Finding the right contractor is kind of like finding your soul mate. You want your contractor to be great with tenants, excellent at the job, savvy with all projects, insured, punctual, and have a strong administrative department that handles the scheduling, etc for you. The contractor who checks all of these boxes most likely doesn’t check a different one: cheap. Rates would be sky-high and with good reason.
Some think it’s possible to find both, and they suffer from what we call the have your cake and eat it too syndrome. However, if cheap is what you want, cheap is most likely what you will get. A cheap fix will lead to an even more expensive fix down the road simply because a contractor was either rushed or not paid enough.
We advise our customers to look beyond the surface and find the best value. Show some mercy when finding the ideal contractor (and soul mate) – the one with the right combination of qualities. Know which qualities you value most. In other words, before you know your contractor, know thy self. Do you want the project done before a certain date? Then you may need to find a contractor who doesn’t have much work. Of course, that’s risky but you have to weigh your options. The sooner you realize that everything in rental management is relative, the sooner you can find the best value for your money and needs. The worst mistakes are made by landlords who push too hard for too much. That method almost always backfires and is certainly not long-term sustainable.
It’s critically important to build solid relationships with your contractors and cultivate them actively. They don’t work with just you. They have several other jobs to keep their business going and a lot of times, deadlines run together, especially if the weather is a factor in a project. Few relationships are more important to a landlord, treat it as such.
Tips on choosing a new contractor without getting burned
Most important- Our best advice for testing out a new contractor is to schedule their first few jobs on small issues where you already know what to expect in terms of cost, and where mistakes aren’t major problems. As the jobs get larger, allow for potential problems by prepping your tenants (a little honesty goes a long way) and starting projects early enough that delays don’t have major repercussions. Since many landlords are calling a contractor for the first time when they are in serious need, this is one situation where we actually advise owners to use a higher-cost vendor. Do not test fate when the rubber hits the road, pay a little more for the critical job, then immediately begin cultivating better value relationships. Or you could always hire a great property manager who understands the value of great contractors and goes to great lengths to maintain mutual respect. As with everything of great importance, have a plan B and C ready to go.
Discuss the scope of the project beforehand so that you have a general idea of what the cost will be. Whenever possible insist on itemized quotes so you can consider removing some aspects to save cost.. Let the contractor get on with their job efficiently, and insist that they come to you anytime a noticeable budget issue arises. Finally, check up on them early and often, but don’t meddle! For purposes of making sure you’re on the same page, you should never keep your contractor talking for more than 5 minutes. After all, you’re paying for it.