• I’m writing this as I stand here in my lopsided shower, the result of a botched home repair that my husband hired someone to do. He brought someone from his office who also happens be a “part-time” contractor. He got his degree online and only does projects on the side in his spare time. The price was right and it was a small job of laying tile, so I figured what could go wrong? Boy, am I regretting it. Till this day, the water still doesn’t make its way properly down the drain. Instead, it sits in one corner gathering mildew. I’m sick of walking into a puddle every time I want to take a shower so I’ve decided to have it redone. Since I can’t get my money back, it’s going to cost me a lot more now to have someone rip out the old tile in order to do the job properly.

    I kind of enjoy doing some home repairs myself, for example: painting, spackling and minor plumbing. I even get my husband and kids involved to make it a family affair. None the less, I know my limitations and have a day job, so oftentimes, I have to bring in outside help. However, after this last experience, I decided that I would hire someone myself. It’s always a crapshoot and much like going to the dentist. You know it’s going to hurt but the only question is how do we minimize the pain? I hate to be so pessimistic and would love to believe in the good nature of everyone. None the less, I’ve had enough bad experiences to know that there’s always someone out there who’s going to try to take advantage. And the nightmares are often about mechanics or contractors botching up work and/or overcharging.

    I love that show “To Catch a Contractor,” where they expose shady and dishonest contractors who try to take advantage of people. Yes, that’s great. But it’s TV and only identifies a few criminals out of God knows how many predators that are out there. My friends have told me that it’s a “woman thing” and that I should have my husband or another male figure negotiate for me. Been there, done that! And you see where that got me? To a lopsided shower. Gender doesn’t matter. When they’re chasing the mighty dollar, greed does not discriminate. People are willing to rip off all everyone equally. Besides, sometimes being a woman works in my favor.

    Therefore, I took the liberty of writing down some of my experiences and did my homework to bring you some tips, which will help you prepare. Of course, there are no guarantees but at least we can try to minimize the damage and prevent some novice mistakes.

    • * Do your homework – They prey on the fact that you know less than them. Look up facts online, such as material costs, and get several quotes.
    • * Know exactly what you want – If you start a job and only want to paint your house, but then decide that you want some wood work, windows changed, etc then that’s when it starts to get costly. They know that they have you exposed and unfortunately may take advantage of that.
    • * Poor work quality– If the quality of work doesn’t seem right, then stop them right there. Cut your losses and move on because it’s like a bad relationship. It’s not going to get any better.
    • * Poor communication – If they are not returning your phone calls or are simply not showing up then you need to give them concrete deadlines of your expectations. Otherwise ,they will string you along. Often they take several jobs at once and start a little everywhere to keep people on the line. If you have the time and you’re saving a significant amount of money then it may work for you. However, if you’re not benefiting from it, then give them a deadline and move on.
    • * They want a large deposit upfront – This is the oldest trick in the book. They tell you that they need the money upfront, they often ask for fifty percent but sometimes even more, to buy materials. If materials cost half, (like they want you to believe) and you’re already giving them half the money, then what is their incentive to finish the job? Hence, many just take off at this stage and are unable to track down. If they’re really professional and good at what they do, then they should have plenty of customers and should not need the money upfront. But if you have to, then the norm is one third of the total cost. That’s closer to what the true cost of material should be and you could offer to go with them to purchase the material, if they are open to that.
    • * Get referrals, check for licenses and worker’s compensation – This seems like the most obvious step one would follow. However, often people are blinded by the fact that they’re getting the deal of a lifetime for a repair. I hate to throw two old adages at you but they’re true. If it’s too good to be true then you may be getting cheated. And, you get what you pay for.
    • * Get a quote in writing – This includes, the price, time-frame and warranty all in writing before work commences. That way everyone is clear on what is expected as well as compensation for the work. A verbal agreement and handshake are not good enough!

    In short, save yourself a lot of hassle and headaches by being patient, following the steps described above and be prepared to pay a little more for the peace of mind of working with a professional. Trust me, it’s worth it and will save you money in the long run! My dad always said that if you have a lot of money then buy a used car but if you don’t then you better buy a new car. Meaning that going cheap may cost you a lot in the end.