Contractor concerns - should I be worried

Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
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So as many of you know, my wife and I are starting the process to remodel our home. After interviewing myriad remodeling contractors, we asked three contractors that have excellent reputations to quote the job.

There is a fair bit of work involved in the remodel, so our expectations were that the quotes were going to come back in the $70k range. Interestingly, the three quotes we received ran the gamut, from a low of $58K to a high of $82k.

My wife and I are seriously thinking about selecting the contractor that provided the lowest bid. Not just because of the cost savings, but because he remodeled the entire house across the street from us and it came out great. He also has a stellar reputation for being honest and his references (one of whom has hired him 200+ times to fix up foreclosed homes) have all said that his quotes are accurate, and he doesn't exceed budget unless the scope of work changes or he runs into something unexpected.

That said, I am still concerned about his quote . . . in that I think it might be too good to be true. Not only was his quote low, he included a number of items that the other contractors quoted as options, such as adding radiant heat in our master BR, painting the exterior of our home, etc. So, his quote was ~15-25% less than the others, but includes more projects. I'm wondering how he can do that, given that the materials needed for the projects are a fixed cost. Sure, he might be willing to work for peanuts. But why?

Normally I would steer clear of someone like this, just because it smells fishy to me. But the folks I have talked to about this contractor all say that he is a stand up guy, very honest, detail oriented, etc. All the things you want to hear about a contractor that is about to absorb almost $60k of your money.

So what say you, oh seers of ATOT? Should I be worried, or should I let it ride and see how things turn out? I'm leaning towards option C . . . have the contractor do a test project to see how it goes, and then move on from there.

-Sox
 
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SKORPI0

Lifer
Jan 18, 2000
18,409
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Check for other houses he has done and interview the clients if possible. Looks like he already has a good reputation.
 

Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
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Check for other houses he has done and interview the clients if possible. Looks like he already has a good reputation.

I did. I called 8 or so former clients, and stopped by a couple of their homes to see what he had done. It all looks good. Only thing that has me worried is his quote. I don't want to go in expecting to pay X, only to pay X + .5X.
 
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Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
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My only advice is pay as your go.

Yeah, we plan to pay on a project by project basis, rather than up front. I'm also going to insist on paying for materials directly. Contractors can be real sheisters in New Hampshire, so I'm not going to hand any contractor a check for 50k and say "have at it!"
 

OlafSicky

Platinum Member
Feb 25, 2011
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I would also try to get materials cost so you could figure out if labor cost seems reasonable. All fixtures are not equal all materials are not equal so one guy might be cheaper than the other etc. I had a plumber come in last week. I got one to give me a quote of about $3500 so I got another one and he looked and smelled bad. He fixed my problem without any unnecessary work required and charged me $150!!!. It turned out all I needed was some tweaks. Just imagine the look on my face. He was a fountain of knowledge and didn't rip me off.
 

brigden

Diamond Member
Dec 22, 2002
8,702
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For what it's worth, I knew a mechanic like this: His quotes were always way below market and always accurate when work was completed. His work was always topnotch.

I not only continued to patronize his business for many years, but recommended him to everyone I knew. He received a lot of business through me; I'm sure his other customers were no different.

Some businesses thrive on volume rather than margin. Perhaps your contractor is one such example.
 

cubby1223

Lifer
May 24, 2004
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You're not only paying a contractor for the time he is working, you are paying him a wage to cover the time he is not working. The less hours one works per week, the more one has to charge for the time working.
 

BoomerD

No Lifer
Feb 26, 2006
62,887
11,283
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BTW, I wouldn't tell the guy, "You're 25% cheaper than the next lowest bid. Why?" :rolleyes:

I WOULD ask him to go over his bid, line by line, and ask him for a materials list including all fixtures. Just explain that you like his work and want to be sure everything is properly covered. You MIGHT explain that his bid is lower than some of his competitors and want to make sure that everyone is including the same work and materials.
 

Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
6,211
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That.

And you know with an old house surprise problems will pop up and cost more to fix, no matter who the contractor is.

Thanks. I did talk to him. In fact, I asked him several times to confirm that his understanding of the scope of work was correct. I even went so far as to send him a detailed written scope of work that was provided by another contractor, and to confirm that his understanding of the scope was consistent with the other contractors description. He identified a few differences, but said that they amounted to "less than $5000, not 25,000."

I think the guy is being honest. I am just concerned about whether he can actually do the work for the price quoted.

As for the old house comment, my house was built in 1992 but was decorated/finished as though it were in the early 1980's.
 
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Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
6,211
121
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BTW, I wouldn't tell the guy, "You're 25% cheaper than the next lowest bid. Why?" :rolleyes:

I WOULD ask him to go over his bid, line by line, and ask him for a materials list including all fixtures. Just explain that you like his work and want to be sure everything is properly covered. You MIGHT explain that his bid is lower than some of his competitors and want to make sure that everyone is including the same work and materials.

I did the latter. . . i.e., expressed concerns about his bid because it was lower than my expectations and the quotes provided by other contractors. I didn't tell him how much lower it was.
 

Sho'Nuff

Diamond Member
Jul 12, 2007
6,211
121
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You're not only paying a contractor for the time he is working, you are paying him a wage to cover the time he is not working. The less hours one works per week, the more one has to charge for the time working.

Yeah, I thought about that too. The low bid contractor says that he keeps his bids "realistic" so that he has minimal downtime throughout the year. He does a lot of work for some local realtors fixing up homes that they are going to flip. So I don;t think he has a lot of downtime.
 

waggy

No Lifer
Dec 14, 2000
68,145
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shrug. i have had the same thing. only time we ever had issues was when we hired a family friend (never never again).
 

tynopik

Diamond Member
Aug 10, 2004
5,245
500
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I think the guy is being honest. I am just concerned about whether he can actually do the work for the price quoted.

If he has done 200+ jobs for one guy alone, I have to assume he knows what he's doing.
 

Baked

Lifer
Dec 28, 2004
36,152
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shrug. i have had the same thing. only time we ever had issues was when we hired a family friend (never never again).

Never do anything that involves money with friends unless you want to lose them. Funny thing is money will bring out people's true color. That's why I have no friends.
 

NetWareHead

THAT guy
Aug 10, 2002
5,854
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Yeah, we plan to pay on a project by project basis, rather than up front. I'm also going to insist on paying for materials directly. Contractors can be real sheisters in New Hampshire, so I'm not going to hand any contractor a check for 50k and say "have at it!"

I'm in NH and looking at investment properties, including fix-it-up foreclosures/short sales. A good honest contractor is worth their weight in gold. Could you PM me this guy's business contact info so I can check him out? Thanks...
 

waggy

No Lifer
Dec 14, 2000
68,145
10
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Never do anything that involves money with friends unless you want to lose them. Funny thing is money will bring out people's true color. That's why I have no friends.

yeah i learned. i should have known better. but the wife was a good friend with mine. They were pregnant and he was laid off.

oh man. it was not a good situation.



OP: i have had contractors like this. Some just don't charge as much for weird reasons. I had a deck built buy a guy like this. he was 30% cheaper then anyone else. he also did a hell of a job.
 

jhansman

Platinum Member
Feb 5, 2004
2,768
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20+ years ago, we did a garage/bedroom conversion with a contractor who built a house for a good friend. I saw his work along the way and felt he was solid choice. He was, but did not sub anything out except the sheet rock (which went fine). What I remember from the experience was, along the way, my wife and discovering options we hadn't thought of in the original plan. When we would ask "Say, can we....?", he'd say "You can have whatever you want; you just have to pay for it." This reality kept us pretty close to budget. Also, because he had to keep work going, he had several jobs going at once and would disappear for week at a time. Finally had to put a stop to this and let him know he would get no more draws from the loan until he completed the job. Otherwise, we got good work for a fair price.
 
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JEDIYoda

Lifer
Jul 13, 2005
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wow you actually had to post this on these forums??
If I was the contractor and knew you were asking on these forums....well just never mind...
 

Theb

Diamond Member
Feb 28, 2006
3,533
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Yeah, I thought about that too. The low bid contractor says that he keeps his bids "realistic" so that he has minimal downtime throughout the year. He does a lot of work for some local realtors fixing up homes that they are going to flip. So I don;t think he has a lot of downtime.

Well there you go. Some contractors like to stay busy, others put out high bids and plan on the jobs they get making up for their downtime. The ones that work with realtors and investors tend to be the former.
 

Dirigible

Diamond Member
Apr 26, 2006
5,960
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As for the old house comment, my house was built in 1992 but was decorated/finished as though it were in the early 1980's.


I'm jealous. I've owned two houses. One built in 1910 and the other built in 1914. Surprises out the wazoo.