Thinking of making some upgrades to your home? Make sure you do your research before hiring a contractor.
When you fork over thousands of dollars to a home-remodeling contractor, you generally would expect a job well done and your dream home waiting at the end.
But for some unlucky homeowners, the reality couldn’t be further from what they expected, which is why homeowners should always be cautious when hiring contractors — even for simple jobs. If you’re not careful, the result of a lousy job could end up doubling your initial investment and even threaten your safety.
Tyler Bedle, a real-estate investor and managing member of Aberdeen Capital, LLC, an Orlando-based real estate investment firm, knows this well. He’s been in the business of flipping houses for a little more than two years and has had several unfortunate experiences with contractors.
“I’ve experienced workers both drinking alcohol or using drugs while on job sites, quitting at several stages of the job, stealing materials and tools and just plain not delivering on their agreed-upon terms,” he said.
Poor contractor jobs are not uncommon, and some of the stories are enough to make any aspiring homeowner strongly consider doing the job themselves. But with proper research, homeowners can find and hire reputable and responsible contractors.
When looking for a contractor the first step is to determine what type of contractor you need for the project. Then, check multiple sources of information for possible contractors, such as Yelp, Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor or even recommendations from trusted family and friends.
Once you find some leads, read past reviews from former clients. Contact the contractors and ask for solid references. Bedle advises homeowners to also contact local real-estate brokers, homebuilders associations, real-estate investors associations or chambers of commerce if they want more options.
After narrowing down your list, Bedle urges homeowners to verify the contractors are all licensed, determine the insurance needed and get price quotes from different contractors.
“As a rule of thumb, always gather itemized estimates from at least three different contractors to better understand what you’re being charged,” Bedle said. “To start, verify that your contractor is licensed, determine what level of liability insurance is required for your project and obtain a copy of your contractor’s liability and workman’s comp insurance policy from their insurer.
“Gather credible references and aim to pay a maximum of 10% up front and a lump sum payment upon completion, or arrange for certain amounts payable after pre-determined milestones are reached,” he said. “If they won’t budge, offer to purchase the materials yourself.”
He emphasizes to always include meticulous detail and photos to supplement the contract and specify what needs to be done, along with firm dates for when the labor should begin and end. Bedle said this is where most homeowners fall short.
WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
Dianna Desboyaux, a business owner who lives in the Reserve at Belmere, never expected to buy her first family home and end up in a lawsuit.
Desboyaux hired a contractor her friend recommended to remodel her new home before her family moved in. The contractor was instructed to install 1,650 square feet of square marble tiles, rain gutters, bathroom toilets and showers, as well as paint the kitchen cabinets, walls and replace the baseboards.
At the time of move-in, the contractors still were not done with all the tasks. Desboyaux noticed the poor job they were doing and ordered them to stop. The baseboards were not installed properly, the paint on her kitchen cabinets looked as though they were done by an amateur, and some marble tiles were irreparably chipped.
“This is brand-new floor; this has only been used for a week, and look at it,” said Desboyaux as she pointed to the portion of the floor that was chipped. “They butchered it.”
After paying about $13,000 over several weeks to her contractor, Robert Head, Desboyaux will have to pay another $10,000 to have it redone.
Desboyaux accused Head of hiring untrained, illegal immigrants, which would allow him to pocket a large portion of the money by paying them less than the standard pay for subcontractor labor.
However, Head, who has been in the business since 2000, maintains that the jobs that were part of the original contract were nearly complete before Desboyaux asked the subcontractors to leave.
“The job was basically completed,” he said. “All that was left was some punch-out work to do to finish the job, and she ran us all off the job because she ended up moving in and the completion date was supposed to be on (Sept.) 20. ... But throughout the job she kept adding and adding things. So the job, obviously, started running about a week behind.”
When asked why the subcontractors complained about not getting paid what was due to them, Head said he always paid them.
“That’s the reason the men complained: They thought they could finish up a lot sooner, but they were having to work about an extra week longer just to get the final check so we could all get paid,” he said. “But before it was done, she ran us off and did not pay us.”
Head asserted he would never leave a job undone, considering such a practice would damage his reputation and leave him with no business if word got around.
“And now she’s there complaining that the job was not completely done,” he said. “Well, she never gave us the opportunity to finish the job. If she would have, I assure you, the job would have gotten finished perfectly.”
When situations such as this arise, Bedle recommends taking a few extra precautions, such as changing your locks and notifying contractors they are forbidden from entering your property. He also encourages homeowners to ensure the construction work does not create hazards by hiring a credible, licensed contractor who also can provide a home inspection and detailed report.
If the situation comes with substantial financial losses, Bedle proposes homeowners hire an attorney to obtain court-ordered restitution. To help others avoid contractor disasters, leave honest reviews to inform consumers and report unlicensed contractor activity by emailing [email protected] or calling (866) 532-1440.
Contact Gabby Baquero at [email protected].