just bring them a case of water if they give you a couple minutes on their lunch (this works in many ways because if the bottom line is motivated to work on your house their keep in the owner's ear with your name or even do your project on the side)

7. The best contractors are working not spending time in the store waiting in lines, they get everything they need delivered.

When all is said it, done it comes down to 3 things 

Build it quickly with high quality, then it's not going to be cheap. 

Build it quick and cheap, and it will not be high quality. 

Build it with top notch quality and cheap, it's going to take more time.

I've seen all 3 types of work and it seems some might want to say the contractors are bad, but maybe it's because people are ballbusting on prices and these companies really want to help but at the end of the day the check the books and they're not making money cause they didn't have the confidence to say no. I don't know, I've never been in this situation what I do know is the one you have an issue with a contractor don't find a contractor the same way you did the first time. There's all kinds of associations that contractors are a part of just like REIA theirs

Southern California Contractors Association

Associated General Contractors of California

Roofing Contractors Association of California

Also, if you want quality first check out the local Carpenters Union Hall and ask them what is the best residential contractor you have on contracts. 

That's all I have for today, I am still very new to all of this so understand this is from a carpenter's point a view not so much a full time investors view. 

Its my Goal to get more involved to create opportunities in communication with BP and Investors in general. I hope something in this article gives someone an outside of the box ideas for finding investors.

@John G.

All good points and great ideas, I know people are always trying to figure out ways to build their network of good contractors.

From an investors point of view, you have to understand that many us are working on the first time home buyer market where it doesn't make sense to put in the high end materials and while we would all love to hire those top notch companies that are professional and show up and get the job done, most of the time those guys aren't in our budget.

So we go with the small business guys, who have the experience and work with our budget. Some have it together and many do not. Its just the nature of the beast. The main problem with many contractors is reliability and follow through. I just had to let my GC go. Not because he wasn't doing quality work, but because he became inconsistent. This past week him and his crew showed up for a total of 1.5 days, when our deadline is 3 weeks away. How are you suppose to get work done that way? In the beginning he was a rockstar. Follow through was great, he was on top of things. But 6 weeks into the job, he started coming less and less, excuses started, professionalism lacked, no follow through. So I let him go. I didn't want to, but he didn't give me a choice. 


My opinion is if a contractor comes in with fair pricing we as investors aren't going to be "ball busting" and if they do the job great and are professional we will keep giving them work and maybe we aren't paying them top of the line, but they are getting consistent, reliable work.

Thank you again for the post. Great conversation!

@Nicole Pettis 

Thank you for the conversation. I am in total agreement and understanding. I'm sure I'll run in to a situation like you are in at one point or another. 

Thank you for your response Nicole

John G. Great advice on finding professional contractors. I do agree that the bigger contractors are shopping at lumber yards etc. where they are getting the material at a lower cost than the guy at Home Depot. Since these contractors have a consistent enough business to have accounts with suppliers, they likely have a more balanced business and can take on projects as they come. This also means that they may be getting a better rate on material which in turn gives them a little ability to work on price. I believe that if you want quality work quick, you have to pay for it, exactly like you said. I do agree that it is a numbers game but time is money, and the longer a job takes, the longer it takes to get the return on investment and start working on the next project. Also, if Homie from the Depot is a one man or one crew business, he likely won't be able to scale if more jobs come his way. He is just going to make whatever is making HIM more money the priority, leaving a penny pinching investor on the back burner with little to no options. Another thing to keep in mind is that skilled contractors should be spending more time on the job as John mentioned and not at Home Depot each looking for materials they should already have after doing a good assessment on the job scope. I don't necessarily suggest paying top dollar for extremely high end work in a low end area, I just don't think it is smart to go out of our way to underpay. You generally always get what you pay for. You aren't just paying for the job to get done. You are paying for the contractor to be there when you need them, the contractor to answer your questions and keep you informed, you are paying for the quality, you are paying for the timeliness, etc. Thanks again and Good Luck John! Frankie

Good post.

Few points I really agree with.

1. Home Depot & Lowes---Rarely do the big guys shop there. Lumber yards and supply houses are a better option.

2. You get what you pay for. Good contractors turn down more work than they accept. By hiring the cheapest labor increase you greatly the risk of things going sour and it costing you more than if you just hired the pro in the 1st place.

@Frankie Baca 

Thanks for your response, Hope all is well in Vegas. Looks like were both starting out it be good to keep in touch and update each other once in awhile as aspiring investors.

@James Wise

Thanks for your response and your input. Impressive profile you have a lot of knowledge would you mind in in the future I contact you with question of REI from your perspective?

@Elli Hanson

Thank you for your response Ellie. Thats what I hear in regards to Angie's however in the market there are 3 of the best companies for rehabbing and none of them are on angie's list I'm not sure why.

hope you all have a great weekend,

John

its also about the local market - here in the NY Metro region we have a lot of competition but I suspect there are some markets where HD is the best source, and some things contractors will buy at HD even here - but not wood or millwork or high end tiles etc.

my Dad was a cabinetmaker, he got out as it is hard to get someone to pay for the fine work, and for a rental you may not want such fine work anyhow - but if you work with a contractor - there has to be mutual respect and a knowledge of what it costs them, not just what it costs you. When I redid a roof I spec'd & priced all the materials so at least I had a basis for discussion. Paying the highest price for the roofer did not insure the best quality either.

Originally posted by @Kara Haney :

its also about the local market - here in the NY Metro region we have a lot of competition but I suspect there are some markets where HD is the best source, and some things contractors will buy at HD even here - but not wood or millwork or high end tiles etc.

my Dad was a cabinetmaker, he got out as it is hard to get someone to pay for the fine work, and for a rental you may not want such fine work anyhow - but if you work with a contractor - there has to be mutual respect and a knowledge of what it costs them, not just what it costs you. When I redid a roof I spec'd & priced all the materials so at least I had a basis for discussion. Paying the highest price for the roofer did not insure the best quality either.

 I definitely agree that the highest isnt the best and HD and Lowes definitely has its place as well i think it's a balance of quality and cost I read and hear people have bad experiences with contractors these are the people I'm inviting to go outside the HD and Lowes Box and try something a little more costly and get it done right and on time with class. I hear of people all over the Bay Area trying to get good deals and come to find out the people they hired from HD and Lowes have no license or insurance. then someone has to find a licensed contractor in a pinch and they know it so they have the ability to charge more because their pressed. 

Im noticing it all comes down to the market. For instance one area 25 miles north of my area is cheap work because it's economical and cost effective in. 25 Miles South people only want the best and use a company for their name because of the quality and brand "My house was built by Abc construction" and people know that company's quality and will pay 10,000 and 20,000 more for that reason alone.

thanks for your input its a sad thing that fine woodworking is not desired as much as it's used to.

have a good one,

John

@John G. Thanks for your input John.  I watched the 9'er stadium go up and it was pretty amazing to watch the speed of such a massive project.  

I agree that big projects = big time contractors that have accounts and major discounts with the building supply companies directly.  For the small 'non' GC contractors working on small remodels Home Depot and Lowes might be the best bet for some materials, not others. 

For example: Lumber at most Home Depot's is crap, terrible selection for redwood and pricing not so great. 

However, for a convenience factor, Home Depot's and Lowes are everywhere, lumberyards, etc. not so much.  Plus, small jobs that require many different specialty items make them more attractive for extra stuff needed THAT DAY.

I have friends that work for MAJOR commercial contractors that run to Home Depot for 'little stuff' all the time.  

The best idea you mentioned:  Go to the trade stores and find out who they recommend.  Tile Shops, Carpet, Hardwood, Paint, HVAC supply, Plumbing, etc etc.

Thanks John! 

Specialty materials suppliers are a good resource.....your DalTiles, Sherwin Williams, etc. of the world will usually give good recommendations, and they will tell you who they deal with often.  For the record, my day job is with a $15M a year commercial GC, and my guys go to HD and Lowe's ALL the time.  

Wherever you find them, make sure to search with the local building department to make sure they are licensed with the municipality you're wanting them to work in.  Every state, county, city is different.  DON'T HIRE UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS.  They will cost you time and money. 

Good luck.

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