Ep 8: How To Select A Contractor

House At Work Home Repair Clinic

Jim and Peter discuss ways a homeowner can safely and effectively select a home improvement contractor for their projects.

Do you have a home improvement question? Email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to get it answered for you! Do you need help with a home improvement project and live in the upstate New York region? Go to www.houseatwork.com and click “Find Contractors“.

Jim Salmon:                      And now, live from the home improvement capital of the world, this is the houseatwork.com, home repair clinic podcast. My name is Jim Salmon and he is …

Peter Schick :                    Peter Schick.

Jim Salmon:                      Morning sir, or good afternoon, how are you?

Peter Schick :                    Good, good, good, good, just another day, you know?

Jim Salmon:                      Another day in paradise and I love doing these podcasts, they’re a lot of fun.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I like it too.

Jim Salmon:                      Today’s subject you picked, which is great, how to hire a contractor.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, how to select one, kind of go through the entire process.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    I think because home improvement projects aren’t something that you undertake on a fairly regular basis, its not like I need to replace my roof every few months. It’s usually something you do it once, its like selling a home, you’ll do it every few years or something a lot of the time. It’s something that a lot of people don’t necessarily know a lot on.

Jim Salmon:                      Good point, and that’s the key right there. You’re a good real estate guy. The next guy’s a good accountant, the next lady’s a good factory worker, but when it comes to remodeling your house, that’s the guy you want and you don’t know that world so it’s important to do your homework.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, your average homeowner doesn’t necessarily know exactly what to look for and that’s why we’re having this.

Jim Salmon:                      I make a living, I don’t know if I should say this, but I’m gonna do it anyway. I make a living helping people who have had or are in the process of having a problem with their whatever.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Their roofer, their remodeling guy, their wet basement guy, or whatever and I have these conversations with people all the time. The number one first thing is to select the right guy or gal.

Peter Schick :                    Yep, it’s the personnel piece. That is the biggest piece, that’s the biggest decision point as far as I’m concerned.

Jim Salmon:                      Nobody that I know of proactively checks people’s references. They might go on the internet, they might-

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s actually a good point-

Jim Salmon:                      Go to the Better Business Bureau or something like that but nobody really calls people. “Hey, Joe Smith did your roof, he used you as a reference. What do you think of him?”

Peter Schick :                    Well, let’s say for a roof, though, say they could be like, “Well, we did the roof at this address.” You could even drive by and be like, “Oh yeah, you know, that doesn’t look bad.” In terms of exterior work like that, I mean, you could almost, it’s visible from the street a lot of the time.

Jim Salmon:                      We have this world now that we’re in where communication through texting, through emails, Facebook, Instagram, all that stuff, is all good but when you’re hiring somebody to doing something at your house, you wanna look ’em in the eye.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I agree.

Jim Salmon:                      You wanna meet with them at the property, you should like the people that you’re dealing with you.

Peter Schick :                    You should get a good vibe off of them. I think that’s a very important thing too. You initially meet with them and I think you could get a lot more of a feeling for somebody, like you said, if you meet ’em in person instead of just doing everything on the phone. To be quite honest, if they’re not giving you a quote, if they’re giving you a quote without seeing it, chances are it’s going to be very inaccurate.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    They’re more or less rolling the dice.

Jim Salmon:                      There is a relationship between quality and price.

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      A big one.

Peter Schick :                    This is a big thing that most homeowners don’t realize.

Jim Salmon:                      If you are the type of person that is always looking for everything down and dirty, the cheapest thing you can get, you’re into screwing people. You want the lowest that’s what you get.

Peter Schick :                    That is exactly what you get. Actually, that is one of the prime complaints I get from contractors when they actually interact with homeowners.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    There needs to be some way of educating them to understand, “Okay, if I want low price, I’m gonna get, of course, correspondingly lower quality. If you have a higher price, you’re gonna get, of course, correspondingly higher quality. That is one of the things when I talk to contractors that are on house at work or just in general, that is one of their chief complaints, is this education process with the homeowner, is being able to explain that or articulate that in a way that they’re actually gonna understand. I don’t know if anybody, it’s really, that’s a sales pitch to be quite honest. That’s all how the contractor really pitches themselves and shows their value proposition to the homeowner.

Jim Salmon:                      We’re sitting here in Rochester, New York, right now. We’re in New York state. New York state does not license contractors, which kind of boggles my mind because they love to license everything.

Peter Schick :                    That’s actually very interesting. Even across the country, there are only a very few municipalities that actually do that.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, right.

Peter Schick :                    I think you can see some. I think GC is licensed, I wanna say, in New York City. Maybe certain cities have that-

Jim Salmon:                      Well, yeah, there are certification processes in certain cities but as far as the state is concerned, I mean anybody can show up.

Peter Schick :                    No, they don’ care.

Jim Salmon:                      Like if you’re out in the country or whatever, there are no rules.

Peter Schick :                    No. Oh, no.

Jim Salmon:                      New York state does have a very specific contractor agreement between contractors and the homeowner or their client. It’s very clearly spelled out. It has to contain specific information about the job and the payment scale.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      It has to have a start and stop time, a completion date to it.

Peter Schick :                    The state actually has a form contract that is supposed to be used. Is that what you’re saying?

Jim Salmon:                      No. They don’t do that and that would be a good idea, in my opinion, but they don’t.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, because real estate agents have that.

Jim Salmon:                      Everybody makes up their own-

Peter Schick :                    Real estate agents have that with purchase agreements and stuff, where it’s like, Greater Rochester area realtors, there is a purchase contract that everybody uses.

Jim Salmon:                      Everybody used the same one. Right.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. That actually would make a lot of sense for a contractor.

Jim Salmon:                      It would. Everybody, every contractor, has their own little bid sheet, contract, invoice, or whatever you wanna call it. It has their name and address on it. It’s supposed to. Some of the more unscrupulous contractors have just a phone number, no address, so people can’t find them.

One of the things in New York state, too, is that when you write a check to a contractor, it has to go into an approved escrow account.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      They can’t just take it and cash it and spend it.

Peter Schick :                    That is actually one of the things that I’ve heard the most from homeowners. When you hear about, “Oh, homeowner X gets scammed,” It’s usually, “Oh, but I paid it all upfront and then they disappeared.” [crosstalk 00:06:36] Have you ever watched that show, American Greed, on CNBNC?

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah, I know, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    One of the things you always hear on that is, “Okay, I gave everything I have, all of my money to this guy and then it disappeared.” No, you can’t just give everything up front. You can’t do that.

Jim Salmon:                      Recovering it or getting it back-

Peter Schick :                    Clawing it back won’t happen.

Jim Salmon:                      It is so difficult and so expensive. Once thing gets into the legal world, you know the lawyers are winning.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You certainly try to stay in the driver’s seat on the money. My own personal policy is I don’t put any money down for any project under 20,000 dollars. All the roofing companies that I know of-

Peter Schick :                    If they can’t sustain that, initially-

Jim Salmon:                      Right!

Peter Schick :                    They have some financial issues to begin with.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s two big red flags on that. “I have to have money to pay my people and I have to have money to buy materials.” If you’re dealing with a contractor that needs the money you’re paying him right now to go buy the stuff for your job, run! Run in the opposite direction!

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, there’s an issue right there. I always use that as kind of a- That is a huge red flag, if they can’t sustain that kind of financial, if they don’t have the finances to be able to cover that initially, that’s a problem.

Jim Salmon:                      Across the country, there are some accreditation organizations that provide a standard of practice and some training and things like that, certification in certain things like ADA compliant bathrooms.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s all kinds of training like that. When you’re getting ready to hire a contractor, you look at all those little abbreviations after their name and ask them, “What is this stuff?” “What do you, you know-”

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. You gotta ask ’em, kind of dig into it. You can’t just take it as surface value, whatever they say.

Jim Salmon:                      The NAHB, National Association of Home Builders, is a big one.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, they are. They’re all about education.

Jim Salmon:                      Absolutely.

Peter Schick :                    From what I understand.

Jim Salmon:                      Whenever they went in the toilet, in 2008, and all the home builders in the country were saying, “Okay, what are we going to be doing the next year, too?” A lot of those folks shifted over to doing home remodeling. Then the word “staycation” came into play.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      Now, obviously things are better than they were back then, now, and they’re building houses like crazy again. Some of those organizations provide some excellent training and those are good things to look for when you’re trying to hire somebody.

Peter Schick :                    Definitely agree. Definitely agree.

Jim Salmon:                      Everything you do with your contractor should be in writing.

Peter Schick :                    I agree.

Jim Salmon:                      First of all, there’s a contract to begin with that spells the scope of the job.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the big complaints I get as a home inspector, is when a system breaks down, people say, “Gee, he gave me another bill for all these things and it’s not itemized or whatever.” That’s the time, at the beginning, to get as specific as you can.

Peter Schick :                    Yes. Especially if there’s gonna be a change in scope. This is something that you see either with new home construction, you’ll see this a lot, where somebody will be like, “Okay, yeah, we agree on the plans,” and now all of a sudden, “Oh, I want a different ceiling fan or I want these different light fixtures or no, no, no, I want the switch here, not here.” Those little things start to add up and it starts to become a change in scope eventually.

Jim Salmon:                      Every one of those things need to go on an official change order.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Every contractor should have that form. I can’t tell you how many times, at the end of the job, somebody would say, “My contractor gave me another bill for 1,171 (eleven hundred and seventy-one) dollars for all this stuff and I didn’t know anything about it.” There wasn’t any change order that went along with these things. That whole system wasn’t created at the beginning.

When you’re sitting, negotiating the initial job with your contractor, any changes, and changes happen-

Peter Schick :                    Yes, they do. There’s things you can’t foresee, especially with remodeling some of these older homes. They don’t have X-ray vision to see through the walls. Once they broke open that wall and they see some wiring that’s all jacked up-

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a lot of the time, it’s incumbent upon them to fix it.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    That’s something that needs to be taken into consideration. They’re not just trying to, in a lot of the cases, it’s not, because it’s starting to go over price for whatever reason, it’s not them just trying to twist your arm. Sometimes it is a very legit thing that popped up on the job that couldn’t be foreseen.

Jim Salmon:                      I talked with a lady yesterday. Peter, you’re gonna love this story. She hired a window company and a lot of window companies do siding projects too.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      She hired a window company to replace the windows on her house and to replace the rear siding of her house. Apparently, she had done vinyl siding on the front and the sides and not the back.

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      Now, which, you know, whatever, money drives this stuff.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s very true.

Jim Salmon:                      She had a contract, the salesman came out. They were ordered all up, removed the existing siding, replaced it, do the windows, trim the windows, whatever. The dumpster comes and the people are there, they’re getting ready to do it.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      All of a sudden, the guy says, “Well, wait a minute. I think there’s asbestos in that siding back there.”

Peter Schick :                    Ooh.

Jim Salmon:                      Then they had to have it tested and yes, it has asbestos. Now they want her to pay six thousand more dollars.

Peter Schick :                    Ahhh, geez.

Jim Salmon:                      She called me and I said, “Absolutely not.” The salesman came out and sold you and wrote right on there and you paid him.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      The foreman came out and measured the windows and he could’ve seen it at that time. It’s their job to pull that siding off and replace it. I don’t care how much it costs them because they made the mistake. These things happen all the time.

Peter Schick :                    Yes, they do. Yes, they do especially with it. Aww, that almost feels like, that almost feels like-

Jim Salmon:                      It’s horrible.

Peter Schick :                    That they kind of almost engineered that, that almost sounds like.

Jim Salmon:                      That is a classic bait and switch, in my opinion. That’s what it smells like. It might’ve been some kind of-

Peter Schick :                    It could be incompetence because I’ve seen stuff with incompetent, where it’s like, “Okay, we’re agreeing upon this price for this scope,” and then a week before it’s done, “Oh, yeah, we’re still within scope, we’re still within price,” then you get the bill and it’s double.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    What ended up happening, it’s the GC was not keeping track of costs. He didn’t have a handle on his subs and the subs just ran crazy. He didn’t have any mechanism of control or accounting. That’s another thing. It’s a piece on organization as well. If they’re not organized, you could be the one paying for that.

Jim Salmon:                      Sure.

Peter Schick :                    It’s not always nefarious, it could just be flat out incompetence perhaps.

Jim Salmon:                      Another scenario I see every once in a while, this is the homeowner that has 30 grand to spend.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      They meet with their contractor and, “Okay, we wanna remodel our kitchen and oh, we want this, we want that. This cabinet, that countertop. All this stuff.” Well, now it’s 50,000. The hard part of that is sometimes you sign on for 30 and you add on things and you get to 50.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah. Well, they add on to, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You have to know, you have to be careful and stay within your budget.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. That’s kind of a double edged sword there because the homeowner, when they initially agreed to something, I can see them being like, “Okay, this is what I want.” Then as the project goes, they could kind of start seeing it unfolding and they start seeing, they start getting the vision of what it really could look like.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    Now they start changing their minds.

Jim Salmon:                      Ugh.

Peter Schick :                    Now it starts being all these other change orders. Maybe the GC doesn’t know to say, “Hey, look, this is gonna cost more. Hey, look, this is, we’re starting to get to the edge of your budget at this point.”

Jim Salmon:                      One of the things that contractors dislike the most is homeowner indecision.

Peter Schick :                    Yes. Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      You know, and gosh, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a good relationship with your contractor to try to figure out as much as you can about everything upfront.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      The other big problem that arises is many jobs require building permits.

Peter Schick :                    That is true.

Jim Salmon:                      A deck. A swimming pool.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      You’re changing a door opening or you’re adding windows or you’re moving a wall. All of these things-

Peter Schick :                    Yup. We’ve discussed this piece about windows before with certain historical areas, right?

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    You can’t just replace the windows. You need to keep the original windows, the lead stained glass ones or whatever. Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the systems that breaks down is the permitting process.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      The best thing always is for the contractor to obtain the building permit then he or she is responsible for compliance, staying within the budget of it, and doing what’s right and having it inspected and signed off by the town.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      What happens many times is the contractor will say, “Nah, you get the permit,” and then the homeowners involved.

Peter Schick :                    They don’t necessarily know what they’re doing.

Jim Salmon:                      Right, then if there’s an impasse between the homeowner and the contractor, the contractor can walk away, and the homeowner is still responsible for everything to be in compliance. Sometimes these things can cost a lot of money to make it right.

Peter Schick :                    Oh yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s always best to have the contractor get the permit.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      There are people that do things without permits. Now, I won’t say that I’m one of them.

Peter Schick :                    Uh-huh.

Jim Salmon:                      I like to keep the government out of my life as much as possible.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, you don’t wanna give them an excuse to start putting their nose in your business.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah but if it’s a safety thing, like wood stove installation, things like that. It’s very important to be done professionally.

Peter Schick :                    I agree.

Jim Salmon:                      And signed off on.

Peter Schick :                    I think a lot of people are sometimes reluctant to get permits because they feel like it’s a tax grab.

Jim Salmon:                      Mm-hmm.

Peter Schick :                    It’s kind of the way the city is now going to be able to reassess the work you’ve done and now they could reassess your property at a higher value. Higher value means higher taxes.

Jim Salmon:                      I know.

Peter Schick :                    Higher taxes, more money out of your pocket.

Jim Salmon:                      You gotta think that out.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, I think that fear that a lot of people have with the permitting process. But like you said, when it comes to the safety piece, that’s really what a lot of it is for, is the safety piece.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. Right. May not just be for that homeowner. You sell that house, you take a wall out, you don’t put the right beam in there, somebody else buys the house, moves in and the wall falls. That kind of stuff happens.

Peter Schick :                    Well, it could hurt you also when you try to resell it, when you try to sell it after you’ve done that work. It could come bite you in the butt.

Jim Salmon:                      There are four kinds, in my experience, there’s four kinds of homeowners that hire contractors.

There’s the person that says, “I don’t care much about anything. You just do your job, just do it, and whatever, I’m happy.” Then there’s the homeowner in the middle, “I wanna make sure I’m getting a good value, I wanna make sure that it’s being done and whatever.” And then there’s the picayune person that’s, “Wait a minute! There’s a nail in the driveway! Wait a minute! There’s a little part of this dry wall that wasn’t finished right.” And then, number four, is the insane person who is hovering over con-

Peter Schick :                    You will never make the insane person happy.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh my God!

Peter Schick :                    In business, I’ve had them, as far as a real estate agent, I’ve had those.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah?

Peter Schick :                    I think that’s just business in general, I think you could probably break it down into those four different categories.

Jim Salmon:                      Madison Avenue says that, in New York, that’s where all the advertising agencies are, they say that there’s seven percent of the people that hire people to do work that you can not satisfy under any circumstances whatsoever.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. That’s why a lot of companies when they say, “Hey, we shoot for 90 percent satisfaction rate,” and they say, “Hey, if we try to do 95 percent satisfaction rate, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.”

Jim Salmon:                      Right. Yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It’s gonna cost all this money to just get that extra five percent and what are you really getting out of it? Yeah, no, I totally see that.

Jim Salmon:                      One other aspect too is that, all right, say you have one of the nitpitcky wives that are living in this house.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Okay, and we’re doing, I don’t know, let’s just say we’re doing a kitchen remodel, okay. She’s not prepared for it, never been through it. She’s not prepared for drywall dust, stuff on the floor, I mean she’s an immaculate house keeper.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, once you actually start getting into it, she’s blaming you.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. She’s pulling her hair out ’cause her house is a mess. It might only be for two or three weeks while they’re doing a project. You have to really do your homework on that stuff as homeowner. You have to know that there’s going to be plastic hanging on your walls. It’s somewhat obtrusive, especially in the demolition phase.

Peter Schick :                    Yes. That’s very true. The homeowner needs to understand that but also the contractor needs to explain that, too, kind of walk through the process and understand, I would say almost in a way, they should have an idea that this person is probably picky to begin with. You should know within the first ten to fifteen minutes of talking to them. Heck, five minutes. I could tell when I’m talking  to a potential client, within five minutes I’ve a pretty good idea.

Jim Salmon:                      You’ve got a good idea.

Peter Schick :                    I’ve a pretty good idea what kind of person you are, like if you’re gonna be a pain in my butt, what the expectations are. I’ve a pretty good idea. I’ve sized you up. I think the contractors needs to do that as well. If they start seeing, hey, picky person, hey, you need to saturate them with information. You need to cut it off at the pass and make sure they fully understand the scope and everything else like you were discussing.

Jim Salmon:                      Some homeowners are just badgering their contractor get started. “Let’s get started! Let’s get started!” Okay, fine, we don’t have the cabinets in yet but we’ll be over and tear your house apart and do the demolition and now we’re sitting for three weeks. Use your head on that stuff.

Try not start that demolition until you have all the pieces ready to go.

Peter Schick :                    Exactly. There’s a reason for it.

Jim Salmon:                      And some of the stuff is custom ordered and you have to wait for it and whatever, you know.

Peter Schick :                    You have to look at it from the GC’s perspective here. They have a lot of moving parts they have to coordinate. It’s like an orchestra essentially that they’re trying to make happen. That comes down to just discussing the timeline. I totally agree. Somebody that’s impatient, they don’t totally understand all the pieces that actually go into that process.

Jim Salmon:                      I had a, I helped a friend of mine paint his house. I happened to have one of those old time Wagner power painters, right? This was just a little rental house, and it was a little ranch. He got five or ten gallons of just cheap house paint or whatever. I went over there to help him and we loaded it up, started spray painting. The wind was blowing fifteen miles an hour.

Peter Schick :                    Oh.

Jim Salmon:                      Lincoln Continental in the next driveway.

Peter Schick :                    Oh no! I see where this-

Jim Salmon:                      Spray paint all over, right? Be courteous to your neighbors when things are under construction.

Peter Schick :                    Yes.

Jim Salmon:                      Especially if you’re doing a landscape job or something.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      Go talk to your neighbor and say, “Hey, this guy’s gonna be running around my house, regrading with a Bobcat. If we get a little bit on your lawn, I want you to know we’re gonna seed it and we’ll take care of it and whatever.” Be courteous to [inaudible 00:21:54]

Peter Schick :                    I wanna hear what happened about this paint issue.

Jim Salmon:                      I got in the car and ran. No. We wiped it right off. It took some mineral spears and wiped it right off.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow. You noticed it right away.

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, yeah.

Peter Schick :                    It wasn’t like the neighbor came to you like, “What the heck, Jim?! What are you doing?”

Jim Salmon:                      No. It was one of the biggest cluster f’s in my life. It was really funny.

Peter Schick :                    That’s great. That’s great. Oh boy.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the biggest mistakes, and I know I’ve said that like forty times already, ’cause there’s so many mistakes you can make.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      If you’re a homeowner and you hire a project done, especially building a new house, you have to be there and look at things.

Peter Schick :                    Like supervise.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah, well, a lot of builders don’t want you involved in saying, “Hey, what’s with that?” Or “How come that’s there?” They don’t want you micromanaging it but if you aren’t there and observing-

Peter Schick :                    Observing. Observing.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. If you’re not there and keeping an eye on things then when a problem happens, you don’t get to see things.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      I’m a firm believer in taking pictures every day of a remodel.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah and just ask a few questions. Don’t be intrusive. You still have to hold them accountable to a certain, to the timeline and to the scope and to kind of like, “Explain to me.” I always try to have it where it’s almost a Socratic method, where I just ask questions, then they explain and I ask another question then another question. Then if I get kind of the warm and fuzzy, like okay, you know, they seem to, things seems to be handled here. Okay, cool, and then I’ll walk away.

Jim Salmon:                      And number forty two of things that happen …

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      We’re almost to the end of the project. There’s twenty things that you don’t like and that the contractor didn’t do right.

Peter Schick :                    The punch list, yep.

Jim Salmon:                      Yeah. He didn’t finish this or than and the other thing. Now he’s coming at you and he wants to be paid. Standard, always owe as much as you possibly can-

Peter Schick :                    Towards the end.

Jim Salmon:                      At the end.

Peter Schick :                    Yep.

Jim Salmon:                      That way, in a nice way, you can walk through and take a little roll of that blue or green frog tape and you put a little piece here. This is missing, you need to work on this and you work the punch list and you get it done.

Peter Schick :                    Yup. I think that is the best way, you keep a certain amount towards the end. I can’t emphasize that enough because it’s not gonna be perfect. If you pay them everything before you’re fully satisfied, you’re not gonna ever be, chances are you’ll never be fully satisfied.

Jim Salmon:                      Right.

Peter Schick :                    They’re not gonna come back and do those. Always gotta hold a certain amount, as much as possible that you could agree upon towards the end.

Jim Salmon:                      If things become contentious between you and your contractor, here’s a couple of good suggestions. Never, ever meet him or her by yourself. Always have somebody else there.

Some of these guys are very good at what they do. They can rack stuff, they can rebuild it, they can build beautiful things but they have people skills that aren’t as good as they could be.

Peter Schick :                    Now, this is a big thing, yeah. A lot of contractors I’ve worked with, they might not be the best salesman but they’re awesome craftsman. That’s the thing. Sometimes the person who’s very technically inclined isn’t necessarily gonna be the person who’s awesome at pitching and selling something and vice versa. The person who’s awesome at pitching and selling something might not be the best craftsman, might not have those technical skills.

That’s why you see some of these guys who have salesmen, who take care of the issue, like you were talking about with the siding thing. The salesmen, they close it, and the craftsmen come in and they execute it accordingly.

Jim Salmon:                      I think there’s once in a while, there’s a situation that comes up where a contractor gets in your face. It happens a lot. I hear about it all the time.

Peter Schick :                    I hear about that.

Jim Salmon:                      “He scared me. He came at me and said that I need to write him a check right now.” Sometimes the people just do it just to get him away. That’s why you should never meet if there’s any contention at all, any friction between you and your contractor, you should always, always, always have somebody right there with you.

Peter Schick :                    Yup, have a disinterested third party.

Jim Salmon:                      It could be a friend or family member or something like that just so that you aren’t mistreated and it happens.

Peter Schick :                    It does.

Jim Salmon:                      Once that becomes an issue, you should immediately just ask the people to leave and work it out later.

One of the things that happen with people though is they’re not happy with the workmanship, they have a contract with the guy, and they say, “Outta here! I don’t want you here.” Okay, what you just did is you broke the contract because you have a contract between the contractor and you. The first thing they’re gonna say is, “Well, wanted to finish but they wouldn’t let me back in to do it.” So don’t do that kind of thing. I mean, if he gets physical or there’s a big problem, that’s another matter.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      And then you need an attorney to help you sort it out. We do a lot of these workmanship investigations and sometimes that kind of stuff comes up.

Peter Schick :                    You’ve done some inspections that were part of like workmanship kind of pieces?

Jim Salmon:                      Oh, hundreds.

Peter Schick :                    Really?

Jim Salmon:                      Hundreds. I mean-

Peter Schick :                    What’s the most common thing you usually see? Is there like a theme in terms of- What was the thing that was done where that typically was being investigated? Or?

Jim Salmon:                      Um, a lot of roofing.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, that’s, that’s [crosstalk 00:27:27]

Jim Salmon:                      Anybody can be in the roofing business-

Peter Schick :                    That’s very true.

Jim Salmon:                      Because there’s no licensing.

Peter Schick :                    Yup.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s no certification.

Peter Schick :                    I always say, I always say this. A hairstylist needs a license to operate in New York state but a roofer doesn’t.

Jim Salmon:                      Doesn’t.

Peter Schick :                    For whatever reason, I don’t know why but that’s how it rolls.

Jim Salmon:                      There’s some specialty roofing out there like stone coated steel metal roofing.

Peter Schick :                    Metal roofing, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      There are some giant companies out there that are hard sell companies and they broker these out to various metal roof crews that are not metal roof crews and they’re hatchet men. They’re absolutely horrible. There’s jagged edges and cuts.

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      They leave ’em open at the bottom for bees to get in. You really need to know-

Peter Schick :                    They sub it out to the cheapest guy and the cheapest guy, like we were saying before, you have of course, bonding amount of quality for what’s being spent there.

Jim Salmon:                      This particular situation, the company is, the salespeople are salespeople extraordinaires. They’re not roofing folks, they’re professional sales people. When you call, say you call, and then say, “I’d like to get a price on a roof,” and they go through, “Okay, I can do it at the time, whatever. Now, you’re both going to be there right?”

“What do you mean?”

“The husband and the wife will be there at the same time ’cause we’re not gonna me with you.” They don’t want you to be able to say, “Okay, well, I’ll think about it.”

Peter Schick :                    I’ve got to talk to my spouse about this.

Jim Salmon:                      And that’s one of those little red flags that should go up. It’s important to do your homework.

The internet is a wonderful thing for negatives.

Peter Schick :                    It is. Now, we were talking about those four different types of customers. The person, that’s why you have to take some of the reviews that you see with a grain of salt, especially some of the negative ones.

Jim Salmon:                      Exactly.

Peter Schick :                    You have to put in a little more perspective ’cause sometimes it’s gonna be that fourth type of customer  we’re talking about that’s never gonna be happy and is just a hater.

Jim Salmon:                      Well, everybody can figure the seven percent. So, you know …

Peter Schick :                    Yeah, so, if you’re reading it, just try to take it with a grain of salt. See, hey, you know what, is this person just one of those seven percent that we’re talking about or does this actually sound legit? If your contractor actually gets a review like that, respond to it. Put it into context so when there is somebody who is reading that, they can kind of see the other side of the coin there. I see a lot of guys who don’t do that and that is actually critical to respond to negative reviews as well as positive reviews.

Jim Salmon:                      One of the most troubling situations that I run into is older folks trying to navigate the contractor world.

Peter Schick :                    Oh.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s very easy to be taken advantage of.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      I don’t want to assign an age to it ’cause everybody’s different. Certainly if you’re older and you live alone and you need something done, you should really involve an advocate person with you, too. There’s lots of them out there, free, or with a very small fee, or nothing be able to help you navigate the contractor world and stay out of trouble.

I did an investigation of a siding job a couple of years ago. The gentleman that sold the job is well known as one of the original Tin Men. You ever seen that movie?

Peter Schick :                    Yeah.

Jim Salmon:                      He’s about as close to a weasel and a woodchuck as you could possibly get.

Peter Schick :                    Oh, wow.

Jim Salmon:                      He sold this eighty five year old gentleman, living by himself, this siding job. He would show up every few days and try to get another 5,000 dollar check from him. He wound up getting like 25,000 dollars on a 14,000 dollar siding job.

Peter Schick :                    Ah, geez.

Jim Salmon:                      The guy gets confused a little bit.

Peter Schick :                    Is it because he’s an older guy?

Jim Salmon:                      That’s what this situation was.

Peter Schick :                    Ah! That’s-

Jim Salmon:                      Most older folks- and I’m getting older too, I’m sixty.

Peter Schick :                    When were you born, like in the 50’s?

Jim Salmon:                      In the 50’s! Yes!

Peter Schick :                    Eisenhower was president!

Jim Salmon:                      Everybody wants to think that they can still drive their car and they can manage their affairs on their own. They don’t want their kids involved in their finances and I get all that.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a pride thing.

Jim Salmon:                      Right. It is. It is very much a pride thing. When it comes to this kind of work, it doesn’t hurt to have a second opinion or someone to help advocate for you. We do a lot of that in my office.

Peter Schick :                    I agree. I think that’s a big piece, that’s a really big piece there. Especially if you’re older, having a family member there like your kids or whoever there as well.

Jim Salmon:                      You think we’ve covered this?

Peter Schick :                    I think we have.

Jim Salmon:                      It’s a great topic.

Peter Schick :                    It’s a really important topic.

Jim Salmon:                      If you’d like to weigh in or send us an email on it, Peter’s gonna tell you how to get a hold us of here at the houseofwork.com Home Repair Clinic Podcast.

Peter Schick :                    Please email us if you have any questions, comments, or any suggestion at [email protected]

Jim Salmon:                      Another houseatwork.com Home Repair Clinic podcast in the can. We’ll see you next time right here.

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