Choosing the right contractor is extremely important. You want someone that you trust, is honest, and that you communicate well with; remember, you will be spending quite a bit of time with this person and you must be sure they have the qualities and prices that you are comfortable with. Here is how to ensure that you get the best deal and amount of work for your money when you negotiate with contractors.
1. Get at least THREE bids from different contractors.
2. Be proactive and choose all of your project’s details such as the type of tile, fixtures, or hardware ahead of time. This way, you can figure out which things you can purchase on your own, which will save you money, so you can negotiate on bigger things.
3. Be clear about all of the work that must be done. If you aren’t, the contractor may take on his own “vision.” Be clear about when you expect the project to start and finish to be sure you are on the same page. You want an fairly accurate completion date in sight. Projects that extend way past the due date are usually those where the contractor has discovered “unforeseen problems,” which tend to be avoidable tiny things that add up intended to be able to charge you more money.
4. Consider paying your contractor’s subcontractors directly instead of through the general contractor. It never hurts to ask. Sometimes, this is not possible. If it is, it will help you avoid the markups you incur between the two.
5. Demand itemized bids from your contractors. Ask who will work on your project. Ask if the workers will be direct employees of the contractor, or if there will be subcontractors involved. Make a list of any and all persons who will be visiting your property. You want to have written documents in case problems arise during or after the project’s end. Insist that the bills received are all extremely detailed, to avoid any vagueness of hours or material. This will make it easier for you to prove certain things in the event that legal should problems arise.
6. Never pay for services that have not been performed yet. If you are putting up a deposit, because that the deposit is only for reasonable items that must be custom ordered and are not returnable.
7. When negotiating anything, you should state your lowest budget. This is a tactic used really when making any deal, and you should use the same tactic with your contractor. If they want the business, they will come down, as the price they’ll give you is usually way above what they’d actually take. However, remember to be realistic in the estimate price. The important thing is to get the prospective contractor to state their number first. Usually the one that talks numbers first is the one that ends up paying more than they would have had to.
8. Being flexible about the timing of your projects can help save you money as well. Work on the exterior of your home is usually cheaper in the fall, and interior renovations are sometimes cheaper between January and March when those types of jobs are slow.
9. Ask your general contractor to ask his subcontractors to lower their rates instead of asking the general contractor to lower his. No matter where the money comes from, most people are more inclined to help if they can keep the appearance of helping you work with others instead of just attacking the general contractor.
10. Don’t forget that your greatest power is to walk away. They need your business, and are willing to be more flexible than you think.