Scranton Contractor Referrals

12 Replies

New Scranton multi-family investor here, about to start fixing up a condemned property. I’m seeking referrals for your best local, licensed, competent, reasonable: roofer, electrician, plumber, carpenter, drywaller, housepainter, remodeling contractor, and property manager. I have (some from BP posts) a couple of some of these but I think I need to have three of each to do my job right.  Thank you for sharing your good people with me!

@Thomas C Veatch

How big of a property? Are you buying the materials or do you want your contractors to do it? 

Property manager wise, talk to @Marc Winter

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

Hi Chris, 

Thanks for posting.

The property is 4 units.  T&M (contract amounts to be based on time and materials) at least until we get the scope nailed down from the city inspectors.  

I’ll call Marc.  

Hi Thomas,

Congrats on your new purchase.  Before you start interviewing contractors and lining up crews, I recommend you verify the legitimacy of your 4 unit.  I don't know if you're familiar with Scranton's condemnation policy but often times, properties will revert back to the original zoning.   There have been a lot of out of town investors burned by this and I would hate to see it happen to you.  

Also, contractors in Scranton have to have a city license as well as a state license.  Anything over 2 units is considered a commercial property, so you will need to be looking for GC's even if it's just to change a window.  It isn't easy to find contractors but you can start by getting a list of city licensed contractors and then narrowing your search from there.  Best wishes on your new endeavor. 

@Teresa Ludlow , is the over 2 units being commercial a Scranton ordinance? Normally it is anything over 4 units I believe.

@Thomas C Veatch , I'm not actively working in Scranton, but I live close by and have watched the market there for some time. I echo what Teresa stated about being sure of what you are doing. Scranton seems notorious for being a challenge to do business in.

Also, is there a reason you are doing T&M with your contractors? Will you have someone locally managing the work? I would personally be leery of T&M contracts unless there was sufficient oversight.  

@Kevin Sobilo

I vaguely recall Scranton deciding to make it 2 units. I honestly can't remember if it passed but @Teresa Ludlow suggests that it did. I wouldn't be surprised.

Do you know @Adam Guiffrida or @Marc Winter ?

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

@Thomas C Veatch , Congrats on the new purchase. As for commercial, @Teresa Ludlow is correct. According to the UCC (Uniform Construction Code), 3 units and up is considered commercial. Scranton has adopted the UCC code several years ago. So if you are renovating anything more than two units, you will need a General Contractor license. This is tough to get. In addition, UCC codes are a lot more stringent than the simple 1-2 family IRC codes. Also when buying in Scranton, be careful with zoning. Any property that has been condemned or vacant for more than 6 months will have lost its zoning and reverts back to original zoning classification. Scranton is a great market and there is money to be made, but unfortunately the rules impose many obstacles to work around.

@Teresa Ludlow @Kevin Sobilo Yes it counts as commercial being >2 units.

@Adam Guiffrida Yes, zoning is quite the issue.  It was condemned twice, vacant for years, lost its right to actually be the 4 units built there, and the process to return it to being legal as 4 units was not simple.  But I am going through it: figured out a solution (buy a nearby empty lot for more parking), made drawings for the possible parking scenarios to be considered by the board, submitted their application, waited another month for the zoning meeting, had a month's continuance, met the zoning board, met some neighbors making sure the right things were going on, all good, finally got a unanimous approval from the zoning board.  The main issue was that I acquired added parking for the property, which only had two spaces off street presently, but needed six. Next step, get the general inspection to enumerate tasks. Then sign contracts with city licensed contractors (thus my above inquiry), submit an affidavit to the city documenting all this in place, wait for their approval again, then the contractors can start pulling permits, and finally the work can begin.  When work is done, Final inspection, then Certificate of Occupancy, then renting can begin. Whew. So far it's months and months, and I expect it to take months and months more. My impressions are that this is a lot of official process, that it seems ponderous but fair, and that the importance of being friendly with neighbors cannot be overstated.  I fear failure of course but hope for success, and I expect to buy more after rents start coming in and proving to be real in a town with plenty of unoccupied rentals.

A curiosity: unofficially I've been told I need a city licensed property manager.  Officially, the department of licensing has never heard of licensing of property managers. Do you, does anyone, know in what code or regulation or law is this requirement stated?

General Contracting: The city gives out lists of contractors including MEP, General, and Home Improvement (not useable since this is "commercial"). But these list individuals not companies, mostly, so it's still a search.  And yes becoming a GC would require years of experience.  I hope I can find a GC I would like to work with.

@Thomas C Veatch , I have to say I’m impressed. Everything you just stated is pretty exact. It’s a headache of a process but once you do it a few times you will be very successful. This process turns many people away from SCRANTON but there is a great value in buying these condemned homes once you have learned the process.

As for a rental agent, they do not have to be licensed. Just designate a handyman or leasing agent. They just want someone to contact nearby.

Good luck, it looks like you are on your way to some nice success.

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@Thomas C Veatch

When they say "licensed property manager," they are really talking about law at the state/commonwealth level. In Pennsylvania, only brokers and real-estate salesperson under a broker can manage a property. There are exceptions to that rule (e.g. if you self manage). But that's going to be the case for most people. 

Now the rub is that sometimes the municipality doesn't really care if you have a "property manager" in the same sense. What they want is just some living human being that they can reach to see where the owner is. In such cases, you could probably get by without having a proper property manager. 

On the other hand, some municipalities do really care that you have an actual property manager. Wilkes-Barre was all-in on this for a while. I'm not sure if they still are. But good to check. 

Disclaimer: While I’m an attorney licensed to practice in PA, I’m not your attorney. What I wrote above does not create an attorney/client relationship between us. I wrote the above for informational purposes. Do not rely on it for legal advice. Always consult with your attorney before you rely on the above information.

> As for a rental agent, they do not have to be licensed. Just designate a handyman or leasing agent. They just want someone to contact nearby.

Agree with this and Chris's reply as well. In my experience having the handyman be the rental agent point of contact works. I've seen contractors as a point of contact as well. (I would eventually like to get an actual property manager)

Don't forget to check Angies list for contractors ... : )

Great thread and lots of useful information.

@Aleksey F. , Some local municipalities are enforcing the licensed property manager aspect. Technically as @Chris K. stated a person needs to be a licensed real estate salesperson or broker to do property management. Some municipalities are requiring this as part of their rental ordinance and getting this info when a rental property is registered.

You can self manage, however some rental ordinances restrict this by not allowing the manager of the property to live outside a certain radius of the municipality.

You can have an unlicensed person manage your property such as a handyman. However, I believe that person would have to be an actual employee of yours, not a self employed contractor.

Enforcement is the key issue here, there has been increasing enforcement going on in the area. Can someone get away with not fully complying, of course. Its best to at least be as fully aware as possible of the rules though.

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