Most homeowners think that when they talk to contractors for a potential job that they’re the only ones doing the interviewing. But don’t be fooled — the contractor is interviewing you, too.
Good contractors are booked weeks, sometimes months, in advance. That means they can be picky about the contracts they accept and the homeowners they work with.
If they’re going to reject other offers to work on your project, you better believe they’re going to be smart about how they invest their time. They want to be proud of their work and what they do. But more important, they want to make their clients happy.
Good contractors want to work for people who appreciate their work (I love the hugs I get at the end of a job!). As a contractor, there’s nothing worse than working your butt off for months only to have an unhappy homeowner at the end.
If a contractor can tell within the first five minutes that it is unlikely they can make you happy, they’ll move on. Why get into a bad relationship? Because that’s what it is when you hire a contractor — a relationship. There has to be communication, respect and trust.
If you’re having trouble hiring the right contractor, you might need to rethink your approach. Because sometimes the problem isn’t the contractors, it’s you.
Here are some warning signs:
Contractors don’t call you back. If you’ve asked a dozen contractors for quotes but only two call you back, the others are either too busy or don’t want the job. It could be the way you speak to them. Or you might have unrealistic expectations about the work, the budget, the schedule — or all of the above.
You want stuff done that goes against code. A smart contractor will not accept any contract where the work breaks municipal bylaws or goes against code. If they do, they’re no good and you’re asking for trouble.
I once had a client that wanted their sump pump to drain on the other side of their property by digging and running a pipe across 20 feet. That goes against code because it could freeze and burst in the winter. We have building codes for a reason. Contractors who break them don’t have your best interest in mind.
You don’t budge on your schedule. Good contractors can’t start the next week. In most cases, the contractors that are readily available are usually the ones to avoid. In a good contractor-client relationship, both sides will accommodate each other’s schedules as best they can to facilitate the project.
You’re confrontational from the get-go. A few home renovation shows (and I won’t mention which ones) have made some homeowners edgy and mistrustful of contractors. This is good in moderation, but at the same time you have to be respectful. Remember, respect is a two-way street. You have to give it to get it.
You ask for extras but don’t want to pay. Good work isn’t cheap or free. You’ve heard the saying: “You get what you pay for.” It’s one thing for a contractor to throw in better cabinet handles or not charge for a certain step in a job, such as sanding. But it’s just bad etiquette to ask your contractor to paint your living room and family room for free, when they were hired to do your kitchen.
You don’t let the contractor talk. You’re hiring a contractor because he or she is (or should be) the expert. Your job is to do the research, ask the right questions and listen. But I’ve met homeowners who don’t let me get a word in. That tells me three things: 1. They think they are the experts; 2. They don’t trust my skill; 3. They’ll be questioning me on everything every step of the way. Who would want to work for somebody like that?
Asking a contractor why they do things a certain way is necessary. But telling them how to do their job isn’t. If you don’t trust their work, don’t hire them. Otherwise you risk getting into a bad situation — for you and the contractor.