Any construction project is a major investment. Whether looking to build a new custom home, a home addition, engage in a kitchen renovation, or any other home improvement project, homeowners often start with searching for a general contractor who can complete the work. With the endless choices of contractors out there, all promising the “home of your dreams at the right price and on schedule”, how does a homeowner choose? With all the home renovation horror stories out there, how does a homeowner get the job that they are expecting?
The “common wisdom” out there is to just go out, find at least 3 contractors, get their prices, and go from there. So, this is the route that you go, and at least one of those prices is far less than the other ones that you got. You are excited to get this project going, and you think you found the value of the century, and the guys with the higher prices are either clueless or a rip-off. Is that the case?
There is no such thing as a free lunch- especially in building.
Well, virtually always, the lowest price contractor is the one who is either incompetent or worse. Often, a low number is shot at you in order to get a foot in the door, and the price starts going up immediately. You were expecting quality windows that match the rest of your home for your addition? Oh, he included white vinyl framed windows from the local big box store for your addition when the rest of your home has green aluminum clad wood windows from a name brand manufacturer. A bunch of allowances included in his quote? Look out. Not to say that allowances are necessarily bad, but in dishonest hands they can easily be used to make a quote look better by setting unrealistically low budgets for those things you have not picked out yet like tile, cabinets, and plumbing fixtures. Your contractor’s budget might have you searching for the bargain bin for tile and plumbing fixtures, and installing low quality cabinets. Oh, you want nicer tile, name brand fixtures in that nice finish, and solid cabinets where the drawers won’t fall out in six months? Prepare to be hit with an extra bill for all of that. And then he comes to you and says that he forgot to include “such and such” in his quote. The list of “extras” that you thought were included in the first place go on, and pretty soon, you are approaching and passing the other prices you originally got.
Many contractors have an almost attorney-like ability (no offense to any lawyers reading this post) to read between the lines of any specification or “wish list” you gave them to make you think you are getting something when you actually are not getting what you intended without paying extra money.
These are common games that contractors play in order to come in with a price to beat the competition and get you to sign on the dotted line. If someone is promising to do the same thing the other guy promised for many thousands of dollars less, it is only human nature to take a second look. We are all looking to get the best value for our money. But, all to often, that lowest price ends up turning in to a homeowner’s worst nightmare in the end.
Shopping for a contractor is not like shopping for the same television at Best Buy and Amazon, and then purchasing from the one who can deliver it at the lowest price. In the television example, the TV is the same model, so wherever you buy it, you are getting the exact same TV. Not so with contractors. All contractors do things differently; have different sets of values, and different abilities. It is hard enough to get apples to apples pricing in this industry for these reasons. Throw in a dose of incompetence and dishonesty from a contractor, and look out!
There is no magic in building. Good materials and the qualified labor that goes into building a custom home or home improvements comes a certain cost. Running a service oriented contracting business in an above board and ethical manner comes with costs. There is no one that can deliver the same project at a price far less than the rest of the industry. Whenever something is too good to be true, it usually is.
Stay tuned to future posts for more information about what to look for when hiring someone to work on your home.