Updated July 24, 2023
The importance of developing a fair relationship with your contractor cannot be overstated. This guide will help to ensure that you're in a mutually beneficial and fair relationship with your contractor from the first moment you reach out to them.
The truth of the matter is: Not all service providers have your best interest at heart, and some are experts at doing the least amount of work for the most amount of money while still seeming like they're here to help.
And while communicating with your contractor is important, there are some things you shouldn’t communicate to them as a way of protecting yourself...
"I can spend $_____."
Telling your contractor your budget may seem like a good idea, but that’s only when speaking to someone who is 100% honest and professional.
Some contractors out there may tell you they can only do X, Y, and Z for your budget, when the truth is that they could do more. Or instead, they might find a way to get to that price when they really could have done the work for less.
Either way, giving a potential contractor this information can only put you at risk.
"I’m not getting estimates from anyone else."
You should always get a minimum of three estimates, but even if you don’t (for whatever reason), you should still not tell your contractor that they’re the only one giving you an estimate.
By doing that, you’re giving them a lot of power, and they may use it against you by charging you more.
Instead, when a company provides an estimate, politely let them know that you will get back to them soon, after getting a couple other estimates.
Letting a contractor know that you are considering multiple contractors for the job will let them know that you’re holding them accountable for their bid and that you will hire the best person for the job.
This could incentivize them to give you the fairest (i.e. best) offer possible.
"Are there any discounts if I pay upfront?"
It is very ill-advised to offer to pay a contractor the entire amount of a project upfront.
Some will take your money and do a crappy job, or they’ll take your money and you’ll never hear from them again.
The safest (and fairest) payment method is to pay a portion of the cost upfront, and then pay the rest as the job is completed.
The final payment should be made once the project is completely finished.
Keep reading: Why You Should Never Pay Your Contractor Upfront
"You can choose the materials."
Giving your contractor complete control of the materials they use is risky, because it gives them a lot of control of both your wallet and the project’s results.
Be specific about the materials you want to use when working up the contract to prevent any issues from coming up.
Each quote you get should include what materials the contractor(s) purchase, where they buy the materials from, and the price they pay for it.
If you still want your contractor to handle getting the materials, then require that they provide receipts to prove material costs.
"We can just shake on it."
When working with contractors, put everything in writing.
Even if the project seems simple and straightforward, something can always go awry, and having information in writing will protect you.
A contract should include all pertinent information regarding a project and thoroughly detail how things will be done and what to do should any issues or changes come up.
Even if you know the contractor personally, they were recommended to you from a friend, or you just feel like you can trust them, you should still have a contract.
Contracts have little to do with trust and everything to do with being on the same page when it comes to oftentimes expensive projects, like demolition.
"I’m not in a hurry to get this done."
Telling a contractor that you aren’t in a hurry to get your project done is like handing them a free pass to make your project their last priority.
It’s polite to tell the average person to take their time, but it’s not something you should tell your contractor.
They may decide to take on other jobs and spend their time on other projects instead of yours.
The timeline for your project should be clearly established and in writing.
Set dates and deadlines so your project doesn’t fall to the wayside.