There have been many guides featured on the BiggerPockets blog about how to find a great contractor. But what we often gloss over is how to make sure that the great contractor you find actually want to work for you. So here’s a quick breakdown of what exactly you need to do to make yourself appealing to a contractor these days.
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3 Ways to Ensure Top-of-the-Line Contractors Will Want to Work for You
Don’t Stash the Cash
As much as the economy is purportedly recovering, credit is still tight for most people, especially laborers. If you can show your contractor that you have the means to pay his bill on hand — i.e. there are no loans to be approved or other obstacles to speedy payment upon completion — you win.
Once you’ve established you’ll pay on time, it’s OK to be just a little greedy, too. Asking for discounts or a little extra work is a lot easier when the contractor knows his cash is already waiting for him.
The one thing you don’t want to give up in this scenario: a guaranteed finish date, with penalties for running late. There’s something about knowing that payment is guaranteed that makes a contractor worry less about efficiency — don’t let that become an issue.
Provide As Much Detail As Possible (Without Being a Dictator)
When you turn in a project to a contractor, the more detail you have on your proposal, the easier life is for the contractor. If your proposal says, “Install a washer and dryer in the basement,” that leaves a lot of detail to the imagination. If it says, “Install a Whirlpool FX-2 washer and a Whirlpool DI-3U dryer in the Northwest corner of the basement, one on each side of the pre-existing utility sink,” that’s much better. (Note: Product numbers have been changed to protect the ignorant.) Specify shades of paint, brands of construction material (where relevant), and of course give exact dimensions for everything.
But don’t attempt to manage the project. Don’t insist that your contractor gets that FX-2 washer from one specific seller or that the deck be nailed together with nails no more than 18 inches apart. If you’ve followed the advice linked to above and found a solid contractor, they probably know as much or more about what they’re doing than you do — trust them to do their job, and get out of the way. Depending on the size of the job, do insist on reasonable inspection(s) to confirm work is being done correctly, and always insist any required permits and city inspections are addressed.
Ignore the Lowest Bid & Deal With the Long Term in Mind
Simply put, out of any five bids, there’s an 80% chance that one of them is going to be noticeably lower than the others. Ignore that guy; he’s either planning on cranking up the price on you after he’s already gotten started, or he’s genuinely unaware of what the job will cost. Either way, you don’t want to deal with him, as the signed contract won’t mean much and it will end badly for you. Of the others, don’t be surprised if the job is more expensive than you think: A recent survey of property managers found that most of them — even those with decades of experience — routinely underestimated the cost of renovations by as much as 20%. (Don’t stress; homeowners often underestimate by as much as 50%!)
Before you deal with the remaining four, take the time to figure out what actually matters to your client — is it the lowest possible price, or the highest possible quality, or the quickest time-to-livability, or somewhere in the middle of those three? Whatever the deal, you want to make sure that the contractor will want to work with you again in the future. Unless the one you want really is offering the best price, feel free to tell the one you choose, “You’re not the lowest bid, but you seem like the best guy.” That’ll make him feel valued, which will inspire him to do a better job.
Investors: How do YOU make yourself attractive to the best contractors?
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