How to Spot a Bad Contractor

ContractorSummer is approaching, and that means repair and remodeling season will soon be in full swing. Sprucing up your property means you will be looking for contractors from tree trimmers to tile installers. So, how does one spot a bad contractor?

Red Flags

Nothing can drain profits like a bad fix-it-up project. So, if you find yourself skimming Craigslist ads looking for contract labor, look for these red flags before you sign on the dotted line:

1.  That low-ball bid

One common trick of a bad contractor is the low-ball bid. This person knows you’ll go for the lowest price, so they will intentionally bid low. Once you’re halfway through the project, the overruns begin. You have to agree to pay more because the place is in shambles. In the end, you wind up paying the same, or more, than the other bids — plus you’re worse for the wear. Much worse.

2.  Who will do the actual work?

Watch out for the business model where a wonderful, experienced contractor comes to your door to do the bid, but that’s not the person who will be performing the labor. Some businesses put all of the effort into sales and marketing, not in the expertise it takes to put your money where their mouth is.

3.  Payment in advance?

It’s not common business practice to pay a contractor up front for work that has not yet been performed, or just to hold open a spot on their schedule. Anyone who is asking for payment in advance should be met with suspicion.

4.  First meeting = work ethic?

The way a contractor presents at the first meeting typically is a good indication of their work ethic. It’s reasonable to expect some dust or dirt given the nature of the work, but crumpled up or missing paperwork, failure to bring along a business card, not remembering anything you discussed over the phone, or showing up late without calling, all point to chronic disorganization. If you see these signs, expect a messy work site, and a possible squabble over hours worked and final price.

5.  Initial communication likely the best it’s going to get

Likewise, the ease of communication that you experience when first reaching out to the contractor will be the best it’s going to be. If it takes forever to track them down for a bid, just imagine what it will be like when they need to fix an item under warranty.

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