Getting my contractor to commit

20 Replies

My contractor says all the right things but I can't get him to give me a timeline or cost breakdown. This is a BRRRR with a potential tenant already lined up. Is there a way you've dealt with this that didn't end up in finding a different contractor. I realize it's business not personal but he comes recommended and I'd hate to give up too easily. Thanks all!

@Sean Julian

Start talking to some other GCs just as backups and Incase this guy does go sideways on you. No offense but if you’re new to him and asking for a ton, he might have other established customers with a good working rapport who are feeding him work and paying him then he might not totally want to take on new customers if his resources are limited. I’d tell him that you want cost breakdowns because your bank is asking in order to make draws against your loan, and a schedule for the same reason.

@Frank Hinck

Thank you. There’s no loan but you may be right. I have requests into 4 other GC’s that I’ll follow up with on Monday. If he’s too busy, just say so, and I’ll move on. One more step in the learning section. I appreciate the feedback.

Originally posted by @Sean Julian :

My contractor says all the right things but I can't get him to give me a timeline or cost breakdown. This is a BRRRR with a potential tenant already lined up. Is there a way you've dealt with this that didn't end up in finding a different contractor. I realize it's business not personal but he comes recommended and I'd hate to give up too easily. Thanks all!

Never do anything without a fixed cost detailed contract and estimate including a timeline for completion and payment schedule. It doesn't matter how highly recommend they come make sure to get everything in writing. Also do not pay upfront for any work. A small deposit is fine to get started but don't let the contractor get ahead of you on payments.


@Sean Julian , I agree that you need to treat this like a business.  Work scope in writing, payments outlined.  I highly recommend not doing percentage draws.  Ideally, material cost up front, remainder on 100% completion.  If there are specific milestones, i.e. framing or drywall, including tape and mud, that is fine as long as it is broken out specifically.  If they are giving you flat cost for everything, percentage draws are pretty much guaranteed to get you behind and not leave enough on table for contractor to finish job.

But to your question, it is amazing what interviewing other people will do for contractors that think they might lose the job.  So start interviewing, you might a) find someone better, b) motivate your guy to get things together, and/or c) let your guy know that you won't be stuck to him and are willing to do what it takes to get job done right.

@Evan Polaski

Thank you! I see this going one of three ways. 1) My contractor gives me an estimate that breaks everything out. 2) I actually get a hold of another contractor or two and I can use the leverage to get someone to do the work. 3.) I hire individual specialties and get this project done and tenant moved in. Definitely would prefer number 1 but I’m not here to lose money on the first deal, so any of the three are options.

@Sean Julian There is something you dont see . Since the shutdowns , contractors and their subs are super busy . Materials are on backorder due to plants shutting down . Finding employees is hard due to the extra 600 in unemployment the feds added . In my county , inspections are 3 weeks backlogged . You will hear from others " Dont give money up front "  " give the contractor YOUR contract "  "Charge fees if not done on time ". I have been a contractor since 1981 . And when I hear that from a customer , I tell them good luck finding a licensed contractor . 

This year we have raised prices 40% and NOBODY has said a word . Materials have gone up but so has our profit and backlog of work 

@Matthew Paul

Thank you for the insight. The project is less than $10000. I think that’s more the issue than anything else.

Are you saying paying everything up front would be acceptable now? Seems risky even in this environment. I offered to buy materials myself but he turned that down.

I was told today he would get me an estimate and timeline by the end of the week. That’s a great start.

Thanks again for the insight.

@Sean Julian Pay all up front ? No  But 1/3 is the norm in Maryland . A $10K job is a small job . The contractor may be busy . Timelines are hard right now due to a lot of unforseen factors 

@Sean Julian

Pay for the estimate. Works everytime. Say I'll give you $200 bucks for a line by line and a schedule. He'll do it that night. A lot of people will balk at this but I'm just being honest about where the market is. I've havent done an unpaid line by line in 3 years. I'll give a ballpark instantly. But a full line by line is $500. If you want a commitment to budget and I need subcontractors numbers to do it you need a deposit down. Time is money.

@Matthew Paul

Thank you for saying this.

We have been limping through jobs because of covid. Battling unemployment benefits. For 3 months in Chicago you couldn't get tile from anywhere but a store like home depot.

We have more work than we could possibly handle. The cost is 50% more than it was before covid.

The stress of dealing with people is extreme right now. It's not worth dealing with anyone trying to get a deal.

@Meryl McElwain

I’m pretty far down the road with this contractor. I’ll try to offer money today and see what happens. Thanks for the idea.

I’m starting to understand why he says 4-8 weeks for a 2 week job now. I’ll have more patience with him. Thank you.

This seems like a lot of stress and worry for a $10,000 job. 

You could find plenty of people online who would take that on in a heartbeat. 

Go to Thumbtack or somewhere else. No need for a GC. 

You don't really need a GC for anything under $25,000. You should be able to get those contractors yourself.

I'm not a contractor, but have had work done in past 2 months and what Mathew and Meryl say are true. Subs are in high demand and material is on backorder. 

You need to look in lesser known places for material. (online individual shops, or just keep checking big box). Trying to get specialized "X" material will be on back order. 

I wouldn't overpay for labor. You just have to find your own subs. For a $10k project, there should be plenty who can do that work and who NEED that work. Calling the people on the "best contractors in Cobb county" folks will have you way overpaying and waiting.

@Sean Julian money talks in most situations. If this is your first project with the GC and the total rehab is ~$10k, I imagine you are low on the GC's totem pole. You could try to call individual contractors (plumbers, electricians, painters, etc) or try to find other GCs that have more availability. It may take time and larger projects until you are a priority for a GC 

Thanks all. I’m glad to hear that doing it job by job is an real option. That’s what my wife and I were discussing last night.

So much to learn!

The contractor I was working with decided he was too busy and without an bid/estimate wanted $1000 and increased the time to 10 weeks. 2 weeks to start and 6-8 weeks to finish. I was fine with the $1000 and the time (not fine but understood) but not the refusal to give me a bid / estimate. So I used thumbtack and scheduled individual companies. Then this evening another GC called and is willing to see the property. I’m really hoping the GC works out because doing individual companies is going to be a pain for my realtor and PM.

A different GC is meeting tomorrow with my realtor to get me a “estimate.”  Hoping this one goes better. 

The one sub I really need (HVAC) has indefinitely postponed looking at the property. So, back to square one on that if the second GC doesn’t come through.