Easing Distrust between Contractors and Homeowners

From on May 18, 2009 in General

contractorhomeowner.jpgPhoto credit: USACEpublicaffairs

The relationship between a contractor and homeowner can be tenuous. Sometimes distrust can exist between the two. I know, shocking news. The public is made aware of dishonest contractors who have made the news by ripping off homeowners. The honest contractors are then left to demonstrate that they’re operating in the best interests of the client and company, while trying to eliminate possible fears of being up to no good.

So here are the hard questions to ask: How do homeowners watch out for bad contractors—What are the signs? And how do hard working, honest contractors fight perception of public distrust?

Here’s a situation that happens all too often:

Low bids: Some experienced and successful contractors find themselves constantly fighting this issue. The customer has been trained to automatically look for the lowest bid available. It sure sounds good, you’re saving money and that’s important in a rough economy. But be careful what you wish for. What kind of workmanship can you expect from a low bid, and is this an indication of desperation or inexperience on the contractor’s part? It’s much better to pay a little more and get quality work in return. Ease your fears by going over expenses with a prospective contractor, several times if necessary. This way you’ll have a clear idea of where every dime is going and won’t be surprised when the bill comes.

Homeowner losses: Some experts believe too much craftsmanship gets passed down verbally. In this process, essential information gets lost in translation or was never properly learned from one generation to the next. Jobs can also be fouled up by experimenting or using improper techniques. In this case, the homeowner is usually left holding the bag. Expert Builder Tim Carter estimates that millions of dollars are lost by homeowners due to faulty repairs or poor installments. This would certainly foster bad feelings towards any contractor. A remedy is finding that certain person who has learned the business inside and out.

What to look for: In 2006, abcnews.com reported that home improvement ripoffs ranked as the most common complaint to the National Association of Consumer Agencies. Horror stories of contractors leaving jobs with thousands of dollars in deposits have prompted states to act. Connecticut, California, and Texas have clamped down, responding with sting operations to catch these illegal contractors. The techniques paid off, the states nabbed 400 illegal contractors from this operation alone. The best way to avoid falling into this trap is to always check for a valid state contractor’s license. Having one of those is not a myth.