Make-or-Break Factor

7 Savvy Tips For Successfully Hiring Contractors

We’ve all been there. The anticipation of that first knock on the door; the hope that this could finally be him: the man who is going to make all your dreams come true.

He has made you the rugged promise that he will build your fantasy kitchen from scratch, so you dive head first into this committed relationship. But inevitably, the thrill turns to despair when it all starts to fall apart.

I am speaking, of course, of contractors.

Whether you are new to flipping, a seasoned veteran of the game or simply want to upgrade, contracting the right contractor can be the make-or-break factor in whether your own contract—with your investors and with yourself – comes to fruition successfully. Follow these failsafe tips to signing on—and working with—the guy or gal who will get the job done fast, right, and on budget. 

Get everything you expect of your contractor in writing

Ask around: Sure, you can look online to find a contractor, but you know all of those 5-star Yelp reviews from HammerMan, Man-Hammer, HammerMan21, and iHazHammerz probably aren’t completely disconnected and disinterested parties. The best way to find a good contractor is to ask someone you already trust (preferably someone with better taste in screen names). If you don’t know anyone who’s worked with a contractor lately, ask anyway. Odds are that if they don’t know one themselves, they’ll know someone who does.

Get it in writing: One of the biggest mistakes that new flippers make is assuming that, after that first walkthrough of the project, the work that they want the contractor to do is “understood.” Right. Let me ask you something. Was it also understood that your husband wouldn’t eat a slice of the six-tiered Belgium chocolate fondant cake you spent 38 hours slaving over for your sister’s wedding? Was it understood that your bestie wouldn’t go skipping through mud-and-tar-filled rain puddles when she borrowed your $600 pair of Louboutins? Moral of the story: get everything you expect of your contractor in writing. Otherwise, you will live to regret it.

Know your stuff: Sadly, with contractors as with many other people out there who are trying to sell you something, there are those who will try to take advantage of a green client. You need to know ahead of time that it should cost around $6,000 to put wood floors in your fixer-upper so that when a less-than-honorable contractor gives you a quote for $12,000, you know enough to show him to the door. Do your research ahead of time. Also, don’t forget the little stuff. Big-ticket items are easier to remember, but you can just as easily get stuck paying $200 for a doorbell that is really worth $40. That’s where they’ll get you, if you’re not watching!

Negotiate: Don’t feel like you have to sign your name in blood on an agreement with the first contractor you talk to. Remember: all’s fair in love and house-flipping. How many of us are really going to complain about two good-looking guys battling it out for the pleasure of our company when we hit the bar on Friday night with our girlfriends? The same concept applies here. Only you’re in a reno setting instead of a bar. And there are whole teams of men fighting for your favor instead of two. Remember, every dollar you save on this process is going right back into your pocket as profit. Drop your daintily embroidered handkerchief, and let the games begin.

Pay as you go: Another mistake that rookies make with contractors is that they pay the full amount owed for the project right up front. After which, of course, the contractor can simply ditch you or do shoddy work without much fear of retribution. Don’t work with anyone who demands full payment before the place has seen so much as a single screwdriver being driven into a two-by-four. Rather, put down a deposit first, and pay the balance after the job is done. Just remember that this is a two-way street. When the contractor does complete the work, pay the man what you owe him, sharpish. This fosters mutual respect and keeps the project moving along smoothly.

Watch the clock: When you’re flipping a house, time is money. And we mean that literally. Every day you hold on to this property is one more day that you’re responsible for its carrying costs. So create a clear timeline with your contractor from the very beginning of the project. Agree on specific dates of completion for individual tasks. If you skip this step, well – we’re sure you’ve heard enough horror stories to know that the work might go on forever. But how do you get your contractor to stick to the deadlines, you ask? Simple. You add a clause to the contract that says that, for every day he’s late on his deadline, you pay him a percentage less of what you owe him for the work. It’s only fair, since you’re going to be covering that much more in carrying costs as a result of the delay, at the end of the day.

Keep your chin up: Look, if you think that a website called “Girls Guide to Real Estate” doesn’t stoutly believe that a woman can do a crackerjack job as a contractor, you might want to consider scheduling a checkup with the head examiner. But the fact of the matter is that in the current day and age, the majority of the contracting field is still predominantly male. And sadly, some of the aforementioned males continue to cling to dinosaur-age stereotypes about girls not knowing the difference between a handsaw and a nail gun. (Please. As if they have anything to teach us about nails – gun-versions or otherwise.) As a girl in a “man’s world,” then, confidence is key. Like we said before, know your stuff ahead of time. Don’t give them an inch, and they won’t be able to steamroll all over you. That’s how we roll. Cheers, ladies. *clink*

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Kristine Serio
Kristine Serio is an editor and writer with Author Bridge Media. Her real estate roots stretch back to her grandfather, who launched a profitable second career as an investor during the 1950s. She is now passionate about empowering women through real estate writing. Her authors and entrepreneurs have been featured in The New York Times, O: the Oprah Magazine, and the San Diego Union Tribune.
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