Last month Mike attended his neighborhood’s end of the summer block party. The talk quickly turned to each homeowner’s past, present and future (pending lawsuits) problems with various contractors — everyone had a contractor from hell story. Mike and his neighbors aren’t unique, home renovations can be one of the negative aspects of home ownership.
The typical renovation is: stressful, disruptive, messy and filled with discouraging surprises which take more time and money than budgeted. And that’s with a good contractor, which is why it’s important to put in the time and energy when looking for one to do your project. There are many things you’ll need to do to find a good contractor.
But, before you start it’s important to know what you’re up against, because there’s a reason everybody has a bad contractor story. The home improvement industry has a dirty, little secret the average consumer doesn’t know about. Once you’ve learned it, when you start your search, you’ll be able to recognize the “stay away from this guy” signs faster.
The secret is — the typical contractor lacks the skills, knowledge and experience to run a business, which is poorly funded when they start it. Most don’t know how to bid competitively, which means they chronically under bid jobs. As a result, they use the money from current jobs to finish older jobs, always falling further behind and deeper in debt.
After about 2 – 5 years they: close the business, file bankruptcy, leave behind a string of poorly done, incomplete or never started jobs, and owe a lot of money to customers, employees and vendors. The bankruptcy usually discharges any financial obligations they have. When the business closes they disappear, because they have no intentions of honoring their obligations.
The consumer is legally unable to get damages, because the business doesn’t exist anymore. The contractor is protected from paying them by his business’s corporate shield. Even though everyone knows he opened shop in the next town over under a different business name he can’t be held liable. He opens a new business with a clean slate and starts the cycle again.
Sometimes, finding a good contractor can take more time than the actual project. But, no matter how long your due diligence takes, it’s worth it to get a successful renovation — one where you were able to keep your sanity and budget under control. After all, not having a contractor horror story leaves more time to eat and play corn hole at the next party.
** Next month we’ll be talking about the steps to take to find a good contractor. **
Nicole Abbott is a writer, business consultant and psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in the fields of mental health, business and addiction. She’s an educator, coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator — who has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, college classes and seminars.