Going cheap isn’t going smart, or is it?

10 Replies

After 16 years of being in business its safe to say that going cheap isn’t always a smart move. Theres a difference between looking high and low for the most rock bottom prices from contractors that God him self couldn’t provide Vs looking for costs that make sense and yield profit. As a business owner (construction) it is to often I get phone calls for estimates and receive an email weeks later stating “Bobs price was 25k less than yours, therefor were going with him” right. About three months later, thousands over budget, nothing done right, and a divorce brewing in the household, I come in to the job to fix what is now over 25k and a nightmare. When it comes to investing your money into a powder room or an entire renovation/rehab, do-diligence and homework are just 2 tools needed to obtain a great deal. By great deal, I mean hiring 20 people to save $4,500 may sound good but it may also put you $8,000 in the hole. Contractors who give rock bottom prices are usually over night, start up, or desperate. In any situation giving a company play is great, but your turn around is key. I feel that getting 3 estimates, comparing them, investigating the companies social medias (pictures are real, clients have good reviews, price isn’t too cheap, materials are included, they have a vehicle, this isn’t their aide gig) etc, are things you need to check. With various outlets such as Thumbtack, Angieslist, Home advisor, AMT Inc, its easier than ever to find an affordable, honest contractor. Saving is awesome. But spending that few extra dollars on quality and speed (L&I passes everything, home inspector loves their work, materials aren’t D grade, everything is up to code) is what counts. It takes money to make money and if your fine with the tile guy who charges $20 an hour and does ok work thats fine, or pay $4,500 for that bathroom floor and make an extra $10K off the property. How do you all feel regarding cheap Vs efficient and does this always apply?

Contractor here from Virginia. Couldn't agree more. When I get told my price is too high I've learned to say "thanks and good luck". My price is what it is and you pay for quality work. I believe in giving honest work for people's money but I have to eat as well. As far as materials, cheap is ok but I prefer builders grade. Cheap enough to replace when needed but not sooner than it has to be 

As someone on the other side (typically hiring contractors), I’d say it’s really hard to find a good contractor who:
Does good work
Is able to communicate (problems, timelines)
Does things to code
Takes the time to do things right
Is reasonably priced

Notice I do say ‘reasonable’ and not ‘cheap’. I’m willing to spend the extra money for a good contractor. BUT, I’d rather not spend 50-100% more for someone who does the same quality work.

Example, last house I worked on, two electrical quotes for the same scope of work: $5,200, $14,500. Wow.
If I kept looking, I’m sure I could have found a fly-by-night guy to do it for $3K, or someone for $10K. It’s hard to work through these things.

So - if you’re a contractor who does good work and charges reasonably, make sure you tell people that. Sure, others can lie, but you have the references, yelp reviews, etc to back you up!

Originally posted by @Mike McCarthy :

As someone on the other side (typically hiring contractors), I’d say it’s really hard to find a good contractor who:
Does good work
Is able to communicate (problems, timelines)
Does things to code
Takes the time to do things right
Is reasonably priced

Notice I do say ‘reasonable’ and not ‘cheap’. I’m willing to spend the extra money for a good contractor. BUT, I’d rather not spend 50-100% more for someone who does the same quality work.

Example, last house I worked on, two electrical quotes for the same scope of work: $5,200, $14,500. Wow.
If I kept looking, I’m sure I could have found a fly-by-night guy to do it for $3K, or someone for $10K. It’s hard to work through these things.

So - if you’re a contractor who does good work and charges reasonably, make sure you tell people that. Sure, others can lie, but you have the references, yelp reviews, etc to back you up!

I would add "is licensed" and "has a good reputation" to this list.

When I was a homeowner, I didn't hire contractors that often, but I considered reputation in terms of whether my neighbors had ever used them before and whether there were any lawsuits against them (by checking the Contractors State License Board web site). Making sure the contractors were licensed is critical as far as I'm concerned.

When I sold my house, I depended on my realtor for recommendations. The agency where she worked compiled a list of licensed contractors the realtors there had found to be reliable. While price was a consideration, it was minor compared to items such as was the work done professionally and did they do what they said they would do (return phone calls, show up on time, perform the work as promised, and so forth). My realtor wanted the work done correctly and in a timely manner because she wanted the house sold (as I did) and didn't want to have to deal with possible lawsuits if the work was shoddy.

I had some work done once by an unlicensed contractor who was on the refinancing bank's "handyman list" and regretted it. The person was a nice guy, but he didn't know how to patch a roof leak. I paid tuition to the College of Hard Knocks.

Looks like you said one can spend $4500 on a quality bathroom floor and in turn sell one’s property for an added 10k.

@Anthony Testino

I think it depends on the type of work you're having done.  I've found quality work at budget prices on painting, light carpentry, landscaping, and roofing (we have so many roofers in the area, competition drives costs down).  I don't go cheap on anything electrical, plumbing, HVAC, foundation, remodels, etc. (anything requiring code and/or inspection).

@Marian Smith Yes, if you have a property that ARV is $380K (lets keep in mind the bathroom is cookie cutting the other bathrooms in the area). That cheaply done bathroom with subpar quality tile work (bathroom floor) is keeping the property from selling and you getting that $380K you wanted. Now, 3 months go by, 4 other properties on the same street sold. One property sold $15K over its asking price, but yours, still sitting. Now, its 4 months and you finally start thinking and taking all the advice that people who walked through gave you, like Jen the wife of Rodger and their two kids who said “I wish this bathroom floor was level, and a better tile was used, something more modern”. Its at that point you call a new contractor who you pay to rip the floors up and do the job right and take the loss to sell the property. You may even get lucky and sell the house now for that $15K over and pocket that extra few thousand or break even. You may even not have the floors fixed and take the loss and sell for $365K. Only if you would have been more thorough from the door you could have sold in 30 days for $380K+ and walked away with that extra money.

After rehabbing 35+ houses and hiring the top of the line contractor down to the guy who gets dropped off by uber. I think you can get quality work for "cheapish" rates. I am not a bottom dweller, but near the bottom. Every contractor has a different version of what it means to put food on the table. The older contractor with a family and nice vehicle will most likely charge more then the single young guy with a beat up truck and bad credit. For every good one there are 5 bad ones but I've been able to assemble a great team over the years at a fraction of what I used to pay - all from creating adds on Craigslist and intetviewing. So call around, negotiate. The savings is worth the few headaches.

Well, I'm in the camp of finding a good deal.  I get references from others when choosing contractors.  Try not to go to the popular ones on the internet because they will be the priciest.  And I will give an upstart a shot on some jobs.  When a contractor shows up in a truck that is twice as expensive as mine, I feel like he has enough business.  

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