Why Home Remodeling Always Takes Longer And Costs More Than Expected

The home remodeling industry is booming because everybody is spending more time at home. The housing market will likely stay robust for years to come as a result. Unfortunately, home remodeling always takes longer and costs more than expected.

A good mental exercise is to expect your home remodel to cost 50% more and take 50% longer than expected. If your home remodel comes under these metrics, you will feel good about your project. If not, your expectations were too high. Happiness is about managing expectations.

I've done four major home remodels before. None of them were pleasant experiences. All projects took longer than expected. After my first two home remodeling projects, I finally wisened up to the game some general contractors play to extract as much money from homeowners as possible.

If you are planning on buying a fixer and remodeling it, please know that the permitting and remodeling process can be a very big PITA. If you are not good with dealing with stress, buying an already remodeled home may be a better bet. In fact, given how painful it is to remodel nowadays, I think fully remodeled homes will sell for a bigger premiums going forward.

Let me share with you one home remodeling example that demonstrates the opaqueness of home remodel pricing. Pre-pandemic, home remodeling already took longer than expected.

Post-pandemic, it is taking even longer to remodel a home due to supply chain issues, labor shortages, and a backlog of permits to be improved. Further, the cost to remodel a home has also gone up. Patience is a must!

Why Home Remodeling Always Costs More: Opaque Pricing

Why Home Remodeling Always Takes Longer And Costs More Than Expected

Back in 2014, I bought a fixer on the west side of San Francisco. The house was smaller than our existing house at the time. But it had gorgeous ocean views.

Further, I wanted to utilize new capital from an expiring CD and build more passive income by renting out our old house.

My general contractor (GC), who was also my tennis teammate, made fun of me for spending $6,000 for replacing my 40-year-old gravity furnace. It was lined with asbestos. I also needed to replace all my ducts and vacuum seal my house for a day to prevent any asbestos from escaping as part of the replacement and permit process.

Offering Fake Quotes

“I could have done it for $2,000!” he said as he tried to make me feel bad about not hiring him. Oh well, saving $4,000 would have been nice. I thought he just did bathrooms and kitchens.

When my general contractor came back to me with a bid of $9,000 to paint the interior of my house, I almost threw up in amazement. $9,000 was a lot of money!

“$9,000 is a great price,” he said with a serious face. This was despite him quoting a furnace removal and replacement price 68% cheaper.

Because I thought $9,000 was ludicrously expensive, I declined his bid and found another fella I worked with in the past for $7,000.

After he discovered I was going with the other fella, my general contractor came back to me and said I was wasting my money. He said he knew guys that could paint my interior for only $5,800!

What the HELL?! He just said $9,000 was a great price. Now he quickly offered a new price 36% lower thanks to some competition.

Unfortunately for him, I didn't take the bait. He gambled and lost. I decided to go with the other painters.

Endless Pricing Shenanigans With My General Contractor

After I hired my guys for $7,000, my contractor kept on harping at me that I was wasting money even though he initially gave me a bid for $9,000. Unfortunately, after I paid my guys $1,100 after two days of work (three guys one day, two guys the second day), they said the job was too much for them for only $7,000 so they quit.

Befuddled why they quit, I later found out that my contractor was fighting with the painters while I was away at work. My contractor was remodeling the kitchen while they were painting. The painters couldn't take his harassment anymore! What a sabotage.

So now I was stuck without any painters. Logically I went to my contractor and asked him to do the job for $5,800 (his second bid price) MINUS the $1,100 that I already spent on two days worth of work = $4,700.

Changing The Price Of The Work: Bait And Switch

My general contractor said he could no longer get the $5,800 price. It was a one time deal and the guys are now busy. Ah, such utter bullshit.

Instead of getting the $5,800 gross price, he offered up one of his painting buddies at my original price of $7,000 minus the $1,100 spent = $5,900.

I understand everybody wants to make a buck, but I was thoroughly disappointed in my friend for trying to screw me.

In the end, I negotiated directly with a painter for $6,400; $600 more than my contractor had said he could get but $600 less than I was going to pay the other guys who quit (thanks to my contractor).

Why Home Remodeling Always Takes Longer And Costs More Than Expected

The reason why home remodeling projects tend to always cost more and take longer than agreed upon is because some general contractors want to make maximum money from you. Contractors can hold homeowners hostage due to more lucrative deals.

Making maximum profits is Business 101. However, some general contractors (GC) go too far. This article is definitely not going to make me any general contractor friends. However, I need to share my experiences on this often times very difficult process.

At the same time, the homeowner is also often at fault due to unreasonable expectations and demands. As soon as one wall is open, homeowners sometimes want to expand the project to do new things.

Let's go through the reasons why most home remodeling projects take longer and cost more than expected.

1) The number one goal is to win the contract.

To win the project, the GC must highlight an attractive price and good quality craftsmanship. Competition is fierce, so contractors may exaggerate to win the contract.

It doesn't matter if the price is an artificially low price. The goal is to have the homeowner sign the contract and lock them in. Once the contractor has gotten the homeowner to sign and begun demolition, this is when the GC can start manipulating the project to his benefit.

2) General contractors create a hostage scenario.

The deeper a project goes, the more a GC will highlight “unforeseen” problems that require more work. Even though there's nothing really unforeseen for contractors who've been around long enough. Given most homeowners don't have extensive experience remodeling, this information asymmetry is a powerful weapon held by the GC.

Let's say a homeowner is $60,000 deep into a project after two months. Contractors know the chances are low that the homeowner will balk at an additional $10,000 – $20,000 worth of work to make the home better. However, sometimes, the addition work is unnecessary and doesn't cost the new amounts.

If the homeowner really starts pushing back, then of course the GC will do the homeowner a “favor” and adjust the price so as to not have the project break down. But the homeowner really doesn't know how to navigate the project as adeptly as the GC.

3) Homeowners' emotions get in the way, which increases home remodeling costs.

A new home is very emotional for most people. It might have taken a couple 10 years of saving to come up with the downpayment. Or maybe the couple lost multiple bids and finally paid a big premium for this home.

The more emotional a homeowner is, the more profit the GC knows he can make. For example, let's say the homeowner mistakenly tells the contractor this is their dream home. They overbid by $100,000. In such a scenario, what's charging an extra $10,000 in remodeling costs?

4) Homeowners rely on default thinking which enables contractors to charge more.

Some experienced homeowners enter into a remodeling project with the default thought that the project will cost more and take longer than expected. Letting your GC know your default thinking is also bad, because a GC might really start taking advantage of you. As the saying goes, “give an inch, take a mile.”

It's up to homeowners to cut this type of thinking out and make GCs stick to the contract. But GCs can be very intimidating sometimes. They use their intimidation to force things through.

The remedy for this is to have a LATE FEE clause in the contract. In other words, for every day a contractor goes beyond the agreed-upon finish date, you get a credit.

5) Smile and charge pricing strategy for home remodeling.

The most skilled price gougers are the GCs who bring up additional work to be done while constantly being nice and smiley. GCs understand that most homeowners just want to have GCs who take the time to listen to their problems and find beautiful solutions.

They understand homeowners are busy with their jobs and kids and don't fully understand all the remodeling nuances. By just being responsive over e-mail and talking things through, some GCs adeptly persuade and guilt homeowners into paying more than expected.

6) Pricing discrimination by neighborhood.

I have a new contractor I'm using. He's extremely unreliable and not a good communicator. But at least he is good value and honest.

One day, he readily admitted to me that if he has a home remodeling job in Pacific Heights, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in San Francisco, he will charge 100% more just because the homes there are more expensive.

He discovered that rich homeowners are much more likely to accept higher remodeling prices. The reason is because their homes are more expensive on a price per square foot basis. Therefore, there is a bigger cost buffer they can deal with e.g. remodel for $1,000/sqft and sell for $1,500/sqft.

Luckily for the GC, input and labor costs largely remain the same. For example, the cost of sheetrock and electrical wiring doesn't change by house price.

I have one friend who owns a home in an expensive neighborhood get charged $600 per plant when he landscaped his terrace. Each plant cost less than $50 bucks and he could have easily planted each one himself. He had no idea about the $600/plant cost until they began to die. It was only then that he decided to check his invoice and see how much he had been overcharged.

GCs know that some homeowners are so rich that they never bother to look at the receipts. Check your receipts!

7) Contractors are always suggesting to do more remodeling

The final reason why home remodeling and costs more than expected is due to suggestive remodeling. It's similar to when you buy a hamburger at McDonald's and the cashier asks if you want fries with that. Given you're already remodeling, you might as well remodel more!

A classic example is when the walls are open. Your contract might whether you want to install a pocket door, or another electrical outlet, or a certain type of light fixture, or an electric charger. Nows the time to do so while the walls don't have sheetrock! And often times, homeowners will say “why not,” hence, the increase in time and money.

Try to stick to a budget and only remodel what you really think adds the most value. If you want to make the highest return remodeling, focus on bathroom, kitchens, decks, and expansion.

Welcome To The Home Remodeling Jungle

The residential remodeling business makes the auto service business look like a girl scout lemonade stand business. Everybody needs to take their cut in the building business, sometimes even corrupt building inspectors who approve and sign off on your project!

I've heard plenty of stories where an inspector demanded payment for approving a project. So far the building, plumbing, and electrical inspectors I've been dealing with seem above board.

However, when I pay $325 for a roof permit, and the building inspector doesn't even bother to climb the ladder to inspect the roof, I begin to wonder. All he did was drive up to my house, look at the roof, and sign the permit card.

Main Excuse By General Contractors To Raise Prices

Beware, the number one bullshit excuse general contractors like to use to charge more is that the project will cost them money. They will always say something like, “I lost money working,” or “I'm working for free for you.” They will try to guilt you into paying them beyond the initially agreed upon contract. Don't let them!

They don't lose anything if they have to work longer. It's not like they have to spend more money out of their pockets for much more material or pay their sub-contractors if they aren't working. The GCs just need to spend more time based on their agreement.

If you can successfully navigate the shady home remodeling business and remodel fixers in strong real estate markets you'll do very well. But chances are high that you will get run over and get buried in your backyard with cost overages.

During the pandemic, new construction and remodeled homes are commanding higher premiums.

Strategies To Keep Your Home Remodel Within Budget And On Time

1) Get multiple bids

Don't rush into anything, get multiple bids, and be willing to walk away. Be as detailed as possible when drawing up the contract regarding costs, time, materials, and work to do. Whenever a GC wants to charge you more, simply point to your iron clad contract and have them carry on.

If they don't, then you must be willing to fire them and hire someone else. Be aware that you are only required to pay for work that is completed. Don't let a GC swindle you out of work that he says he's planned for.

Survey of kitchen and bath remodel costs and raising pay

2) Have alternatives

The best way to keep your general contractor honest is by having a detailed list of alternative people who can do the job. Your GC must feel the pressure of losing your business if they try to screw you too much once remodeling has started.

One strategy is to have a handyman purposefully work on another part of your house while your GC is there. This way, your GC knows you are resourceful and have other alternatives.

Whenever my unreliable GC goes AWOL for more than two weeks, I text him saying I'll get my friend who he knows to finish the job. If I do, I'll subtract his cost from our existing contract. My contractor always responds and gets back to work once he hears this.

Keep the communication pressure on.

3) Have a late fee clause

Finally, absolutely include a late fee clause in your contract. Come up with a conservative finish date so that your general contractor will agree to the late fee clause. The conservative finish date is also something you need to be comfortable with as well.

The late fee clause should state that for each day the contractor is late there is a credit or reduction in price.

For example, I once had inserted a late fee clause that stated that for every day over our agreed-upon termination date, I would get a $250 credit. The project went three months over and I was able to save $22,500!

Further, the late fee clause will reduce your anxiety. You might start rooting for your contractor to take his sweet time in order to save more money.

Planning And Building Department Backups

Another reason why home remodeling takes longer and costs more than expected is because your city's Planning and Building Department is inefficient. When the pandemic hit, Planning and Building Departments stopped working in person. They tried to put everything online, but the system failed.

Also, there is sometimes corruption in the Planning and Building Department. Plans sometimes don't get approved unless you pay for a meal, pay for a vacation, or slip some money under the table! Corruption in the building and inspectors offices is common.

In the home remodeling industry, we call this “pay-to-play.” It stinks for homeowners. Hopefully, you won't encounter a corrupt planning department plan approver or corrupt inspector who holds your permit hostage.

Related: Should I Remodel With Or Without A Permit?

Reduce Your Home Remodeling Expectations

Chances are high your home remodeling experience will be terrible. Therefore, I suggest you lower your expectations. Expect it to take longer and cost more than expected. But keep that to yourself. Further, you must educate yourself as much as possible about the home remodeling process so you aren’t constantly surprised.

You must negotiate hard with your contractor and continue to keep on him during the entire home remodeling project. If you find there are long delays, it is highly likely your contractor is working on another home remodeling project.

Of course, not all general contractors are going to try and rip you off. Some are going to be absolutely wonderful to work with. I just haven't found any of them so far and neither have any of my friends who've remodeled. Even friends who have spent multi-millions remodeling their homes have had terrible experiences.

Keep The Faith When Remodeling Your Home

Good luck with your home remodeling project. It will likely be one the most difficult and frustrating things you'll ever have to go through. Realtors have told me a home remodeling project gone bad is one of the most cited reasons for divorce and home sale!

I recently completed a two-and-half year remodel during the pandemic and I promise I will never do another one again! As a 45-year-old with two young kids, my time is now too precious. Our next house will be a fully finished house in Hawaii and that’s it.

But once your remodeling project is done, you're going to be so glad the nightmare is over. If you focus on increasing the livable space, you will mostly likely increase the value of your home. I've never regretted doing a remodel and getting the permit signed off with final approval.

I‘ve got to say, reading this post definitely makes me not want to remodel ever again. From now on, I'm just going to buy an already remodeled home. I'm just too old to build sweat equity anymore! I'd much rather make real estate equity passively.

Home remodeling is costing more and taking longer in this post-pandemic world. The supply chains are still disrupted. Therefore, patience is a must. Make sure you set your home remodeling expectations low!

The good thing is, if you get through the remodeling gauntlet, your home will likely sell for an even bigger premium than before. With fewer people wanting to remodel homes due to how difficult it is, more people will pay up for already remodeled homes.

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146 thoughts on “Why Home Remodeling Always Takes Longer And Costs More Than Expected”

  1. We are in the middle of this nightmare right now. It feels awful to be taken advantage of. I relate to the hostage metaphor. Our costs have risen almost $500,000 and our build is estimated to be done 5 months late(I’m not holding my breath). I keep asking what we could have done to avoid this, we got multiple bids, asked for explanations for all overages. I think a more in depth review of allowances prior to signing would have been useful. For instance, finish allowances were for sub prime finishes in our multimillion dollar home (not realistic). I also should have asked if, say, the door allowance also included installation. And why no driveway was contemplated. But we were just trusting and inexperienced. I contacted our realtor about the home’s value and potentially selling. Her first question: are you guys getting a divorce?? No, as my marriage is more important to me than this house, but I would never recommend building. Look for someone who dumped their project.

    1. Sorry to hear Alice. One thing I recommend is putting in time and cost incentives in the contract. For example, the contractor gets an extra $5,000 by finishing within one week of agreed upon date etc.

      $500,000 over is a lot! What is the total cost estimated to be now? And how big will the house be?

      I strongly believe the value of remodeled homes will go up and increase its premium bc of how difficult it is to remodel / build

      1. Thanks for the optimism! It’s a 1.3 (now ~1.8) Reno/tear down. The house is *only* 5000 sq feet (small for our price point in our area). I appreciate knowing others have had similar experiences. It can make you feel pretty dumb/taken advantage of. Love your blog.

  2. We moved into a 1942 “war box” house because it was pretty much the only thing we could afford in our home town (Seattle). The house is in okay shape, but had a lot of deferred maintenance (roof, retaining wall, electrical, siding) that we knew about from the inspection when we bought. For the most part, DIY has been the name of the game, but we priced out some of the more complicated projects with contractors first.

    Our latest project is the siding. We were quoted prices all over the map, from $20,000 for Hardie Plank to $40,000 for LP Smartside. Keep in mind, the house is only 720 square feet, so some of the pricing baffled us. Even the lower estimate seemed high considering that the same contractor charged my coworker the same amount for a house twice the size of ours. In any case, we decided to DIY it this summer. I priced it out at between $7,000-$8,000, meaning that at least one of the contractors was 80% labor + overhead!

    So far, we’ve removed all the siding and are about halfway done with the house wrap. As we were doing the removal, a contractor next door was giving me all sorts of grief about the quality of our removal process and how we should use Hardie instead of LP. I kind of think he was fishing for a job, but maybe he was just very opinionated. It is super intimidating doing a complicated job like siding for the first time without a contractor giving you unsolicited advice. Am I confident that we’ll be better off in the end doing it ourselves? Not at all, but at least we don’t have to worry about getting gouged!

    The upshot of this story is, good contractors are hard to find, especially ones that offer competitive pricing!

  3. I teach at our local church a class to couples who are about get married about basic finances. I do point them to your book at the end of class.
    Most of them want to buy a home, usually a fixer upper because it cheaper.
    I tell them if you know what you are doing and can do the work yourself then go with God.
    If you are going to get help from your Dad, or uncle or some other family member then I say buy new.
    Your family members
    Or friends have a job and a house. So the best you are to them is number 3. It could take a long time to get it done even if you can find the supplies.
    Your point about stress on a marriage is very true. Why would a newly married couple want to add any stress to a new marriage ? Getting married is about having fun. Remodeling is fun for maybe two weeks.
    Thanks again I enjoy reading your material.


  4. Scott (columbus, ohio)

    As the owner of a design/build remodeling company, this article is the reason why we do things differently. We have a (relatively small) design retainer that allows us to work for (generally a couple months) with each homeowner to first design, then go through the entire selections process, do thorough “walk-throughs” with our trade partners and get quotes from each of them. We do all of this BEFORE we sign a project contract with the homeowner. This allows us to be 95%+ certain of all the costs of projects (before contract). There are, of course, certain things that we find buried in walls (rotten areas of wood, inappropriate electrical junctions, etc etc) that we can not know ahead of time. But these are a relatively small things compared to how things are typically done in the industry. And we clearly let people know about these possibilities.

    I really wished other companies would adopt this strategy because it levels the playing field. We sometimes have homeowners share that they received several other quotes that were all below our “initial estimate”. In cases where people will send those “quotes” to us, we can see all sorts of places where those companies are leaving out many costs that are going to need to happen, its just that they don’t discuss those “extra costs” until after contracts are signed and they are into the project. In many cases, right within the quotes are lines such as “doesn’t include electrical work”, or “doesn’t include x,y,z). This is why we suggest that homeowners decide on a company to work with that that feel the most trust with, and companies that are being all inclusive in the pricing. If a homeowner is “tricked” into getting into a contract (meaning the company KNOWS its going to cost more than the “contract amount” but are playing a game to get the project) then the entire relationship is based on deceit. Its not ALWAYS a deceit by a company. Many companies are just way overly optimistic on things and sort of just unconsciously “tune out” what all the additional costs are that will ultimately be asked of the homeowner to pay for.

    I certainly understand that the majority of companies choose to operate this way because homeowners often dont realize that the differences in costs from one company to the next is in things being left out.

    There are other areas too that companies shave off costs in order to get contracts. They dont plan on appropriate management, secure clear deadlines, appropriate protection of the home, on and on.

    And so, we rarely “give a bid” to people… because we have found that when people get a bunch of bids, it is very rarely ever an apples to apples comparison. If someone does really really push us for this, we will ask questions like: do the other bids include…. x,y,z? (all the things that are not the actual work itself… but all the things that are still necessary to carry out a successful project.

    We have ended up doing several of these projects where we took this approach. And so some of our job is also to educate homeowners on all the tasks that are required for a successful project but are so often overlooked.

  5. This was an interesting read for me. I am a project manager for a construction company in Seattle. We do not try to “price gouge” our clients. I don’t see other respectable companies doing this either. Ultimately, it costs what it costs. We charge time and materials. We will give you an estimate, what we think it will cost. Then, we open walls and find that whoever first built this house didn’t plumb or flatten the walls, or we find other issues such as electrical changes etc that need to be corrected, solutions to running new ducting etc. As soon as we get a client that is shopping for the lowest bid, frankly, I cringe, and hope they don’t go with us. Again, it costs what it costs.

    When you look at 3 quotes, one most expensive, the next less, and the last ridiculously cheap. Here is what I see. The last bid, the guy (or gal) has under estimated, or missed something. Compare all three line by line…likely the first two caught whatever this person missed. Again, these are GUESSES based on knowledge, price gathering and estimation of man hours. Everyone will miss something, and it will be an additional charge item in the end. (or change order if you received a bid)

    As a PM, its my job to make sure I have the right person doing the right job. If I had the same carpenter (60/hr) also doing site protection, dump runs, clean up etc, this is ultimately going to cost a lot more than tossing in one of my 25/hr guys to take care of that stuff. We pay our guys based on skill level, a living wage and health insurance. I would also like to be paid for my time organizing all of the details of your project. This will have to be done by someone….seems easy enough, right? You would be surprised how much experience it takes to keep everything moving forward with accuracy, budget tracking and flawless execution. Ultimately, what saves money is not the proclamation of a low price. Its how the project is run. Time is money….

    Many people choose the lowest price on a quote or bid. What you likely are getting is a misrepresentation of what it will cost. You will have a guy that is great at woodwork, but bad a communication, organization and business. (also, try to build some cabinets while you are also answering the phone and taking questions from the plumber and the electrician…..Recipe for mistakes)

    This is why the “price shoppers” have miserable experiences. They want what they cannot afford, and want someone else to build it for less than it actually costs. Its almost a guarantee that someone, either you or your contractor, will end up unhappy.

    Go with the company that gets good reviews on their projects from all aspects. Leave extra money available for things that come up.

    Here is another list on how to save money on a remodel:

    Choose everything up front – Give your GC a list of every item that will be used in your remodel. Down to the switch covers. This will save time of numerous phone calls to you, the architect and the guys onsite wondering what goes where.

    Invest in drawings – These are like having directions with your ikea furniture vs no directions.

    Don’t offer to help – Clients think they are saving money by helping. This is usually NOT the case. Even inexperienced cleaners can cause problems that cost more time/money.

    Dont continually change your design – Finalize the design before any construction begins. The amount of time spent to switch gears eats dollars.

  6. Alain simard

    I am a contractor and I say 80% of customers are horrible to deal whit.they have unrealistic expectations timewise,and they have only appreciation when the job is finished.the rest of the times you are in their way,they are impatient and they let you know.

  7. The sad part is that a segment of Contractors fit the description you give, No doubt, but when reading both articles all the focus was on the cost/money – then- (no surprise) all the problems that follow that. I don’t recall at all any mention of hiring a Reputable contractor, someone affiliated with the local & nation builders Association. Spending time on checking references, not just getting 3 bids for cost but spending as much or more time checking references and looking at past work.

    Construction works out this way, triple constraints triangle: Cost – Time – Quality. You can have 2 of the 3. Cost & Time = Quality loss, Time & Quality = Cost more, Quality & Cost = Time. (note- Quality isn’t just workmanship but also professionalism)

    Last comment is that getting 3 bids from crap contractors wont change the bad experience coming. But 3 bids from reputable contractors that have been vetted will make the experience pleasant not a nightmare.


  8. Thank you for your article however I honestly took exception to the negative positioning of our industry. Not all contractors behave this way at all. We call those that you described the “Chuck in a Truck” who has no ethics, minimal insurance, no real experience and does everything on the cheap!

    We are a professional full service remodeling company with 6 full time employees. We take a lot of pride in all our work. We get at least 6 or 7 full page unsolicited testimonials from our customers every year. We are fully insured and all our specialty trades such as electrical, plumbing and HVAC are as well. They are all vetted and have worked with us for years.

    After 25 years in the business we know what we are doing. Our entire focus with our remodeling company is customer centric and you can check it out on our web site. Google Winds of Change Contractors Colorado Springs. (Look at our testimonials) We place all our emphasis on how to take care of the homeowner.

    Our guarantee is if we do not bring your project on time and on budget, we will pay the difference. We also go to great lengths to properly set expectations, everything is in writing, including how to manage and pay for change orders when someone wants something extra, mid-stream into the project. (Which invariably they all do)

    We are members of our community associations such as the HBA Remodelers council, and sit on the board of several others. We participate with non-profits to give back and we are constantly improving our team, and our company. We take our free time to teach others more about the trade and how to build a successful contracting businesses.

    It is important to us with the pride we take in every project. We designed a process to make it as stress free for the homeowner as humanly possible. We realize they are losing the use of their kitchen, bath or their deck and that is huge to them. We make sure every detail is managed from installing temp Hepa filter machines and clean rooms being built on site to insure no dust enters other areas of the house. We provide restaurant cards as a gift so they can go out to eat on us. We fully provide protection on all floors, walls, ceilings and doorways. We are not the most expensive nor are we the cheapest. We are a value based company that prides ourselves in delivering a superior experience with a superior product at a reasonable price. We fully disclose everything with our clients.

    As to building inspections, here in Colorado, we are required to have inspectors to insure we are building everything to code! IT is not an option, nor should it be. It keeps the bad guys out because if you remodeled something that required a permit or needed an inspection and did not get one, it will be revealed when you sell your home in this state. Imagine trying to sell your home when you did not get an electrical permit or inspection with your new kitchen. So do the right thing.

    I get it, as there are bad companies in all industries and there are those that make us all look bad in the eyes of the consumer. However all our clients have become our friends because of the emphasis we place on customer service.

    FYI. I have several friends and buddies who own other successful remodeling firms like ours and only one of us have a college degree.

    Take your time when hiring and make sure you ask for and CALL all their references. Call their insurance companies to make sure they are currently insured and be sure to call whoever has their workman’s compensation insurance. Also call the Regional Building department and make sure they are in good standing and have no complaints. Ask their references one question. Would you hire them again and were you delighted with the process and the finished work?

    Thank you for reading all this and appreciate Irish 247 comments.

  9. Contractor and landlord here who’s near the end of a long, expensive, and stressful renovation. For me, owning a rental is about 80% managing contractors. If you can figure that part out you could win at the rental game. But, don’t underestimate the difficulty of managing contractors. Without a background in the building trades and management experience chances are you’ll struggle for years before you get it right.

    A big factor is that schools pushed us all towards white collar careers and nobody knows plumbing, electric, carpentry, hvac etc. Now there’s a shortage of guys who can competently work on properties but a whole lot of homeowners looking for good contractors.

    Sam, you said: “they don’t lose anything if they have to work longer”. Just because their flat rate stays the same doesn’t mean they don’t lose anything. Far from it. If a job takes 150 man hours instead of an estimated 125 that contractor lost time. And in service work time is definitely money.

  10. I can see many sides of this discussion. We own rental real estate, we own a handyman company and I have a W2 professional office job that has nothing to do with any trades.

    We have only used a contractor once and I won’t again. I’ll just go straight to the sub-contractors. We used the contractor because the house had been set on fire by the tenant and we needed about 50k worth of work done and we now live in another state. I wanted someone to manage this for us given the busy time of year it was in my W2 job which makes the vast majority of our income. I felt like I paid a premium to chase the contractor around to get the job done vs just dealing with the subs myself.

    They also kept trying to charge us for things that were included in the original itemized quote. After the third time I was pretty annoyed and felt they were trying to take advantage. I really wish I had set a fee for them being late and if I ever use a contractor again or any sub for a significant job that’s going to be in any contract I sign.

    Now all that said with the handyman company we do often run into people who have no idea the time or skill that a job done right takes. They are scandalized that a tradesperson might make a similar amount to them hourly in their “professional” job.

    We have people start adding extra things onto a job that was quoted specifically for what they originally asked for and that they do not want to pay more for more work. They’re get mad and blame us because they added more work but don’t think they should have to pay more? Try that at a retail store and see how far you get.

    We run into people who think that they are better than us or smarter ect.. (little do they know the handyman stuff is a side business and I probably make more at my W2 than they do at theirs and the handyman business makes us more than a lot of people make in a year)

    Yup I make 6 figures in a professional job but I’ll go out there and help stain a deck ect.. In some ratty old clothes after work if needed for the handyman business. There really is an arrogance out there some people have who think they are better than those who work with their hands.

    I’ve never had a project where we were doing our own work that did not have at least something come up unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s little-sometimes it’s not.

    Example we are turning our theater room into a suite for our college age son. He’s saving us a ton by going to a local college. When we pulled up the baseboards and carpet along an outer wall we saw a small area of mold. Pulled out the drywall and could see whoever put in the window above didn’t seal it. Been in the home 5 years never saw any signs of this. So now we have to pull out dry wall and replace
    some of the studs and all the insulation as well. Then seal the window properly and replace the sill. This will add time and money to the project. It’s not the fault of the person who is doing the work. It’s just sometimes you cannot see issues until you start pulling things apart.

    It’s really true you can have any 2 of the 3 items below:
    Done well

    1. I’ve done quite a lot of work over the years on our house and worked with a small company who has guys (lots of relatives in the business) that can do most any project. They do a good job and are reasonable priced but they are notoriously slow. I got a spare room renovation project going on now and a guy only showed up one day this week. But the guys are good and I worked with the owner (who also does difficult project work himself) on about 5 projects over the years.

      In general, I’ve selected Done Well and Cheap. I work with our contractor to ensure disruptive work gets done quickly but if it’s not that inconvenient, I give the contractor latitude to take care of their other customers with more critical work. in return, I get quality work and sometime some “extras” for free (e.g. in this project, he had some spare flooring from a past project and didn’t charge me for the material.

      I don’t claim this always works. You need a contractor who has the skills and integrity. I feel we got lucky and found a decent contractor early and just stuck with him.

  11. Charleston.C

    To me, the biggest mistake homeowners make is trying to nickle and dime the contractor, putting dollar ahead of workmanship or service. And after the fact wonder why they had a bad experience when the homeowner put money ahead of everything else in the decision process. If multiple bids on the table for consideration, ask the high bid WHY they are worth the premium, and why the low bid think they can do the same job for significantly less money because that is as much as a red flag than high bid.

    Does not mean I agree with the GC friend’s actions, but don’t expect Ritz Carlton finish when the decision process favors Motel 6 value.

    Unfortunately the biggest challenge to the homeowner is how infrequent they’d need construction or renovation work. If someone remodels their house every 10-20 years, the concept of customer loyalty does not apply in a meaningful way, so both the homeowner and GC try to extra the most short term value instead of trying to build a long standing working relationship.

  12. Wow. I’ve generally had only great experiences with my contractors.

    Of course, this is the greater NY metro area and everything is like, “Oh yeah, my coworker’s sister’s son has a cousin who does that sort of thing. I’ll send him your way.” And said cousin either has a great work ethic or doesn’t want to embarrass himself in front of all those people by allowing you to be disappointed.

    And what you said about charging more for nicer homes is dead on.

    I ordered an extra nice toilet from Amazon and the plumber we use, whose kid’s went to school with my wife’s kids, comes and changes it out for a reasonable price within a day or two.

    My dad, who lived in a small coastal town in the Florida panhandle, saw it and ordered one just like it for himself. The plumber he called came out, looked at it, and wanted $1,200 bucks for the same job. Many times what I had paid just a few miles from freaking Central Park. Of course, that plumber had seen a gated community, a big beautiful home with exquisite furnishings and landscaping, and an old guy living alone.

    He didn’t realize that the old guy had done the same job himself at least a dozen times when he was younger, and knew exactly how much and how little was involved. That contractor didn’t get the job (hell, it would have been cheaper for me to fly down and do it myself), but the job eventually got done at a reasonable price.

  13. ManageExpectations

    We are looking to move to a different house, and we’ve been deciding whether to purchase a home that has everything we want for a higher price or a good home at a lower price that needs some work.

    In the meantime, we have done minor touch-ups of our current home to prepare it for sale. These touch-ups included paint work for 6 interior wall faces, electrician work for one pendant light fixture, 4 bedroom carpet cleaning, deep-cleaning of all the interior, and cleaning up the yards. Except for the electrician work, either every single item went above the agreed-upon price, or the finished work was unsatisfactory and needed additional $$$ paid. These jobs are not major tear-downs such that unforeseen events could exist at the outset.

    As a matter of principle, we refused to be induced to pay more than what was agreed, so we terminated all work and did it ourselves. We did the remaining paint, finished the carpet-cleaning, cleaned the remaining bedrooms, and cleaned up the weeds ourselves. It was not a matter of price so much as a matter of principle of setting and meeting expectations. For many of these jobs, we did not necessarily go with the lowest price, and the deliverables were clearly stated. We would have been okay with paying more if this was agreed upon at the beginning. I am a lawyer by profession, so I am accustomed to documenting every possible detail and setting up contingencies, but I was mistaken this time in not documenting every detail believing the stakes were not high enough for the effort. The only contingency my spouse and I discussed was that if prices go over what was agreed, all work is to be terminated, we would make a note of the bait-and-switch for future reference, and we would do it ourselves.

    Thankfully, the work that needed to be done in our current house was so minor that we could do this in our own free time on the weekend, but this little experience made us decide not to buy a house that needs work. Although my experience is based on minor touch-ups and on just being a homeowner in general for contracting periodic home maintenance work, my advice would be to 1) document and memorialize everything, e.g., if you hired painting work, write down every single wall face, every single trim piece, every single baseboard, etc. (ideally, after notifying the service provider in advance, just video the entire conversation), 2) include a quality-control step into the contract so you can QC the work and that mistakes are not billed additionally, 3) keep a shortlist of the contractors and service providers you have had good experiences with, and for the ones that were bad experiences, document in detail what went wrong for future reference.

    I don’t have experience with major home renovations, but I agree with one comment I read on this page: Document everything and price-itemize every contingency (like a tree diagram), and define every term in the statement of work. When I was previously in private practice, we operated under this exact type of itemization tree diagram for our client companies based on every permutation (and likelihood of each permutation) that a litigation pathway can take on, e.g., if the judge grants a motion to dismiss, if a claim construction decision is favorable, if one versus two versus three versus four issues can be knocked out early by summary judgment, how cooperative opposing expert witnesses are, etc.

    Every industry has uncertainty in estimating deliverables, and litigation is arguably the most uncertain area possible, with a million different set of outcomes, and it can last anywhere between one day to 7 years, so if I can provide a price cap and range for a client company on how much a litigation will cost based on every possible permutation/assumption, I don’t see any persuasive argument to be made that a price cap cannot be provided for a home renovation.

  14. Todd Guthrie

    One time on a home remodel I had the contractor propose a very interesting contract term for the cost of the construction materials.
    He agreed to cover the cost of all “basic” materials like drywall, wood, wiring, plumbing, while I agreed to pay for all “finish” materials like cabinets, doorknobs, faucets. He still covered all of the labor.
    This sort of pricing removes a lot of risk from the contractor, meaning they don’t have to detail each and every fixture within their contract (each with specifications, alternatives, maximum prices, etc), and they don’t have to factor your aesthetic pickiness into their bid.
    They also cannot markup the prices on these things if you’re the one paying for them.
    I think this sort of contract term is beneficial all around, and should be standard for most home remodels.

    1. This type of material pricing is standard and something I’ve done in all my remodels. It’s only fair to pay for your own finished materials since the quality and pricing is so wide.

  15. Hi, I’m in the middle of a house re-siding project with a contractor who I thought gave a good price. Work was proceeding well, but the other day the contractor showed me 4 double-hung windows that were rotted around the edge and needed to be replaced before he could go further with the siding. He said the price was $5400 complete, including new interior molding. I was a little surprised and said OK right way, but now I think the price is high, as it looks like each window costs around $400 at Home Depot (Anderson 400 series). I’m a little upset, but I’m not sure if there’s anything I can do now that I gave the OK and the windows are in. He said windows are hard to get right now. Does anyone have a suggestion?

    1. Go to Home Depot or Lowes to price. That Contractor is smoking crack! Always, Always get 3 estimates. Put a hold on the work. I hope you haven’t signed a contract. When someone gives you a price always tell them you have a cousin that’s a contractor and you want to get their recommendation too. Always ask for a written estimate listing the scope of work and amount.

  16. Justin Golds

    I’ve remodeled 6 houses now as it is a passion of mine. Professionallly I sell building materials but also like to get my hands dirty. While I do 85% of my own work I don’t touch electrics, roofing or most plumbing work.

    There have been many valid points made from both sides. In this world you definitely get what you pay for so keep in mind you aren’t paying for his 8 outs of labor, you are paying for the 25 years of skills he has accumulated. You are just renting them that day.

    Planning is the biggest opportunity to save money. On my own jobs, the biggest unexpected costs arise when I deviate from plans. While the outcome may be more desirable it always costs exponentially more money. Plan beyond any level you believe you need to plan to save money.

    1. Speaking from enormous experience, it’s the same way when contracting to write a computer program for someone. It’s not just a matter of inserting a few extra lines of code with a keyboard.

      Scope creep awareness, firmly setting expectations, and a clearly defined change management process can help, at least with some clients. However, these won’t be the ones that want you to skip all that preliminary stuff and just start writing code.

    2. Great synergy with your business and remodeling. I’d certainly do most of that myself too.

      Although, I did see one sub slice open his finger with the blade saw and ripped from top of my house down. That was kinda traumatic.

  17. Interesting perspectives. I think after reading some of these comments and the harsh views held by some related to the skill sets or knowledge base of some of these trades people and GCs i’m appalled with the arrogance. I work for a large GC so I may have some bias overall in relation to my view on small GCs and tradespeople. However, I do understand the frustration people can have with subcontracting any work and I think it is due to their own lack of experience, education or effort to research and understand options. As a side note, for those of you doubting the talents and billing rates of “uneducated trades people” check out Mike Rowe and MikeRoweWorks Foundation. The country as a whole is rapidly approaching a massive skills gap, largely due to the idea that everyone should go to college and chase the “corner office”. However, society will fail in my opinion if that is the case. We need people with proficient skills in all areas to survive. Good luck waiting for the tech geniuses to create a bot that will perform all of these repair tasks for you.

    While the post itself has numerous valid points, I think like with anything having more information and open communication is the key. If you make your expectations known from the beginning and take the time to strike an agreement outlining all risks and contingency plans, including allocating funding for mitigation, then you will be successful.

    I think some of your tips such as a late finish clause is good, though I think you would need to be flexible and understanding to reasons why there was a late finish. Utilizing LDs in construction is very common, but enforcing them doesn’t always happen.

    Another point for those commentators who were “screwed over” in the past paying too much in advance or giving cash advances. Why would you do that? You come to an agreement and you need to enforce your contract. I have had contractors on my home renovations ask for 30% deposit, or 50%, etc. I always say no. I will pay for installed materials only (given the job scopes were small and short in duration). This is an agreement you come to, and then you need to stick with it.

    I find the negative perspective on trades mentioned in the various comments unreal. There are so many skills required to become competent in performing some of the tasks people listed and mocked.

    As for the comments about “barely graduated high school…” I don’t see how that is relevant. Not everyone is going to be good at the same things. Further, people with skills who find a way to get paid for them are likely better off at least economically than someone working in a dead end office job with a college degree.

    I know a lot of individuals who “barely graduated high school” that now run their own business, whether auto mechanics, plumbers, electricians or GCs. They learn to master a skill or how to manage others and build their empires.

    Sure, one mechanic I know can barely write a complete sentence without a couple spelling errors. This same guy of course has a franchise of auto repair shops, and a $5M house that he owns out right. So, I think there is a place for those who may not have excelled in high school, but have found a way to flex their talents.

    As noted I happen to work for a large GC myself. I can tell you some of the most talented people I have ever met have gone through the trades programs. The amount of knowledge some of these people are able to gain in their careers while building, installing, running equipment, demoing, etc. is simply amazing. Not to mention those with the courage to go out on their own and start their own companies. Why would you look down on them?

    My last suggestion for those of you who mock the trades. Try doing some of your own home renovations. See where the skill gaps really are. I think sometimes because these people make it look so easy based on their abilities, people begin to think the work is easy. I challenge each of you to try and do some home maintenance and maybe you will learn to appreciate the contractors and trades more. Their knowledge of the tools they need, and the materials required for a job. The fact that they can anticipate the duration, and give you a fair assessment of the value of work and time to complete the tasks alone should give you confidence on their abilities.

    Sure you will have a varying price when you submit for quotes. This is one reason that you should always get at least three numbers. At a minimum this will allow you a sanity check, but also will give you a value confirmation. One of the best tips I can give you is to hide the final number of the quotes. Stack up the quotes and compare the value. Look at the track history, what they are offering, and your general comfort with the contractor. Then after you make that opinion look at the final price. If you can afford the one you rated the best, then maybe that’s the best option. If you can’t, then you need to make decisions on what service you are willing to sacrifice to get to the price you need, or what level of contractor you are willing to accept to perform the job.

    Lastly, avoid the “F you” number. Sometimes you will get those, because a contractor/trades person is so busy with work they don’t really need more. However, they will go give you an estimate to see if the work can fit their schedule. If they don’t really have the time for it or it doesn’t align in their work cycle, they may still give you a number. This number will be high but if you are willing to pay it then they will shift things around to get the work completed for you. This isn’t exactly bad business, it’s more supply and demand. If they are in high demand, then the price goes up. If they are chasing work then the price goes down. Simple economics. Again, this is why you need multiple prices to get the sanity check.

      1. Michael Turner

        When remodeling a home, if you are living off site, you need to visit your property at least every other day. Here are just two examples of mistakes I caught what we were renovating our house. First, we decided to place kitchen cabinets up to the ceiling line. I came in one day and noticed that they had installed a soffit. The second item, was also in the kitchen. They had sealed the walls but failed to extend the gas line through the wall for the oven. The contractor tried to place the blame and additional costs us. You need to keep an eagle eye and take nothing for granted. .

  18. Canadian Reader

    Sorry to hear you had an experience that did not align with your expectations. It is stressful and can get expensive/ unpredictable depending on on your GC.

    Our most recent remodel and the experience was quite pleasurable! Guess I got lucky. I didn’t hire a GC this time. I found my tradesperson through Craigslist and went one room at a time. When we were ready for the final piece (main area wall removal, ceiling vault, huge new kitchen) he had become quite familiar with us and we had time to build a great relationship. He also showed competence in reading the engineered drawings we had done for the eventual plans (also through an engineer I found on Craigslist).

    I’m honestly so grateful toward him for his work ethic, skill level, innovation, and his devious ways to help us save money! I think he helped us so much because he wanted to keep working together- and it worked. I got him going on another house last month.

    It was rocky at the start and there were the usual fights. But over time, I came to really like and appreciate the guy. I did things to keep him happy like sending him Starbucks gift cards, gift cards to go for back massages, money to get his truck detailed, Christmas presents for his family, and I let him find a couple of gold coins tucked into walls during demo (which he incredibly told me about). He has been totally worth it and has underbid his own work. I thought about late fees initially, but instead I gave him surprise completion bonuses on each scope of work from the start. This worked well to incentive him to get stuff done.

    1. It’s OK. My remodel ended up being good value, so it’s fine to look back on it now and laugh.

      Did you do your work with permits and get it approved? That’s one of the big issues for remodeling the U.S. I want the permit and I want it approved so it goes on the 3R report, which boost’s the property’s value.

  19. Oh man home remodeling is SO stressful and takes freakin’ forever. And contractors are so unreliable. They start off great and then fade into the distance and sometimes totally disappear! Augh. It’s nuts how many details are involved when you remodel and if you don’t stay on top of the work, so many things can slip through the cracks or get done wrong.

    I try and do small projects by myself when possible because it’s cheaper and much more efficient. But whenever I’ve been able to find someone reliable it’s nice to have someone to fix things. Recently I managed to install some Toto washlets all by myself which was nice. It was a little confusing at first because the instructions weren’t that great, but I figured it out. Anyway, really helpful post. Thanks for covering so much!

  20. Yes, I can confirm that this is accurate from my experiences. I love the idea of a late fee. I’ve also heard that a good thing to do is this. Ask your GC for a conservative estimate of when they can complete the project. Get them to outline what potential things could go wrong that would make the project go longer and cost more. For each one, have a discussion about specific impacts for each of the situations they outline. Once these things are out in the open, you agree upon the deadline and talk late fee. This might not be foolproof, but at least it shows them that you are not going to fall for a bunch of made up bs reasons for a markups and delays.

    Also, if you make additions or modifications to the project scope after it’s in motion (which happens a lot in my experience) get written commitments on the additional expenses and timelines in writing before you agree to them to protect yourself.

  21. This problem is not unique to home remodeling. Proper cost estimation is ALWAYS a problem. People love to underestimate the amount of time and money that any project will cost. This is because they ignore the small details.

    There is a rule in engineering that 80% of the cost comes from 20% of the features. In general, this means that the small features that you gloss over will have an outsized impact on the total cost of the project.

  22. Thanks for this timely post, Sam. Yesterday, my husband and I transferred our reno budget to our bank account. We’ve been talking about this since before the pandemic started (yes, we’re cautious). I’ve gone back and forth, “Do we hire a GC? Or act as our own GCs?”

    I’m forwarding your post to my husband!

    Again, thank you for sharing this.

  23. My step brother is a GC. Let me tell you that he can confirm most of the stories you mention in his experiences before he became a GC himself. They say its good to have a doctor in the family, but let me tell you, a contractor in the family is beyond priceless.

    1. Hope he’s a good GC! Having one you trust is so incredibly valuable.

      Mine is absolutely terrible. But he’s good value. Also, as I’ve gotten older and wealthier, I’m not as stressed if there’s as much wasted time. The buffer has grown so the stress is down. The late clause is huge.

      The thing is, you don’t always get what you pay for. Paying more for a GC doesn’t guarantee a great experience whatsoever!

      1. I am fortunate from my law practice to know several local contractors and I am in the middle of an addition to my house. I hired the contractor I trusted most and didn’t bid the project but did negotiate an end date. Thrilled with the results so far.

  24. This article is quite true. One thing I found interesting was the author refers to the contractors as “my contractor” or “my guys”. They are not! They will bait and switch and the idea is to try to get as much money as they can.

    I have had the same exact experience in Los Angeles, twice in a row on a construction project.

    The first one, a licensed general contractor took $41,000 and ran away. He would do whatever it takes to get the contract signed. Then he submitted invoices very quickly saying the quicker I pay, the quicker the work would get done.

    I was naive to keep paying, but when I came to my senses and confronted him that this is a lot more money than the work completed, he started to abandon the work. I had to call him everyday, leave a voicemail, send text messages and email, but no response. Finally I had to file a CSLB complaint and a bond claim.

    The CSLB was useless. He didn’t respond back to any of their correspondences and the bond company had 3 other claims, so I haven’t gotten anything.

    The lumber company put a lien on my property because this scum bag didn’t pay the lumber company. I had to pay out of pocket nearly $12,000 that I had already paid the contractor.

    Then it took me a while to trust any contractors. I got over it and selected another contractor to complete the work.

    He did the same exact thing. He got into contract, kept wanting money every week, which became every day so he could pay the workers etc. and kept lying that he would finish 3 or 4 inspections next week. Once he got the monies, he would delay everything and keep asking for more money. He had advanced $22,000 (70% of the project cost) for work that was about 35% completed.

    [Just to let you know I was not the only guy thinking these guys were slacking off, the electrician who happened to have been brought by the contractor, and his friend, would say it to their faces that they have too much work remaining and they are making very slow progress. This will tell you that I was not a biased homeowner. I was the guy who kept giving money every day.]

    Then he would threaten to not come back if I didn’t pay him every day.

    When they see the kind of car you drive, and that you have a good life, they want to extract as much money as they can. This guy drove 2 hours to get to my house because he couldn’t afford the rent in LA, he would run out of gas and I would fill his tank up to be good to him. I would keep giving him money for food and gas everyday, paid for the porta potty, scaffold and equipment etc. even though he had included those in the contract price.

    Overall, I have come to realize that the only way to complete a project is to not enter into a contract with anyone. Just get a quote for it piece by piece and pay as they complete the job.

    This may end up being the same as what you would pay with a full job quote, because every contractor will always extract more than they had quoted at the beginning, because they hold us “hostage” by knowing that the homeowners are lazy to go find another contractor and we just want to get the work done.

    It is best to get the hard things like foundation, structural, framing, roof etc. done by different companies and the rest can be done by people with reasonable skills.

    I have heard of people who own houses in third World countries. They’d just make a phone call from the US, and the contractor completes the job and they send the monies by Western Union. They are happy to have a job and they respect the homeowners as they know that’s how they can establish a good relationship for future business.

    It is very disgusting that in Los Angeles (America), the construction workers are such dirt bags.

    One race of construction workers hate the other, but they all do the same exact thing. So, it is not a racial thing, but it comes with the construction trade. Perhaps their mentors, fathers or someone teaches them these unscrupulous ways.

    I can clearly say that based on my repeated experiences, there is a serious lack of ethics in the construction Industry. This has to change if America needs to keep its reputation as a good place to live in.

    I need help with finishing up this construction, remodeling the main house, repeat this construction on a different house etc. It is in their best interest if they worked smoothly with me and other homeowners so they can get repeat business. But they seem to want to get their kids to college with one project. They seem to lack good business ethics and common business sense.

    Any contractors who find this post and my comment offensive, c’mon dude, we know you have done this before!

    1. First of everyone needs to do due diligence before hiring a contractor & signing a contract ( you always have 3 days to back out of a signed contract) Contractors will never charge more than what was on the a quote unless it’s a change order.

      If you get an estimate then it’s a different story or if you do T&M. In those cases both parties are screwed because the homeowner will think they getting ripped off if it takes longer than they think it should. The contractor will lose a client justifying the cost of extra work that was done. If your contractor cant give you an exact price you should pass.

      Second is about this guy “ShaK” crying about contractors, he is out of line and guys like him get what they put out in the world.

      Third is you can go out to eat at McDonald’s or French Laundry, should you pay the same price? Is the service the same? Is the skill level the same?

      It’s all food right…lol wrong there is a level in every industry and you decide what level you can afford or or want.

      You can have a master craftsman or a day laborer, you decide the level of craftsmanship, Passion, integrity you want to receive.

      Great general contractors with amazing subcontractors are everywhere if you stop focusing on the price and start focusing on the value and quality craftsmanship you will receive!

      1. I mean Shak isn’t really all that wrong…

        I’ve been doing it for probably five years mostly cause I couldn’t find one. There’s shitty ones around every corner. My first one I took over the gc stole $50,000 and the guy had oodles of liens on his property.

        I operate a little more informal at times but not shady. My original bid is a starting point. When you want to make changes we’ll alter it. If small things pop up though I do them and just bill. Part of my job is seeing the job gets done. If it has to be done, it has to be done.

        I give free quick estimates. When it looks pretty confident the job is mine I’ll bid out the bulk of it based on what I can see. I don’t waste my time with window shoppers. If I get the impression you’re price shopping beyond a quick estimate I walk. Bids take time. Not interested in having my time wasted.

        I’m not going to bid things like how many holes need to be fixed after the electrician has been in there running wires around in an existing structure, they’ll get fixed and billed for at what I would’ve bid at. I have a price book that I operate out of. Remodels can’t be be fully bided, but I try to make sure it’s fair to everyone myself included with extras. Recently replaced a bunch of windows, and they needed new stops. I made good margins and got what I wanted, so I made them new ones for free.

        I don’t know if I’m cheap or not. I decide what I want to make on a job. You decide if the jobs worth the price to you. I know my markups on subs can be high. But it’s a job in itself staying on them.

        1. Price shopping? So you think that a homeowner should just hire you without getting other bids? This is why I dislike GC’s, as “anyone” can be a GC and unfortunately, that’s what happens. To be an PE, or architect, you have to get a degree, and pass certification tests. The bar for the minimum level of skill in those fields is far higher.

    2. Michael D Wallace

      So I am not the only one who has seen and experiencing this GC issue. It is interesting that there is no easy method of going after these guys. In California good GC are difficult to find.

  25. The Truth Hurts

    One thing I’ve noticed is the GCs complaining in the comments can’t even write a coherent sentence. These guys are overpaid. I can’t wait for the day some tech guru creates a bot that can do this work. Most of these “skilled” tradesmen are useless. These were the guys who barely graduated high school and think replacing a wall or running some plumbing deserves to be compensated at the level of a skilled professional. Give me a break, lol!

    1. Probably the most ignorant comment thus far.

      There’s a lot of crappy tradesmen out there, I’ll give him that.

      But as the other reply points out; you’re welcome to do it yourself.

      I’m college educated but fell into the trades.


      Because I can bill $1000 a day installing windows.

      I can make 50% in my pocket on shingling a roof.

      I can charge $2000 to install a small kitchen worth of cabinets with a helper, usually in a day.

  26. In California, a homeowner can be his own GC. So no need to hire GC, just brush up on code requirements, pull permits directly and then hire subcontractor to do specific job. Keeping out GC reduces level of complexity and also saves a lot of money! Also if owner is reasonably handy, he can do lots of things himself, as california allows owner to do all trades work on his own home (except well digging). Saves big headache and money dealing with unscrupulous contractors!

    1. Sure, if you’ve got the time and know-how. I’ve been there when inspectors from building, electrical, and plumbing have shouted at my GC with decades of experience, and with sub-contractors with similar amounts of experience for the SMALLEST of issues. The whole project gets delayed by weeks or MONTHS.

      1. Must have had really tough inspectors. We GC’ed our own home in SF bay area (total rebuild from foundation up), and we only ran into snag only with our main drain outside of house. Not being able to find a plumbing contractor in time, I did the work myself mostly (with helpers to dig the trench) and it passed on second inspection! I guess I was just lucky that where we live, inspectors aren’t so tough on home owners who are GC’ing their own house build.

        1. Wow, I am truly impressed!

          I guess my other fear is this: what if I do the work myself, and do it wrong? A leaky pipe inside a wall is terrible. A bad wiring could cause a fire, etc. At the end of the day, I just hire a guy I’ve done work with, and then try and check and oversea all their work. I guess that’s what the inspectors are for!

          I’m finishing up a house now. Painful, and costly, but I feel good.

          1. Inspectors aren’t always right.

            Your gc should be just as up to codes if not more.

            Had a project where the inspector wanted thousands of dollars of additional electrical work done. Put him on the phone with my master Electrican who said I didn’t have to and he caved, admitted he wanted it done but didn’t have to.

            I built myself a house. Lots of big windows. The inspector wanted me to replace all the headers. Would’ve been costly and time consuming. I told him no, I was fine (they’d been running through computer programs and okayed, he measured it out by hand out of his book. The style of the house spread the weight differently than he was used to). Delayed the project three weeks or so. He caved. I agreed to replace one. The rest stayed.

            I personally don’t like dealing with a lot of inspectors. There’s a couple I really like and when I have a question even in a different jurisdiction I’ll call and ask them. I’ve used their responses to shut down other inspectors.

  27. From my perspective as a sub contractor I think this article. blog, whatever it is , is way off base. I am a very honest and hardworking person and have acquired very good skills over more than two decades working in the industry. I am not out to take as much as I can from a customer, I DO want to make a living though and I feel I deserve to. If this clown who wrote this article went with the lowest bidder then was surprised that things cost more in the end then that is on him. I am rarely the lowest bidder, I am often the highest bidder actually and I do not get a lot of jobs I bid on because of it but when I do win a contract I am able to stand by the numbers I give unless customers change things. It is just a reality that some things can be unforeseen and cost additional but that does not happen very often to me, I have usually anticipated a certain amount of this type of thing and built it into my price (hence not being the lowest bidder) yet time and time again I see cheaper guys taking jobs and in the long run they do lesser quality work and it costs more. I have been doing what I do for 24 years, I pretty much know how things will go and can estimate very accurately. I find it extremely offensive that this person who wrote this seems to think everyone in the trades is a crook. Id love to know what you think a guy like me should make in a year. I bet its something shockingly low. If you cant afford home remodels dont do them To sit here and rant on about how all tradesmen are crooks is total bullshit. the hardest working people I know are in the trades, guys who have nothing but a paycheck, no security for there future, no insurance no nothing,they beat there bodys up for 20 bucks an hour and that is because people want to pay obscenely small amounts of money for there projects and have no respect for the craftsman involved. I have people all the time that expect to get something done for less that it would even cost for me to buy the materials. So yeah, from my perspective this guy is way off base. sounds like a nightmare client to me, one I’d pass on . don’t work for a guy like this. you might find someone who says they will do something cheaper but are they licensed? bonded? insured? do they actually know what they are doing? do they actually know how to properly estimate a job? if all of those aren’t yes then you are a fool to hire and deserve what you get.

    1. I do agree. He is way off base. He said he pulled a permit in 1.5 hrs. And that it usually takes 3. He doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. May name is Bart Koonsr my email is cbkoonse@gmail.com

  28. wow you are a construction workers worst nightmare. clearly you have no resect for people who work in the trades and think they should make very small amounts of money for there many years of experience. you said you paid 3 guys 1100 bucks to work three days? ok the second day it was two guys, still that’s less than $200 a day each assuming we are talking 8 hour days, so $25 dollars an hour? and they pay there own taxes, insurance,surity bond ect? you are not an employer so you are not providing them health insurance or 401k,workmans comp or anything like that, so $25 dollars an hour is absolute shit pay for any professional tradesman. You do not understand all that goes in making things work when you are a tradesman particularly a licensed contractor who is abiding by the laws and paying his/her taxes. you need to check yourself. I wouldn’t even start my truck for that kind of money, you have no reason bitching. I run across fools like you all the time, the materials alone for something might cost $1200 and I need to charge at least 350-400 a day for labor for one guy, and that guy isn’t makin that much but there is payroll taxes and insurance and all kinds of crap to consider. so I give them a price $1800 so I can actually make some kind of profit,its not a charity afterall its a fucking business and they pass and go with some shithead drug addict who will work for 10 bucks an hour and hasn’t payed taxes since 1990 or ever gave a single thought to his future. you are a piece of shit who has no value for skilled tradesman. You should be blacklisted and no one should ever provide services for you.

    1. Richard, did a deal recently go bad to cause you to vent on this article? If so, please share what happened and your lessons learned.

      I’m assuming you found this article through a search on Google due to a problem.

      I pay for all materials.

      1. As a GC, I find this statement hilarious.

        “As in my example, I was able to get guys to immediately do the paint job for $2,000 less. Unfortunately, they realized the work was too much so they bailed. This is actually a good sign that I negotiated a decent deal, because if I negotiated a bad deal, they would have gladly kept going to take my money.”

        So, if I understand correctly, your benchmark for a bad deal is when you enter into an agreement with another party who fulfills their part of the agreement at the agreed upon price and you have to pay them upon receiving the service/work you requested to have done.

        “if I negotiated a bad deal, they would have gladly kept going to take my money”

        The measure of a “decent deal” is when the other party walks on the agreement?

        Is it possible the goal of having some remodeling work completed by a professional has been replaced by the goal of getting a “deal” that obviously, as exemplified by your experience, benefits no one?

  29. People buy a house, and think they can manage a remodel. They have no idea what is involved, how any of the trades work, what order things are done in, and most importantly contractors are not your buddies who work for beer and pizza. they have families to feed, and your new home having hidden issues that increase time and cost are the problem. This is why a good contractor stops work, sends everyone home, and renegotiates the moment your little code violation or substandard foundation the new work will finish (example crumblng concrete, bad wiring, poorly placed plumbing, missing structural support, adequate surface prep, out of level plumb and square everything…) rather than proceed at his OWN COST to rectify issues that are not part of the agreed upon work. Next the overleveraged detail oriented “real estate investor extraordinaire” cant come up with money to pay for the work. also loves to change things all of the time, different lights, change finish types, does not want to pay for licensed plumbers or electricians, not interested in pulling permits or having them pulled, has work done by idiots he/she finds on craigslist in the wrong order example drywall install and finish work before installing electric, plumbing, or even adequate framing. I am both, real estate investor, and contractor, I have done this long enough to know it is much easier to find a good guy to do some work, than to find a client to work for who isn’t a hussler. My favorite line is “call somebody else” I know your type, I see you a mile away, I wouldn’t cut your grass. YOU CAN DO IT YOURSELF, ITS EASY AND FAST RIGHT?!!! should only take 5 minutes. Jeeze, I’ll even buy you the pizza so and beer so I don’t have to work for you.

      1. Frank Jenkins

        Welcome to the Jungle?

        Where are the stories about,
        1. Changing the scope?
        2. Inherent defects in the EXISTING HOUSE?
        3. Picking more expensive finishes?
        4. Casually and easily villainizing the GC?
        5. Poor planning and rushing into important decisions.

        Try googling Contractors getting screwed by homeowners, which in my humble 33 yrs experience is usually the case, the owner holds the purse and uses to withhold, and or sue for final payment.

        I have had extremely wealthy, successful, very intelligent clients shake their head at me and say “I don’t know how you do this?”

        The contractor does not dictate what needs to be done, he doesn’t choose the finishes, he doesn’t decide on the scope of work, this is the homeowners job, so why do people rush out and hurry into 500,000 to 2 mil decisions? Because it’s very complicated and involves many variables that are constantly changing, including many different decision makers, throw in designers, absent partners, and hundreds of minute details to decide on etc… ????

        Wanna have Control?
        Wanna make sure you are aware of every minute detail?

        Either A. Do it yourself.
        Or B. Educate yourself, so at least you know what your looking at.(stop blaming someone else)
        Or C. Take the time to do your homework, purchase everything in advance, pick
        ALL of your finishes, colors, faucets, appliances etc.. AND DONT CHANGE YOUR MIND ABOUT ANYTHING.

        Otherwise Admit that YOU are part of the problem, YOU are participating, YOUR house condition is not the builders fault,

        Think about how much time we spend deciding on a TV or a Car, spend 10 times that planning your remodel.

        Like I always say, “No one whats to do their homework” “I just want it done”
        “I don’t want to deal with this or that”


        Pick 2 and stop blaming everyone else,you dont even know what you’re talking about, or what your looking at?
        How do you know how long it should take?
        How do you know how much it should cost?

        These kinds of forums make me sick,

        Do it yourself

  30. I needed a bathtub replaced and the surround tiled. I hired a young guy off Craigslist who had plumbing skills and he ripped out the shower/tub combo, put in the new tub for $100. He admitted he was not skilled in drywall or tiling, so I checked out craigslist for a tiler. I had three different guys submit me bids on what was a moderately skilled job. One wanted $8,000 for 76 sf of tile. Another wanted $1,500, and another $800. I went with the $800 guy and he lasted half a day. He cut out the backer board and slapped it on the walls with the wrong screws that were not flushed, and when I came into the room to look, I noticed that the backer board bowed at each end of the tub, and it didn’t align with the drywall by half an inch (he hadn’t bothered to shim the studs so backer board and drywall would be flush together) I was mad, and fired him. I then sat down, and posted on my FB page to the local FB Yard Sale group showing photo’s of the work this guy had done and requesting people to come fix my bathroom nightmare. I got over 30 people who wanted the job, and finally found my guy. He sent me photos of his recent jobs, and gave me a price on the fix that was $1000. In all, I pays to think outside of the box, and have as many people lined up that will work for you as possible in case you need a backup plan. I finally got my new bathroom, and in a timely manner.

  31. I think your “friend”, the GC was unethical in his behavior and impulses, and I think you don’t have quite enough respect for truly skilled tradespeople. The combination created the result.

    By the way, I never “bid” jobs because they’re misleading. This is a common practice that I find dysfunctional. I figure out what a job will cost me and I do meticulous planning up front, and during work, my client is kept in the communication loop on a daily basis (even if it’s just to say that I will only be on the site three hours “tomorrow”). Then I add my necessary profit which is my reward for doing good work. That is my price. It can only be lowered if less work is desired. If prospective clients balk at my price, then we are likely not a good match for each other and I give them the name of other businesses. I don’t do a lot of jobs per year because my needs are spare. This degree of punctiliousness on my part cannot possibly serve the needs of most builders, but it works for me.

    Something else; it can be difficult for a client to compare two estimates based solely on price. The cost for a given job in a given area probably (?) falls within a 15% margin compared to the same job being performed by another builder, but the differences often lie in preparation, quality of skilled labor, and professionalism, or even size of company and the resources they can bring to bear on a job.

  32. Edward Antrobus

    One thing I’ve noticed is that you get what you pay for with bids. When I was getting quotes for a central A/C system for my house last year, one guy quoted a price 20% lower than the next lowest bid and just over half the price of the highest one. But he missed his install appointment three times before he finally installed the unit, in the middle of a heatwave while I had an infant in the house.

    Of course, in my day job in road construction, I also see the quality that low bid can get you, with fly-by-night companies that don’t follow rules that are designed to keep them, the contractors they are working for, and the public safe. I’ve personally went out on more than one job where my company was taking over for another company that had been kicked off the project for this.

  33. Scott Johnson

    If you want to hire painting contractors to paint your house, be careful. Most painters will brush your room with a broom, then start slopping it on. I would recommend hiring three ladies to clean the walls for about a week. That’s right, a light TSP and bleach solution. You can also hire a couple of teenagers to keep rinsing the ladies buckets. have them scrub the walls with soft sponges, and get all the dust, and grime off the walls. Your paintjob will last 15 years. If not, areas which have dirt, or have been painted multiple times, will bubble up rapidly.

  34. I can’t agree more with this article . I just went through this and yes I am a first time remodeller .

  35. There is a ton of misinformation here. First of all, only sign a contract that includes line items for every piece of work you want done. Only take lump sum bids, and don’t expect the cheapest guy to actually have it all the first go around (he’s missing permits, qualified supervision, something!).

    Do not mix monies for fixtures and finishes like some have said, unless you have an architect or firm specifications. If you buy some ornate door hardware and expect someone to install it, as if it is something mass produced, they will ask you for a change order.

    Economies of scale are a huge factor in pricing construction work. If I have to send my best carpenter 50 miles to your McMansion at rush hour on a Friday, you can bet that trim install that “my buddy could do in an hour” is going to get pricey.

    Existing conditions are huge, as a painter noted above. If I value my work, I’m not going to just “paint over it.” Half the time clients are cool with winging it, but then they cry foul when obvious existing conditions cause problems in new work. You(moneybags)decided to call a pro, now pay for the work, and do it right the first time!

    Clients are inherently biased when it comes to estimating costs of their projects. Professional estimators know that an 8 hour day includes smoke breaks, texting, tons of gasoline, and in general, tons of lost time. The best and most responsive Contractors have equipment and men ready to mobilize to knock out your project, and tons of other overhead costs. Avoid low ball prices on large remodel projects at all costs, these are the guys you find tearing up a 4×4 section of carpet instead of replacing the whole thing! You get what you pay for!

    1. How is this misinformation by a contractor himself, and with countless examples of remodeling costing more and taking longer than expected due to shenanigans by contractors themselves?

      If a price and time is agreed upon, STICK TO IT.

      1. Like all professions, general contractors have some bad apples, and unfortunately the horror stories make the news.

        In face, I point out these horror stories on my blog https://leadingedgehomes.com/LEHblog and through my website http://www.leadingedgehoms.com, so that homeowners can avoid these situations.

        As a general contractor, I could not agree more about having a fixed price contract. The only exception is if there are hidden conditions (such as you remove a wall and find hidden electrical violations – which just happened yesterday at one of my jobsites) or if county/state code requirements change that may add an extra cost.

        People need to do their due diligence before hiring a contractor. Make sure they are licensed, check references, and verify they have the proper insurance. The homeowner must feel comfortable with the contractor – you are trusting them with your most important investment, your home.

    2. I never find construction who stick with their promises, they day robbers, no ethics atall better to stay away from them if possible.

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  41. Thanks, FS! I actually put this exact term into Google:

    do people use “lendingtree” anymore

    You’re like the 5th result..!

    1. Very cool. I’ve been investing in real estate for about 15 years, and you’ve just got to be diligent with everything. I’m going through a current remodel now and building a new bathroom downstairs. Gonna be a long journey!

      Yes, LendingTree is highly used. Give it a try to get the best rate. You’ll get a lot of banks bidding for your business.

      1. Oh good, wasn’t sure about LendingTree, don’t hear much about them lately.. then again, I haven’t had cable in ages, so that might be why. Should be doing work-stuff, but am instead going through your site.. I think I love it here! Good luck with your remodel..!

  42. So glad I stumbled upon this post..! Am looking to purchase (1st time) and do a remodel.. *GULP* Will be perusing your other posts on the subject.. Thanks! :)

  43. C.R. Taylor

    I own an 50s cottage with an added sunroom in 70s with too large glazing. Of 3 huge window panes one popped due to some ground movement/settling. This is a small, more remote town, one bid came in hand written in pencil, one was typed, better detailed. I hired this well known local company to replace, thye ordered the custom size safety glass, and when his guy was installing he broke the middle window adding exterior trim back. Owner ignore calls for several hours, then said they were not responsible for breakage! I told him no one would sign a contract if that were the case, I argued for free glass, or at least getting the glass at his cost, and not paying the extra labor. He refused, rushed me to close up and not wait for custom size, (it was November, weather could change) and put in REGULAR glass he had in shop (breaks as shards), ‘said’ he charged me his cost, DID charge me labor. I was totally furious because he was too cowardly to take my calls when trouble occurred. Had he been more professional I would have been less upset. A contractor friend later told me that type sheet glass is not “to code”, and now I have to disclose it when I sell. My worst fear is I don’t want a visiting child to accidentally get an arm cut off if they fall against it/break it, and I worry over quakes here in Nor Cal. So I keep a table in front of that window.

    They say a happy person tells 2 people about good service, but an unhappy one tells at least 11..so I vote with my mouth and give their name when describing that repair. With Yelp and other net resources it is possible to warn others.

  44. Labor is quite inexpensive in my part of the world. However, the modus operandi is same as you have mentioned. I have gone through renovation of my apartment a few months back. I know the contractor since years and he has worked for me on number of projects. However, my project went through all the phases mentioned here and ultimately I ended up paying more than the actual budget while not utilizing the all the fixtures that I have planned to use in the project.

    Be wary of laborers and contractors, they seem innocent and friendly but they turn out quite shrewd business people.

  45. It seems like every facet of real estate is a scam– from financing, to realty, to contracting/home improvement, etc. Someone needs to drag this entire industry into the 21st century.

  46. I bought a fixer-upper planning on doing all of the work myself, but after two years I was burned out and ready to hire someone to do the bathrooms (the last job). Luckily, my mom worked at the local home improvement store and she knew all of the contractors in the area because she would see them on a regular basis. Also, customers who had used those contractors would make small talk with her about the job they did. So when I told my mom that I needed someone to remodel my bathrooms she gave me a name and said everyone raves about what a great job he always does. Unfortunately, he had a long list of jobs and wouldn’t be able to get to my bathrooms for 6 months, but when he finally did I felt like I paid a fair price for great work. There wasn’t any hassle about the scope of the job or the contract and he never tried to up the price on me. And he got the job done quickly because he had several other jobs waiting on him. I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have the recommendation to go off of… It really helps to know someone in the business.

    And later, when I was putting in a patio (doing all of the work myself) he let me borrow his gravel compactor free of charge! I definitely know who I will call if I ever have another remodeling project.

  47. Steve@ChattingFinance.com

    I’m going through a home renovation right now. I was little hesitant to buy a house at first. I’m 25 and all I have ever known is renting. I was worried about all the paper work and legal details, as well as the renovation.

    I’m not saying all contractors are bad, but sometimes I get the car repair shop feel. I don’t know anything about cars and probably could get taken advantage of very easily.

    I am fortunate one of my family members works for Sherwin Williams. He has a lot of trusted connections through his job. I feel like that’s the only way to do business nowadays. Finding trusted workers from people who you trust.

  48. I havent been scammed myself but lots of people I know, have. It was meant to be a simple bird aviary in the front lawn, that ought not to have cost much in terms of money or time. But the contractor first blamed the lawn’s foundation, saying he would have to dig it up a bit to lay a thicker concrete foundation than expected. Then the walls when up and he decided to create a concrete roof instead of the metal thatched roof that the homeowner had planned, saying it would be better for one reason or the other. And then it was time to paint the whole thing and he ended up charging a lot more than the initial price that was agreed upon.

    But it’s not surprising this sort of thing happens. At the end of the day, everyone’s trying to get the most money they can.

  49. Ugh, what a pain! We feel really fortunate that so far, we’ve been able to do all the work on our house ourselves. It takes us forever to do each project, but so far so good on the outcomes. I dread the day we have to hire a contractor for a project… maybe that day will never come!

  50. Don’t forget to vet your contractor through the state license board – or use them if you have a dispute.

    We had a landscape contractor who was not finishing our job (months and months late) but was constantly coming up with excuses and asking for more money (!). We finally took photographs of our partially done yard and emailed him a letter referencing the photos and threatened to send everything to the board – we asked him for a refund of our last payment. He refunded part of the money we had paid him – we parted ways and had to find another contractor to finish the job. What a pain!

    We recently had a project and received several estimates. Checking them with the contractors state license board turned up a contractor who had been fined for stealing materials from his former employer. Obviously we never contacted him again.

    We built a home (new construction) in NC and had our general contractor ask for more money (he said he lost money on our home) at the CLOSING! Needless to say, we paid the amount on our contract. When we moved back to CA soon after completion of the home – one of our neighbors called to let us know his crew was using our water for the house they were building next door! We had the police pay them a visit.

    Recently had our house painted and painter wanted us to buy our own paint since it was not a brand he normally used – when we went to settle up, he still tried to charge us more as if he had purchased the paint. He whined like crazy when we brought up the “error”. And we were repeat customers. Sigh.

    I really hate working with contractors! But if you build or own a home, eventually you’re going to have to deal with them. Thanks for some of the great insights here (the waiver of liens, having as big a final payment as possible and having the GC cover the “rough materials” are all excellent suggestions).

    Love your blog, FS!

  51. There are some great tips in this article and in the comments that should help make the process a little less painful.

    A few nuggets that I’d highlight, based on my experiences as a homeowner working with contractors to build one home and remodel two others:

    1. Know what you want, in great specificity, before you start the project. Time invested upfront will save many multiples of that time later.

    2. Your real estate agent, insurance agent, financial advisor and lender are good sources for initial leads to find competent contractors

    3. Get references & ask detailed questions about cost, quality and process.

    3a. Bonus tip: Before you sign a contract w/ a general contractor (GC), ask your lender about the GC (and if the lender says they “know of” the GC, but suggests you consider another/others, take that as a politically correct hint not to use the original GC you’re considering! Sometimes what’s not said is just as important as what is.)

    3b. Bonus, bonus tip: If you’re new to the area, ask the GC to recommend a lending officer, then ask the lender their recommendation for a GC (before disclosing that the GC recommended the lender to you)

    4. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is (see Sam’s point #1 – GC’s goal is to win the bid – and some will say anything to do so)

    5. The “hostage scenario” and playing on emotion (especially guilt) are common, especially with GCs, but with subcontractors as well. Stay calm and be prepared to walk away.

    6. Get a “penalty clause” in the contract for late work (but most won’t accept one) AND make the final payment as large as possible to encourage timeliness. (I like 20% down, 30% at halfway point, 50% upon completion.)

    7. Be present daily on the job site – even if you have a GC – and make friends with all & treat them well. (Ex. when the GC went AWOL for the home we had built, the painting subcontractor & crew did many tasks well outside the scope of their responsibilities to help us get a final Occupancy Permit.)

    7a. Bonus tip: Buying & drinking a 6-pack of beer with them at quitting time a day or two a week can pay big dividends later.

    8. Always get a final lien waiver for any project costing more than $250 (materials &/or manpower) – protects you from future financial liability, and you’ll need if you want to sell the property. When building, we stamped all checks to GCs and subs with lien waiver language as well (check cashed = lien waived for materials & manpower up to date specified or for job noted in check memo)

    9. Even if it appears you can build for less than you can buy, remember the admonishment that building/remodeling always costs more in time (frustration) and money that initially expected. There is a reason there’s a premium for the finished product.

    Hope this helps any would be builders or remodelers.

  52. I just went through something similar. I had 2 bids and one was twice the other. What was the difference? The higher priced one was better, but not twice better. I went with the lower bid and although I have no regrets, I think I will not use him again. I learned from the experience!

  53. k@mastersofourowndollars

    I’ve hired contractors only once and that was to replace a roof. They did a good job and it was done in less than a day, but the owner tried to over charge me. I ended up having to call my insurance company, then they called him to explain how the deductible worked, and finally he acknowledged that I was right. I don’t know if he did it on purpose to squeeze out some extra money or if he just didn’t understand basic math, but I wasn’t going to overpay either way. Which is why I DIY as much as I can.

  54. I have a GC that I use for everything and he’s very professional. I’d be very nervous if I had to go with someone else.

  55. Lance @ Healthy Wealthy Income

    I have several neighbors who are contractors. One won’t do jobs in the neighborhood because he doesn’t want to have the finance/neighbor issue over his head. Another will take anything and the other says upfront his bid will be 50% higher than most because he has the same crew all the time because he pays benefits and wants to do a good job and not a quick job. Hard to trust anyone these days. Always feel like you are getting screwed at the end of the day. The guys who did our yard did a great job and worked like crazy. The popped all the tires on their bobcat because the ground was so rough, but no extra charge because they said they knew what they were getting in to. Had a roofer that said it would cost $500 minimum just to come evaluate…uh no. Had a plumber say he wanted me to take the wall apart and send pictures of the job before he would consider it…uh no. Crazy industry.

  56. I’m house hunting right now and found a sweet deal that would require significant capex. My number one concern is getting screwed by a contractor, even though everything pencils out on a proforma, and even though I’m an attorney! I have this idea in my head that is re-confirmed over and over again by other people’s experiences that contractors are out to get you! LOL

    1. BH, you will get screwed.

      But, life still goes on. It’s just money, happiness, and mental anguish that’s all. Why do you think I write so much? To help me deal with all the pain in this world!

  57. Wow, what an absolute pain in the backside! My wife and I are currently looking at buying a new home nearby, but have been tossing up whether to just build a new home on our current block, given the incremental cost of both are pretty similar. I think after reading this the decision is probably a little clearer for us. We had a builder quote us a price we thought sounded fantastic, and I naively never understood how if you sign a contract for that amount that the costs can run over – but now I get it.

    I have had one great experience with a contracter – a plumber. We had a small issue with a burst pipe in our front garden, rang a couple of plumbers who all made it sound far more complicated than it really was. Then found one who was a fantastic, practical, helpful guy – came out, had a look, suggested a simple solution, did it in 10 minutes, charged 1/3 of what the others were quoting!

  58. Todd Guthrie

    Sam, you bring up a lot of good points here.
    Home improvements can be very difficult for someone who doesn’t know a lot about construction, or for someone who is timid in negotiations and management.

    I would add a couple tips for people considering remodels:
    1. Make sure you plan and list out everything you want to be done in detail, and understand how it all is going to be performed, at least in principle, BEFORE you start asking for bids. Work with your architect on this if you can.
    All this planning helps you in a number of ways:
    – You may be able to come up with a cheaper solution before walls start coming down
    – You can minimize surprise change orders later on
    – You can better compare the different bids you get (maybe one of them is cheaper because he forgot something)
    – Just like at the auto mechanic, simply showing that you know something will make them less likely to try to take advantage of you.
    2. One contract form I’ve found works very well for everyone, is to delineate responsibilities (who pays for what) by specifying that the homeowner pays for all “finish materials” (things like door knobs and light fixtures, everything you’ll need to make a design decision about), and the contractor covers all “rough materials” (framing, plumbing, wiring, everything behind the drywall). I think this is better than having various limits and specific budgets for each fixture. It also helps the contractor to better plan for their costs beforehand, so they don’t need to include as big of a “contingency” number in their estimate.
    3. Always check references, especially for big jobs. Not just Yelp, but also call some people that the contractor has worked with before, preferably on a similar job, and preferably not too long ago. Don’t just ask about the quality of the workmanship, but also ask about the working relationship. Were there any conflicts about payments, any delays, anything unexpected?
    4. Contractors hate hard deadlines, and unless they’re desperate will refuse jobs that have penalties for missing deadlines. Most of the time, you can encourage things to move a little quicker by just talking to them regularly, asking about what’s going on, and the reason for any delays. You may find out it’s not really the contractor’s fault, but just that they couldn’t schedule the city inspector until next week. The best way to make sure they finish in a timely manner is to specify as large a final payment as you can, that they’ll only get once the job is done.

    I would also say you did a couple things wrong:
    1. You assumed there would be no problem if you gave part of the job to someone else. It’s true, competition does encourage better bids, and so you might also think that having multiple competing contractors working on the same job at the same time would encourage them to perform better and one-up each other. In reality though, it just creates a bad situation with a lot of hard feelings on all sides.

    2. You hired your friend. In business, sometimes it’s best to keep friendly relationships friendly, and keep professional relationships professional.

    That said, the construction business is crazy here in San Francisco right now. There’s a lot of demand right now, and a lot of big money floating around. You have tradespeople getting paid amounts that many white-collar professionals would envy. You have some GC’s who won’t even talk to you, let alone put together an estimate, unless you’re prepared to throw at least $25,000 their way.
    It’s not an easy thing to pay up such huge amounts of money, but you might feel better if you consider the increased enjoyment you’ll get over the years, and the increased (unrealized) equity you’re adding to your house. Here in San Francisco, with one of the boomingest real estate markets in the country, the return on home improvements can be quite high, even exceeding 100% of cost in some cases.
    Best luck on your new home!

    1. Everything is a learning experience. That’s how we get better.

      Of course I did something wrong. I hired my tennis teammate, thinking he would be above board and go the extra mile instead of trying to extract as much money from me as possible. It is no wonder he is broke (why I wanted to help him in the first place) and why he needs me to write him $200 check to get materials at home depot before he goes without paying for the stuff himself. He has no money, and funny enough, he says he owes $100,000 to the IRS too!

      Amazing…. there are such different financial worlds out there. Gets very interesting the more you find out.

  59. “be willing to walk away”

    That is the #1 piece of advice for any negotiation: buying a car, getting a mortgage, doing a business deal. As soon as the other party thinks you have more reason to stay than they do, they have all the leverage. It takes discipline, practice, and a comfort with incredulous stares of others, but my wife and I have successfully applied this tactic many times. Sometimes, you really do have to walk away. But often just the threat of it suddenly brings out new options that didn’t exist just minutes before.

    1. I’ve told people this for decades. It works especially well with manufactured things, like cars.

      It only gets tricky when you really do want to buy it from them more badly than they want to sell it to (particularly real estate). Gotta use your best poker face and hope for the best then.

  60. I feel your pain FS. Anytime I have to hire anyone to do anything on my house, even something that I am looking forward to getting (such as new carpeting), I start getting anxious. We have had many contractors do work on our duplex for many types of projects and there are only two that I would recommend to others and call again myself.

    Thankfully we have replaced/repaired/painted most of the house, so here’s hoping we don’t have to deal with anyone for quite a while. Just thinking about it gets my blood pressure up!

  61. I don’t understand. Yes you always use different contractors, or yes I do now that this guy I used to use got deported? …Maybe he was complaining about money cause he didn’t have enough for a decent immigration lawyer… kidding

    If you are using different contractors every time then you’ve been having trouble selecting a good contractor. The lowest price doesn’t always mean that’s the guy you should use. If your always using different people and always going to the lowest price then I can see how your having these problems with cost overruns and delays. You aren’t qualifying the bidders. A major component in the process is can this guy actually do the job. Lots of people say they can only to fall short later on. These guys are probably inexperienced in the trades, in estimating, and/or as your post describes them. As far as the guy who got deported that’s a whole other issue in regards to cost and quality mixed with his legal status.

    I’d like to see an article about how to hire a GC and avoid the projects cost over runs and delays.

    1. It’s not like I’m remodeling every year for three years. I did one major remodel 10 years ago, some small stuff w/ my rental in between, and now another major remodel this year.

      I’d love to read an article written by you on hiring a GC and avoiding the project cost over runs and delays. But I understand it’s easier said than done. My door is always open as it’s clear as a GC yourself you have some thoughts! Let’s do it! Send me the first draft this weekend and I’ll help you edit it.

  62. We are getting a new roof at our duplex and it’s taking a lot longer than projected. It was supposed to be done on Sept. 10. They’ve been slowly working on it for 3 weeks and I’m getting pissed. At least it will be done this week. I hate remodeling/repairs. It always take much longer than they said. You’re right about getting the bid.

    1. You write timeline in a contract.
      3 things that must be in a contract
      1) Scope in as many details as possible
      2) Total fee
      3) Timeline

      If timeline is not met there should always be a penalty.
      It’s the only way I ever deal with contractors.

  63. Yikes, It sounds like you’ve had bad experiences with a couple of contractors and now just wanna bash them. I’m a GC and we are not all bad. I’m not sure who you spoke with in the trades but we don’t all operate by lying and playing on customers emotions. In fact I don’t know how any business could continue with that model. You would have nothing but horrible references. Trouble is many people don’t do remodels or renovations enough so they don’t have someone they can trust or have any real point of reference to actual costs. Often it’s a roulette wheel and in the end it’s the customers poor judgement of character that lets them pick a shoddy contractor. I’d give you that 1/2 are scan artists/hacks but the other half are true craftsmen and honest individuals. It’s not fair to lump them all together. The trick is, and not just in this situation, to know when someone is blowing smoke up you ***.

    1. I’m definitely not saying that all GCs are bad. I’m trying to explain, using my stories as to WHY home remodeling always takes longer and costs more than expected. I’ve done many remodeling projects over the past 13 years, and NEVER has one been on time and under budget. Never.

      I’ve also talked to at least 50 other homeowners who have said the same thing.

      I don’t think the “trouble” is that since many people don’t do remodels, they don’t have a reference to actual costs. The costs and time are laid out UP FRONT in the agreement, and yet they are never met.

      If someone finds a honest and reliable handyman, contractor, plumber, electrician, builder, and automechanic, hang on to them like a national treasure!!

        1. Yes. Unfortunately the one that I liked got deported on visa issues and not paying his taxes. It was kinda bad. I REALLY liked him, even though he forgot to grout the glass shower door at the bottom and all water started leaking out. I had to go back and do it myself (rental).

          He did ask for more money and complain “he was working fro free” as well.

  64. Man, first a friend steals your CC, now this!

    It’s unfortunate but these things are common business practices. I saw a friend go through a significant up charge once. They know that some people will simply pay while others will never pay. Some people will cave to legal threats. Some people will fight back legally and they’ll move on. They try to make educated decisions on who will do what and assume a net gain over time.

    If you really have to get nasty, the best thing is to file a massively broad suit against them with numerous claims and then overwhelm them with discovery requests digging into unbelievable minutiae, make them account for every cent. Their legal spend will lopside their risk to reward. Of course, you just have to never worry about it yourself and never bother to look at the data they provide.

  65. The First Million is the Hardest

    That’s amazing that your friend tried to screw you like that, it might make for some awkward times down at the tennis club now I’d guess.

    I haven’t had to deal with too many contractors yet, just roofers a few months after we bought the house. I guess we lucked out, the company stuck to their bid & timeframe and didn’t try to get any more money out of us once the job was started.

    1. Well, he’s certainly not first on my list to invite to my club for a game of doubles, that’s for sure.

      Before this incident, he was crying about not making as much money on the other work he did, so I let this one go. But, it helped me a lot in figuring out how he operates for future projects.

      Devil you know is better than…

  66. Not mentioned yet in your real-estate adventure(s), but the absolute best person to refer good work is your Real Estate agent. Their reputation depends on it, and they (should) know everybody, both good and bad. For fun, here is a 13-second clip of Ron Swanson’s opinion on Contractors.

    1. Good point, and I did use someone to create a bathroom for my previous house from a RE agent. Unfortunately, he got deported and went out of business because he couldn’t or wouldn’t pay his taxes!

  67. Rule 1 General contractors lied.
    Rule 2 See Rule 1
    Rule 3 Firing a Contractor is great fun, fulfillment of ones self, but can be costly.

    1. Teammate in USTA league, not so much partner. But overall, he’s a nice guy and relatively inexpensive. He just has some issues, including language and communication issues.

  68. Man, I am dreading this. I need to toughen up or I’ll get taken advantage of. We just had our co-op painted, the carpet ripped up and the floors sanded and refinished. It’s about 850 square and the cost with materials came out to $3400. It was a friend of my wife’s mother. We will have to have some other more labor intensive work done (convert a dining area to kid’s bedroom)which will require co-op board approval, application fee and deposit. I’m scared about what that will cost but I will definitely get multiple estimates. I also just moved a few days ago and after the move, the movers who are independent contractors I guess said they could’ve done it for $200 less if we had contacted them directly…

  69. Jay @ ThinkingWealthy

    Man, you’ve had a helluva time with house repairs lately! Contractors are a finicky bunch in my very limited experience. They’re charging you for their connection the way I look at it. If I need a painter, then I search directly for a painter!

    I suppose if you trust the contractor and their judgement it’s worth going through them and letting them handle all of the subcontracting.


  70. Totally agree Sam – It is always unbelievable to me how much you need to watch these contractors / sub-contractors. To your point, you need a good list of backup subs that can do the work in case something goes wrong. It sometimes takes time to find a good painter, plumber, electrician, etc. but when you do, they can be golden. I also find that being present when the work is being done and making friends with the sub-contractors doing the work is always helpful – as you mentioned, some of these guys don’t like the GCs but they will respond to a friendly homeowner who takes interest in their work and treats them well (speaking the language doesn’t hurt either – my wife speaks some Spanish and that always seems to play well if there are Spanish speaking crews that she can make friends).

    There are a couple of things that I always try to include in any agreement, especially those with GCs:
    1) Before signing or start of work, I ask them for a reasonable timeline for how long the job will take to complete – I then put that date into the contract and assign a penalty to them (10% of the total job) if they go outside of that timeline. This has worked well in the past to light a fire under their butts and not de-prioritize my job over others that they are working.
    2) I get them to agree to sign a “Waiver of Lien” upon final payment – I want to ensure that if they, for example, are screwing over their subs, that it doesn’t come back to me in the form of a lien on my property. Not sure how binding these are if you needed to go to court but I try to get them to sign anyway. It is also a bit of a scare tactic to let them know that you are not messing around and expect them to execute their job. I use a standard “Waiver of Lien” form that I fill in with their specific company information – I require them to get it notarized before I hand over any final payment to them. They hand me the notarized Waiver of Lien and I will hand them final payment.

    1. Yikes, never thought about the waiver of lien angle. I’ll have to think about that. It’s interesting that the 10% of total job penalty has worked for you. I guess when they want your business in the beginning, they are most eager to negotiate then, and homeowners are most eager to sign anything to get things going.

      Folks have to not rush into remodeling, get all their ducks in order, and be methodical before signing with anybody.

    2. I’m a real estate investor and HATE contractors. Even the best ones have to be fired after a few projects because they all get greedy.

      Be that as it may, in an attempt to keep them honest I get several bids. After I hire one I insist on a very detailed scope of work with line items for everything and broken down by material vs labor cost. I pay for material myself as needed and give them no money up front except in the form of material I am paying for on the spot. They give me a time frame for completion in the contract and if they do not stick to their time frame they are charged a per diem for every day they are late. If they are done early I bonus them out. I pay them weekly for their labor based on what is complete. I make the contractor and every sub sign a lien waiver after each weekly payment and at the end of the job after final payment. I also insist the contractor add me as additional insured on their insurance policy and i add a waiver of subrogation clause to the contract.

      If they balk at any of this they can take it on the heal and toe and I find someone else. I have the gold, I make the rules.

      1. As a contractor, I hate real estate investors. They all “know” the best way to do everything for less. If they are that good, they should do the work themselves. They also “think” they know what it costs to get a good job done, but haven’t a clue.They all want something for nothing, but sure don’t mind up-charging a large amount into the house they are renting/selling. Then there is the problem with payments.

        1. I honestly just want to say hats off to this response. Soooo true RE investors deff think they are experts. Maybe, you brought a house with more problems ever think about that lol

          1. Great article and posts. Clearly there is a difficult relationship between investors and contractors. As an investor my self On my first project I went with a homeowner appraoch in going with a GC. Was a condo renovation that was supposed to be done in 4 weeks. Took 7 months and got billed 25% higher than agreed upon because of “unforeseen plumbing issues”. I said Never again!
            Key is you have to put in work to get those good carpenters , painters, roof guys, HVAC guys, etc but it’s worth the effort. One guy can charge you 10k to completely bring down a house while another will charge 50k for the same job. Maybe one guy has bigger overheads and another has equipment that is paid off. Coz of these different reasons I understand why bids come in different prices so I know not all contractors will be a good fit for me as I will not be a good fit for them coz I am not paying 8k to redo a bathroom when I know it can be done for way less and same quAlity. Also just coz you are paying premium does not mean the guy will do a premium job

  71. Wow that is ridiculous! I recently helped “watch over” some contractors at a friends house. It was taking them FOREVER to get the work done, and when I went over there I realized why. The tasks they were doing were taking about 100 times longer than they should, and I even had to lecture them that they were wasting an incredible amount of money and time.

    I watched one of them even take over ONE HOUR to screw in a new light switch fixture. That should literally take one minute… You pop out two screws and pop in two new ones. They were getting paid by the hour so little things like that added up quickly.

    I think doing your research when choosing a contractor is very important. Asking friends and family members who they’ve used can go a long way.

    1. Call me crazy, but painting is one of the easiest things a homeowner can tackle on their own. Time is money, but for $7,000 & the haggling with GC’s…I’d consider doing it myself with a couple buddies (pizza & suds can go a long way). If time is of the essence or you lack the skill set, outsourcing is probably the best route..but if it’s a leisurely task why pay someone else?

      1. Because I don’t want to paint. Doing a good paint job takes a lot longer (and more skill) than most think. And I don’t haven any buddies who will paint for pizza (I certainly wouldn’t do it).

      2. Was just figuratively speaking here…pizza, sushi, rib eye steak, lobster…whatever restaurant/cuisine you prefer. But I agree with you, if you don’t like painting find a qualified & reputable handyman to do the job.

        +1 on FS’s comments below. Patching holes & sanding does require a little finesse & it certainly can be a PIA

    2. Wow… one hour to screw on a new light switch cover. That is impressive! I wonder how they did it.

      Just goes to show that the GC has to be on the subs too. Also, the homeowner has to stand strong and NOT have to pay for the subs overages. This has been an issue I’ve encountered for sure.

      “It’s cost me more than expected. Please pay me more. ” says the GC.

      “Take ownership and do better job estimating your costs!” says any homeowner with strength.

  72. Find an honest contractor who you trust (hard I know) and pay them hourly. I did this by having a series of small projects done around my house – things like building new stairs off a deck, replacing a bay window, etc. As well as underbidding, contractors love to oversell the amount of work necessary, including setup and cleanup, to jack up the “flat fee” jobs, so you think there is a ton of work involved in a $5,000 or $8,000 project.

    I have a great carpenter that charges $35/hour (where I live in rural NH I could find someone to do the work for $25), and submits all receipts. Peace of mind and a quality job are well worth the extra $10/hour

    1. I’m not sure about hourly. My electrician came before I went to work and said he’d need 3 hours to do some wiring at $55 an hour. I told him no problem.

      He calls me at 6pm saying “there was a lot more than expected” and he’s been there for 9 hours and he wants to get paid accordingly.

      I’m much more in favor of a flat fee.

      1. That’s why I referenced the trust part. Someone who’s gonna rip you off is gonna rip you off, regardless of whether it’s a flat fee or hourly rate.

        All else being equal, I’d rather pay someone for a few extra hours of time to do a quality job than know they’re getting X amount and rushing finish and move onto the next project.

    2. Right. . Because setup and cleanup when you’re having to work around clients living in the home still doesnt take long at all……… when i could go into a house and prep all trim and doors and spray two coats of lacquer in s day and cleanup once. Versus having to take 3 to 4 separate spray days. 4 times the cleanup costs. It jams up time in a huge way. And if we’re paying our good painter $15 and one good helper $9-10. That’s an average of $240-250 a day in labor for 10 hr days. Lacquer thinner is $15 a gallon almost. Some people do lie. But some people think they understand what goes into even a simple paint job. But usually they do not. Repainting a light color flat sheen with a darker higher sheen wall color/finish is almost always guaranteed to expose a huge amount of flaws that must be attended to for the finished paint job to look correct. Even the thoroughness of the repair work. Where a cheap contracter will float over nail sinks and scrape and texture nail pops, i woulf add screws along them to tighten the drywall and remove the loose nail or screw or set it further in. Or tighten the drywall and scrape and then texture the “pop” l. Prime before painting those and any porous areas that will cause the topcoats to flash. Other wise 6 months later, those defects are popping or sinking again. And then the touch up paint will flash. So the wall would need to be repainted from edge to edge… etc etc. Primer and then paint is the way to go. Not the “painy/primer” combo crap. have your primer tinted and prime and then 2 coats of pain. Full color and sheen of the product can then be truly achieved.

  73. Holly@ClubThrifty

    The number one bullshit excuse general contractors like to use to charge more is that the project will cost them money. They will always say something like, “I lost money working,” or “I’m working for free for you.”

    I have found that to be so true. I’m sure there are plenty of honest contractors out there, but I have dealt with only shitty ones. For example, we had two rooms opened up into one giant great room in our last home. They took a wall out, redid all of the woodwork to match, and put new carpet and padding in. At some point, one of the workers staining the woodwork spilled an entire container of stain on the brand new carpet. I obviously noticed the huge stain (because it was obvious) and also noticed that they had tried to steam clean it.

    Obviously the carpet needed to be replaced. The project wasn’t even done yet and the carpet already had a giant stain in front of the fireplace. The contractor’s solution was that he was going to cut out a 4 by 4 hole where the stain was and just patch a new piece in. Of course, I freaked! He wanted to do some shitty patch job on my brand new room! Not only that, but I called the carpet store and they no longer had any of the same carpet from the same dye lot.

    The guy actually told me that he would probably get fired if he replaced the carpet, and that he was working for “free” at that point anyway. It was as if he thought it was my problem. I had already paid a fortune for a finished room, and he thought *I* should replace the carpet or we should split it or something.

    They replaced the carpet with new carpet after I made it clear that I would sue them if they didn’t.

    1. Wow . it obviously doesn’t make logical sense for you to pay. Thanks for sharing. I’m not a home owner yet but this is good to know.

      Thanks financial samurai for posting and stirring up a discussion lots of good comments. I’ll have to remember to come back when I own my own place.

    2. I can’t speak for everyone, but you are the kind of person I’d like to avoid. GC work is hard work, it’s stressful and the margins are not great, even when the work goes as planned. Good luck to you, you will always get second best

      1. Yes, you should avoid her because she’s going to actually hold your feet to the fire and ask you to do what you agreed to. Mistakes happen, yep, so own up to it. News flash: You’re actually responsible for the mistakes of the people you hire. That’s part of the risk you’re assuming with being the manager of a project.

        So again, please avoid wasting her time by showing up to give a bid and let her better use her time by meeting with someone who cares about time, craftsmanship and attention to detail.

        1. Nightmare homeowner on the loose!!!!!! Some one quick,…break out the garlic and holy water!!!!!! Weve got an extremely bad judge if character here.. Listen the contracts are put in place to protect the contractor…if your that gullable than maybe you should afford a close relative a power of attorney cause someones a foolish author writing rubbish…i could barely make it through the article….dont give us a bad rep cause you got complacent and hired a a bunch of dodo brains…f.y.i…..friends dont screw friends over…i mean look a fibi ,joey, chandler and uh…..terrence… That show friends….they were so happy to be together.. Ahhhhh yes. Central Perk…. Now go to your room and your not getting a bedtime snack….bad author. ..bad writing….

    3. Jeff Harris

      I am a GC in So Cal who from the very beginning (1995) told myself I gonna be up front and honest with my customers. Since the inception of yelp I’ve asked them to post comments about their experience with me. Every single one is five star. I don’t prompt anyone on what to say. I know there is no perfect way to know who you’re hiring but getting referrals from friends, coworkers or family is the best. I also ask my potential clients to not only call and talk to my past customers but to also go look at the work in person if possible. I’ve come to realize over the years that there are some people who have no clue whether they got good quality work or some piece of shit! But it was cheap! Two years ago for the first time ever I had a customer hire another contractor who ‘sold’ them on his price etc only to realize these guys had no clue how to frame or read prints then my customer sheepishly got back in touch with me, hired me to fix all their fuckups and complete the job. We finished on time (in fact early) even with additional work they asked me to do along the way (of course I charged them for this by the hour) and now two years later we’re starting a nice two level deck project for them. I have always taken pride in treating all people with respect and it has worked out fine so far…

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