Although I’d like to think that the vast majority in the building contracting and home renovation industry are a hard working, trustworthy bunch, the unfortunate reality is that this is not always the case. There are a number of unethical practitioners in this industry, preying upon unsuspecting homeowners by giving shoddy services whilst making unreasonable demands for the works carried out.
In order to help homeowners steer clear of these half rate builders, I have put together this list of seven mistakes that are best avoided when hiring a contractor.
NOT ASKING FOR REFERENCES
It’s easy to take someone at their word regarding what they can do and without seeing some form of proof, but in the long run, this can prove to be rather costly and in some cases, even dangerous. To avoid having to do this, simply ask the contractor for the names of two previous customers whom you can contact or even visit to see examples of prior work. When you are given those names and contact details, simply phone those customers up and ask them a few questions. You don’t have to do this whilst the contractor is there with you, although, if you do and the contractor is more than willing for that to happen, you can make a worthy assumption that the contractor has nothing to hide and is more than likely a genuine quality tradesperson. When the contractor is unwilling to give you any past customer details, that’s cause for concern.
NOT CHECKING QUALIFICATIONS
Creating specific home renovations and building and structural work is a skilled trade and a disciplined, professional craft. Just like any regulated profession, there are certain qualifications and benchmarks that can help prospective customers decide whether or not a builder or contractor is qualified and professional. It’s easy to be swayed by a builder’s advert or their van or truck with their name and contact details on it and feel that, because they are ‘in the business’, they are automatically credible and professional. Inquiring into their qualifications, and letting them speak how and when they achieved their qualifications, is a vital step when looking for a quality, professional contractor.
ASSUMING A LOW QUOTE = EXCELLENT VALUE
One of the biggest mistakes when hiring a building contractor is to assume that, by finding a low quote for the intended job, you’ve bagged yourself a bargain. The truth is, more often than not, a low quote likely suggests that:
- the builder uses inferior materials
- the builder intends to cut corners and take shortcuts
- the builder does not pay attention to detail or communicate
- the builder uses underpaid (an unqualified) labourers and tradesmen
And so on. Ultimately, this can lead to a shoddy end product, which may even require hiring a new builder to clean up the mess.
GOING AHEAD WITHOUT A WRITTEN AGREEMENT, PROPOSAL OR CONTRACT
It is important to get everything down on paper, to ease communication and cut down on mix ups. Too often, people are willing to go ahead with the works they want done simply based on the words from a builder or contractor. This can obviously lead to considerable issues when dealing with an untrustworthy builder, but even with an honest, qualified builder this way of doing business can easily lead to miscommunications.
ASSUMING THE JOB WILL BE COMPLETED ON TIME
One of the biggest headaches homeowners face when hiring a builder or contractor pertains to deadlines. It’s a mistake to take what the contractor informally says when it comes to timelines as a definitive deadline, because many builders are notorious for breaking verbal promises and commitments.
A true professional will give you a specific timeline for when he expects to complete the job. And the reason he can give such a reassurance – and with extreme confidence – is because he’s thoroughly analysed the job that has to be done. More importantly, he’s developed a number of carefully constructed business methods and ways of doing business that makes the whole customer and contractor relationship a wonderful one.
CREATING ‘PART WORKS’ ARRANGEMENTS
Though the recent trend of homeowners taking on DIY renovation projects themselves is an admirable pursuit, the end result is often a
botched up, unfinished, job.
The mistake here is negotiating with a builder to finish off the incomplete job. Though you have already invested time and money towards the project, getting a cheap quotation for someone to finish off what you’ve started can actually make matters worse. In the long run, it is better (and typically cheaper!) to hire a qualified professional to start the job over from scratch.
NOT ASKING FOR A WRITTEN GUARANTEE
It’s easy to skip this part. When looking at a finished piece of work, people tend to assume that everything will be fine and that there’ll be no need to call on the contractor or builder again. However, it’s only AFTER a job has been completed that we can then see how good the work really is. That’s the time a written guarantee is essential.
Ask a contractor “do you guarantee your work?” (which essentially means that – depending on the kind of job – that you the customer, will be covered against any kind of collapse, structural damage, botched up job). If, after asking this question, the contractor says “yes” but does not give you anything in writing, then that may be a signal to put a halt on things. Professionals delivering excellent service and quality work should have no hesitation in giving a written guarantee.
The fact of the matter is that because it’s your home, and because you’ll be living there for some time to come, it’s just common sense to get the best job you can afford from a builder or contractor you can trust. In the long run that’s always the best option, even if it means paying more than the quick fix, fly by night contractors found throughout the industry. Hiring a quality tradesman will often work out to be the cheapest option anyways, as there will be less expenses needed later on in fixing and re-doing the job because of poor craftsmanship.