Signs of poor contractors – upfront payments, poor estimates

by Stickywire on Thursday April 12, 2012

As you likely know, there are good contractors and bad ones. Unfortunately, the bad ones can outnumber the good in some areas but there are ways to tell them apart.

If you are asked for a large payment in advance of the work, beware. A standard upfront payment to a professional contractor is about 10 percent. This ensures the contractor that he will not be out too much of his time and money if you cancel the job after he has booked the time and his crew. It may also pay for materials that the contractor cannot put on credit with his usual suppliers – like exotic woods or stone for countertops. 

Requests for payment in advance of work commencing that are more than 10 percent of the estimated job total should be refused unless there is a very good reason for the payment, such as unusual requests on your part. Be careful, because you can lose every cent of what you pay the contractor in advance if he walks away or goes bankrupt without beginning the work.

Make sure that your contract with the contractor includes a payment schedule with dates on which specific payments are due and with specific reasons for increases in amounts, such as upgrading kitchen cabinets. Nail down a firm estimate for the job but be aware this is an estimate and the final cost can vary by 10 percent or more without a cause specified in the contract. 

A good contractor is unlikely to move away from an estimate because he has calculated the job based on facts. A poor contractor can be all over the map with estimates either because he doesn’t know how to estimate a job properly or he doesn’t intend to do all the promised work anyway.

If the contractor does offer to cut the price of the job by a large amount without explanation, walk away; you will never get quality work from such a poor business person.

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