Hard to Find Good Help

14 Replies

I was called over to a property today due to a report of low water pressure and a leaky pipe. I went over to check out the situation and the leak was a quick connect adapter on the water heater. I had it replaced two years ago and it seems the installer didn't push the copper pipe all the way into the fitting. You are supposed to mark the pipe before you insert too make sure it goes in all the way. Quick fix and the pipe stopped dripping. As far as the low pressure, as I suspected the main water valve was not fully turned on. I had a plumber there two months ago to replaced a leaky outdoor faucet, so it seems he forgot to turn the water on all the way.

Both of these companies generally do good work, so it leaves me frustrated. It just seems like it is getting harder to find people to do good work. I wonder how people who don't self manage deal with this kind of stuff. It seems the PM would be billing for service calls like this and they would never even know. 

No advice here, just looking for thoughts and experiences on how to make sure jobs are done right - minus just waiting for the tenant to tell you something is wrong.

You could document the issue with pictures then contact the contractor and ask for a reimbursement since it took your time to fix their mistake. If they refuse, drop them and never use them again. 

@Nathan G. I see what you are saying about being reimbursed. The challenge is I am not a big enough customer that I feel pushing them in this manner is in my best interest. 

If you were managing a property and these two issues were on a tenant call back, would either have been charged to the owner? I guess I am curious too, when tenants report issues, do you immediately call a professional in or do you send a handyman as a front line to filter issues?

@Account Closed this is what I am wondering. If I move to property management in the future, will I just start getting big bills every other month to have a plumber go to do a 5 minute fix? I know there is a minimum charge for everything and some PM even charge to coordinate. I understand why, but my fear is I could be paying to fix stuff they didn't do right the first time and I would never know. I am the handyman type and most repairs take me less time than driving over, but I don't want to be guy the at is stuck going over all the time. I have gotten better at diagnosing and even fixing over the phone, which helps but long term I want to get out of the handyman business.

Good help is hard to find, which is why its so shocking to me when you investor types find one, you still don't want to pay their rates. Here you are talking about all the BS you have to deal with when your working with unskilled people, IE the types you get when the lowest offer is the winner. Save yourself the hassle, and the money, and just pay a skilled tradesman his rate, and he will pay for himself.  

I work in the property management business for 10 years, and I never understood the idea behind maintenance men doing the work that requires some degree of specialized skill. So often apartment complexes would stop calling professionals for HVAC, PLUMPING< FLOORING, ETC and think just because of their maint. crew gets hourly rates, that somehow that was saving money. Overlooking the fact, that most of the time, they did not fix the problem, they just masked it, which ends up costing more money down the line. Your skill professionals, not only warranty their work, they also know what they are looking at, they see problems before they happen, and can save tons of money. 

There might be a few guys out there that can do all things and do them well, but they sure aren't doing it for maint. man money. 

Stop holding on so tight to your profits, that your paying more then they are worth. Find a guy or guys you can trust, treat them fair, and they will blow you Fing mind. OR keep getting the Jack of all trades types to learn what someone a few more bucks have spent years mastering.

  

@Matt Williams did you read my original post? I never said I had a maintenance man. I stated it was a plumber who made the mistakes. It is a plumbing company and I pay them exactly what they bill me, which is hardly inexpensive. I never question their bills and I send payment the day I get the bill.

My point about "hard to find good help" was actually the opposite of what you implied. I am paying licensed professionals top dollar and I am frustrated they have not doing the job right.

You might have valid points about how some landlords operate, but that is not at all what I posted in this thread. 

@Joe Splitrock , this is why I do (almost) all my own work. I just can't find good people. Honestly, I've stopped trying. (I keep moving, which makes the situation even harder!)

I wish I had answers for you, but all I can do is commiserate with you. Most people just don't take pride in their work. It's so easy to stand out just by doing the bare minimum.

Joe Splitrock

Yea my rant wasn't meant to be directed towards you, or anyone. So if that felt like an attack, that's my bad.  I worked as an independent contractor for over 10 years, finally decided to walk away from that security of having steady work, and income, so I could finally provide the level of service I wanted to, and homeowners deserved.

I am a rare type, most others subs were more than happy with just doing enough to get paid, and move on. With the big company's, they pack the schedule so tight, you don't have time to do things the correct way every time, not even most of the time.

My point is, maybe start looking for contractors with their own name on the truck. They might cost more, and not have the manpower of the bigger outfits, but they will feed their family with your business, so they will care to keep you happy. Or so that's how things should work I feel.   

@Joe Splitrock

Great thread, Joe, great contribution, @Matt Williams .

I can only imagine how the bitterness builds up working as a sub for a large flooring contractor who sardine-packs your schedule and tells you that putting in fast, just-good-enough floors has to be your highest priority as long as you sub for him. I recently tore up a bit of a tile job done by a national outfit and I couldn't believe how badly done it was. The contractor nailed down Hardie over a 5/8 in., 40-year-old plywood subfloor. There was no mortar under the boards and no tape between the boards. The sub used a 1/4-in. square notch to sparingly spread budget mortar for 18-inch square tiles and dropped them in, because r'aal professionals don't need no stinkin' backbuttering and swirling spreading is good enough for mastic, so it should be good enough for mortar. Three months later the woman of the house dropped a bowl on the kitchen floor and a tile spiderwebbed. I saw MAYBE 40% mortar coverage under it when I pulled it up.

@Mindy Jensen , you made me think about how the realities of residential maintenance and rehab create special problems for live-in flippers moving from area to area and trying to get jobs done. Wow, it must be incredible for you.

I've gotta save this one. I'm trying to write a blog article on the growing skills gap and what that's going to mean to residential maintenance and rehab going forward. I too believe it is getting harder and harder to find the people you really need to consistently get the results you need to keep losses down in small-scale fix-and-flip and buy-and-hold operations like ours.

Joe, I too have noticed the almost total lack of forum postings on how the non-self-managed are able to get actual quality work done instead of the illusion of it.

Originally posted by @Joe Splitrock :

I was called over to a property today due to a report of low water pressure and a leaky pipe. I went over to check out the situation and the leak was a quick connect adapter on the water heater. I had it replaced two years ago and it seems the installer didn't push the copper pipe all the way into the fitting. You are supposed to mark the pipe before you insert too make sure it goes in all the way. Quick fix and the pipe stopped dripping. As far as the low pressure, as I suspected the main water valve was not fully turned on. I had a plumber there two months ago to replaced a leaky outdoor faucet, so it seems he forgot to turn the water on all the way.

Both of these companies generally do good work, so it leaves me frustrated. It just seems like it is getting harder to find people to do good work. I wonder how people who don't self manage deal with this kind of stuff. It seems the PM would be billing for service calls like this and they would never even know. 

No advice here, just looking for thoughts and experiences on how to make sure jobs are done right - minus just waiting for the tenant to tell you something is wrong.

Been in the trades all my life and have seen it all (or most anyway). What happens sometimes are that they get slammed with extra work and have to hire "iffy" help to bridge the gap. Its a fine line to walk between keeping customers, employees and family happy. Contractors want to have a home life just like anyone else so they hire on the fly at times to cover the extra. 

All that being said, when you do have an issue all GOOD contractors want to know if there is a problem on one of their customers jobs. You should let them know what the issue was and tell them your concerns. What they do about it from there is what will tell you if they are good or not. My best and most reliable customers have largely come from those mistakes that happen all the time and what I did about it to make it right. 

Give them a chance to make it right.  

Originally posted by @Jim K. :

@Joe Splitrock

Great thread, Joe, great contribution, @Matt Williams .

I can only imagine how the bitterness builds up working as a sub for a large flooring contractor who sardine-packs your schedule and tells you that putting in fast, just-good-enough floors has to be your highest priority as long as you sub for him. I recently tore up a bit of a tile job done by a national outfit and I couldn't believe how badly done it was. The contractor nailed down Hardie over a 5/8 in., 40-year-old plywood subfloor. There was no mortar under the boards and no tape between the boards. The sub used a 1/4-in. square notch to sparingly spread budget mortar for 18-inch square tiles and dropped them in, because r'aal professionals don't need no stinkin' backbuttering and swirling spreading is good enough for mastic, so it should be good enough for mortar. Three months later the woman of the house dropped a bowl on the kitchen floor and a tile spiderwebbed. I saw MAYBE 40% mortar coverage under it when I pulled it up.

@Mindy Jensen, you made me think about how the realities of residential maintenance and rehab create special problems for live-in flippers moving from area to area and trying to get jobs done. Wow, it must be incredible for you.

I've gotta save this one. I'm trying to write a blog article on the growing skills gap and what that's going to mean to residential maintenance and rehab going forward. I too believe it is getting harder and harder to find the people you really need to consistently get the results you need to keep losses down in small-scale fix-and-flip and buy-and-hold operations like ours.

Joe, I too have noticed the almost total lack of forum postings on how the non-self-managed are able to get actual quality work done instead of the illusion of it.

Most of my live-in flips were in the same area, so if I had been able to find a good contractor, I would have used them repeatedly. 

@Mindy Jensen

Wow...that bad. If I could just pick your brain for a second...in what I do, inexpensive rentals and handyman rehab, I simply HAVE TO HAVE a highly reliable HVAC/plumbing guy for AC/furnace and boiler repair, replacement, and maintenance. This is exactly the kind of guy @Matt Williams is talking about, a smallish outfit run by a life-in-service plumber who is also a real estate investor on the side. I consider this guy one of my mentors, and I happily pay him his rates because we both know the score.

My electrician is one of the best men I've ever met, a product of this town that certain powers that be in this country decided long ago to throw under the bus. I don't want to talk too much about his story because I'll get emotional and stupid both about him and the painful history of my area, but again, he has been a critical part of our operation.

Do you also have or have you lost important relationships with key specialists who are aging out of the work force?

I have had such awful luck with contractors that I haven't had any key relationships with any of them. There was a guy who was amazing in my current town, who decided to move to San Diego. So I would have definitely done more business with him had he been around.

I have found an excellent HVAC guy in my city - he'll even tell me how to fix it if it's a small thing. My electrician is my husband and father in law. My plumber is my husband. (We've had REALLY bad experiences with contractors and my husband is impatient.)

Originally posted by @Mindy Jensen :

I have had such awful luck with contractors that I haven't had any key relationships with any of them. There was a guy who was amazing in my current town, who decided to move to San Diego. So I would have definitely done more business with him had he been around.

I have found an excellent HVAC guy in my city - he'll even tell me how to fix it if it's a small thing. My electrician is my husband and father in law. My plumber is my husband. (We've had REALLY bad experiences with contractors and my husband is impatient.)

 Hey Mindy!

Mind passing along the info of the guy who moved to SD? 🤗

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