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What You Can Learn From My Negotiations With Contractors

By Chris Bibey

contractor negotiationsSince moving into my new home several months ago it seems like I have been on the phone with contractors day after day. During this time, I have compiled many tips that have helped me not only get the best deal but also hire the right person for the job.

Here are five things you can learn from my negotiations:

1. Call in at least three contractors for bids. While this means more time out of your day, it is the best way to ensure that you hire the right person at the right price. Upon getting started, I, like many, hoped that I would be able to call one contractor and then move forward. Soon enough I found that this was not the case. If you want to fully understand the scope of your project, as well as its cost, you need to speak with at least three contractors.

2. Be sure to get a detailed quote, in writing, from every contractor who visits your home. Some people think that a “verbal quote” is good enough. This may work out sometimes, but my experience shows that this is a mistake for a number of reasons. Above all else, if you do not have anything in writing the contractor can change the numbers on you without notice. Additionally, not having a written quote makes it difficult to compare your options. If a contractor does not want to supply a quote in writing they are not worth the risk.

3. Don’t be afraid to share quotes and other information with each contractor. For instance, if the first quote you receive is for $1k there is nothing wrong with requesting two more and then seeing where you stand. At that point, you may want to play one quote off another. This is a great way to show each contractor that they are in competition, and hopefully nudge them into offering a better deal. This is standard practice, so don’t be afraid to do it.

4. Do you really need all that? Time and time again, contractors have quoted me for the work that needs to be done as well as several other jobs that are not important to me. This is why it is essential that you review every quote in detail. There is nothing wrong with taking suggestions from a qualified contractor, but you don’t want him including work that you are unwilling to pay for.

Example: I needed a new backdoor, and in the quote the contractor included the cost of painting it as well as replacing several areas of siding surrounding it. While these are things that I could have hired him for, I was not interested in the additional services.

5. You must sign a contract. If a contractor wants to start the job without a contract in place, something is wrong. A contract is needed to protect both parties in the event of a misunderstanding, or worse yet, a subpar end result.

Tip: Ask for references. This is not something that I did with every contractor, but for big jobs that entailed a lot of work, I made sure to get at least two references. This afforded me the opportunity to ask questions of those who have worked with the contractor in the past. Again, this is fairly common practice.

When you hire a contractor you are spending a lot of money. In turn, you should expect a high level of service as well as quality work at a competitive price. Hopefully you can learn from the information that I have compiled over the past several months. Do you have any tips to add from your experience with contractors?

(photo credit: Austin Best Roofer)

Chris Bibey
Chris Bibey is a freelance writer who over the years has honed his personal finance experience by writing more than 100 feature articles on the subject. In his spare time, Chris enjoys sports - West Virginia football in particular!

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  • Karmella

    How did you choose the contractors you eventually invited to quote the projects?

  • http://moneycrashers.com Chris

    Karmella – I guess you could say it was more “feel” than anything else. I eliminated those who did not offer a contract and tried to hide some of their fees. From there, I have found that the best option usually comes forward.

  • Erik Folgate

    I just signed up for Angie’s List, because I will soon be looking to hire a landscaper, an electrician, and a handyman to do some odd jobs around my house that I don’t feel comfortable enough to do and do well. It was $20 for an entire year’s subscription to it. I used a coupon code that was in one of their newsletters that they always send me: VET30 Try it if you’re interested. Since you gotta pay for Angie’s List, I trust those reviews more than I do from free sites where the reviews could be coming from employees and relatives of employees.

  • http://moneycrashers.com Chris

    Erik – Great point! Angie’s List is good value for the small amount of money that it costs.

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