How to avoid the cowboy builder 

Stay away from the fake good old boy

No matter which type of contractor you consider, most of them will show up and appear like they know what they are doing.  However, as we all know, looks can often be deceiving.  Go beyond the new pair of boots and shiny truck and do some digging to find out if their appearance matches their reputation.  Here are some of the bigger points to think about when hiring a new contractor, regardless of the type of work:

  1. Talk to momma.  Ask your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and anyone else you ever saw at a family reunion if they can recommend someone to do the work you need.  Specifically, you want to know did your relative have the work done, not a friend of a friend.  Get as many names as you can.
  2. Get it in writing. After you have annoyed your relatives enough to get several names of contractors, invite the contractors over to give you an estimate of the job you want completed.  The more estimates you can get, the better.
  3. Does anybody like this contractor? When the contractor is underfoot and trying so hard to get your business, ask the contractor for the names and contact information of at least three recent clients.  Follow up with these past clients.  Ask them lots of questions about the contractor’s work, price compared to estimate, attitude, and anything else they will tell you.  If the client does not mind, ask if you can drop by and see the finished work.  WARNING!!!  If the client seems too gushy and lovey dovey about the contractor, it is possible that the two parties are friends or even related.  Keep your guard up and approach with a bit of caution.
  4. Is everyone singing the same song?  Check over each estimate and make sure that each contractor is giving you a quote on the exact job you requested.
  5. Is somebody getting you to pay for their new truck?  After deciding that each contractor’s estimate meets you expectations, make sure the costs are similar.  If one estimate appears way out of line, look over the details to see if you can pick up on the difference.  Ask questions, or better yet, ask for a printed explanation showing the breakdown of the costs.
  6. Don’t let a little thing like money stop the work.  Make sure you understand how and when the contractor expects payments.  Does he want a 50% deposit to get started?  Full payment at the end of the job?  Some complicated payment, deposit to a specific bank, on a specific date, by a certain time system that would make a bald accountant scream?  Talk about the details so that both of you are satisfied before the work actually begins.
  7. Do you stand by your work?  If you have a big job (interpretation of big job is LOTS OF MONEY) then find out if the work has a guarantee as well as the materials.
  8. Take your TIME!!  Keep this in mind:  If it is YOUR money, and YOUR project, then the contractor works for you, not the other way around.  Take your time to make a decision on which person you wish to hire.
  9. Decision time.  You met the builders, received the estimates, and discussed their work with previous customers.  Now what?  The likely top 3 things to consider when you choose the right contractor are:
  1. Level of quality
  2. Price and Time frame
  3. Contractor’s Attitude

You will have to use your own judgment for each item.   If a person has a horrible attitude, but does the absolute best work at a fair price, ask yourself if you can live with their moody ways.  However, if getting the cheapest price is your top priority, then that may out rank the other two items. 

  1. Get it in writing, AGAIN.   Now that you have picked your man, you still need to get all of the details in writing.  Make sure you have at least these three things in writing before the work begins: 

A.  The exact work the contractor plans to complete. 

B.   When the work will begin and when is it expected to finish.

C.    The exact price and how it is to be paid.

Most folks are just a little too trusting and can be abused by a smooth talking contractor.  With the high cost and multiple headaches that can be associated with any building project, you really need to do your homework and make sure you get a good guy that is going to take care of you.  Follow these guidelines and you will be well on your way to getting that job finished and be happy about it.


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