There are approx 100,000,000 homes in the United States and at some point most of them are going to need to hire a contractor for some minor or major repair. I’m a contractor and I loathe even the thought of having to call someone to come work on my house, hell I have to call Sub Contractors all the time to work on my projects and that is scary enough. But when the inevitable time does come to pick up the phone and call Bob the Builder here are 7 tips from his bag of tricks where he can rip you off.
- Bait and Switch – This is the most common used practice in contracting. The contractor sells you on the A plus best materials in whatever he is doing but when he finds himself buying all the materials at Home Depot his inner cheapskate comes out and he cuts a few corners to save $100. “Its a steak dinner with the Misses and they’ll never know” Unfortunately there really isn’t much you can do about this unless you have made it known from the start that you will be looking over his shoulder and if that’s the case the guy would probably not want the job in the first place so either way you’re screwed.
- Lie about their experience. Home owner “So mister kitchen installer, about how many kitchens have you installed in your life?” Contractor (with indignation) “Thousands! I can do this in my sleep” Now maybe this is true but most likely it isn’t. Mr contractor has been in business for 20 years but he really doesn’t want to tell you that he’s only really done a few dozen. I’m not suggesting that you need to have hundreds or even thousands under your belt to be good at what you do, because truth be told I’ve seen plenty of Old Timers who have 40 years under their belt but don’t have the standards that I had when I was 25.
- Over Billing– $400 for re framing the bathroom wall, $700 for additional plaster repair, $2600 for repair of the broken plumbing lines….and on and on it goes. The bottom line is that you’ll never know! You don’t know if the plumbing repair really only took 2 hours and $200 in parts! Its no different then pulling your Audi into the dealership and the the mechanic tells you that you need a new doohickey under the left rear universal joint coupler! “Well I guess we should just do it then”
- Neglect– If your contractor is a one man show with a few helpers and he is running 5 jobs at once you can guarantee that you will be neglected. You just hired a Fireman and all he does all day long is put out fires and you simply cannot do a quality job in a reasonable amount of time with that approach. Other times the guy is just plain lazy. On the job at 10:00 with an hour lunch and then gone before 3:00. You can’t get a quality job done that way either. Momentum is very important in any project and if your guy is only working a few hours a day you are getting ripped off.
- Creating the problem then getting paid to fix it. This one is tough to spot but it happens all the time. Electrician comes to you and tells you the wire to the 3rd floor is bad and needs to be replaced. Ok, sounds reasonable. But the truth is he cut the wrong wire when he was working in the bathroom and just found a way to get you to pay for his mistake. Good luck finding this one
- The delayed change order– This one is creeps up at the middle and end of jobs. Johnny builder bid the remodel of your house for $100k. He figured $10k for framing, lumber and labor. Unfortunately for Johnny and ultimately you Johnny figures out that the framing really cost him $15k. Well since there is nothing that Johnny can do to justify a change order for the framing he puts on his Change Order crystal ball and starts looking for areas that $5000 can get recouped. 2 months later there it is. You wanted that wall moved 12” and added a cabinet and when the bill comes due for that it’s going to have an extra zero at the end to pay for Johnny’s framing shortfall, but how would you know?
- Wasting your time– I saved this one for last because it’s the one thing that most homeowners don’t consider when they hire a cheap or less than reputable contractor. How valuable is your time? It’s the one thing you can never get back! Heck if Chuck in the Truck steals $10k from your top drawer you can earn more $ and get that back, but time you can never recover. But Chuck is going to suck your time not only directly but also in additional stress. So even when you are not at home directly dealing with some issue that you “thought” Chuck was supposed to handle you can also stress and worry about it when you are work, while you are driving, when you are sleeping, etc, etc.
What’s the lesson here? There is simply no way that you can ever protect yourself from a contractor that wants to use these methods to steal your money, your time or your peace of mind. Your best option is to hire a contractor that you trust because in the end, its really all you can do.