I’ve Got 99 Problems but a Contractor Isn’t One!

I’ve Got 99 Problems but a Contractor Isn’t One!

How To
By Mateos Glen Hayes October 24, 2022

Sometimes misunderstandings could arise between clients and contractors, and that can be a real headache. However, if you want to know how to build contractor relationships, proactive steps will be the most helpful for heading off any potential problems and avoiding miscommunications - not to mention ensuring smooth sailing for a successful home project. This article will go into what you should do to help establish a smooth, respectful, and effective working relationship with your contractor.

We’ll also go over potential warning signs for contractors you might want to avoid. A good partnership will help to prevent all issues and will revolve around effective communication, transparency, and trust. This is true in all manner of situations, but it is all the more true when we're talking about someone that will be working on your home. 

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Important Elements for Building a Strong Client-Contractor Relationship

Good communication is key for building a productive relationship with a contractor.

Good communication is key for building a productive relationship with a contractor.

There are a few important things to focus on when striving for a good contractor relationship. One of the “do’s” of hiring a contractor is gathering verification of their work ethic, or rather, finding one that proves to you that they have the skills, commitment, and professionalism that every job deserves. This is because a strong client-contractor relationship is built with trust at its foundation. If you cannot trust your contractor to do a good job or follow the law, the entire thing will fall through, both figuratively and literally. 

Establish Trust 

A good contractor will know that building relationships with clients means being honest and working together to achieve project success. On your end, this means establishing a contractor connection by asking them plenty of questions about how the project will proceed and about the important details, such as the budget. This will also help you to determine the specifics of what will go into the contract between the contractor and client.

This is key for establishing good contractor relations, so don’t hesitate to ask your contractor about projected deadlines, potential concerns, or progress updates. A good contractor will also come with some questions to ask you, and it is important to work with your contractor to establish a good rapport. A licensed pro may ask about what parts of your home are off limits, what your ideal completion date is, and other questions that help them get a good understanding of your needs as a client.

It’s crucial that both you and the contractor understand what is needed for the project to succeed.

It’s crucial that both you and the contractor understand what is needed for the project to succeed.

Make Sure Your Contracts Are Solid 

By this, we mean to make sure that your contracts are well-laid out and outline all of the relevant details that both parties should know. A good contract between the contractor and client will go into detail on what work is to be done, what the expected timeframes are, and what the responsibilities are of the client and the contractor.

Most importantly, a good contract will also be crystal clear about the final price of the work, how payments will be scheduled, and whether or not there will be a partial payment in advance. A very thorough contract between the contractor and client will also outline what procedures to take to resolve disputes and what building codes must be adhered to. This is one of the best ways to build a strong client-customer relationship because it ensures everything is transparent and out in the open.

A good contract includes all important details regarding materials, unexpected issues, and building codes.

A good contract includes all important details regarding materials, unexpected issues, and building codes.

Encourage Good Communication 

Communication between you and the contractor should not stop once the contract is signed, and a good contractor will be on the same page about this. Your contractor relationship should ideally be an ongoing effort between both parties to regularly check in throughout the project. This, of course, will vary with different contractors and clients. You might prefer a more laissez-faire approach, or you may prefer regular updates.

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Either way, it’s always a good policy to let your contractor know about your communication preferences as part of encouraging transparent communication. This way you can avoid potential misunderstandings and maintain a good client-contractor relationship. For example, you should request beforehand that your contractor contact you immediately should any unexpected expenses arise, in the case of accidents, or if they are unsure about anything, just to prevent misunderstandings.

Take Advantage of Technology

In our tech-filled world, there is a growing list of practical ways to handle your contractor relationship without lots of legwork and paperwork. Invoices can now be sent, signed, and paid for digitally, making for quick, easy, and secure transactions in exchange for services. This way both you and your contractor have an easy way to keep track of the bureaucratic side of things.

More and more contractors make use of neat gadgets to keep track of the workflow, making your life easier as well.

More and more contractors make use of neat gadgets to keep track of the workflow, making your life easier as well.

There are also some neat job management software products out there now that allow for a much more connected client relationship with any contractor. On these apps, a contractor can give you regular updates on the project, upload quotes, and invoices, and even get in touch. All of these tech features are of course not required to use, but a lot of good contractors have now adopted them because they streamline the process and make things that much more transparent. 

Check Your Contractor’s Record

You’ve probably heard this tip so much before that it’s like hearing a broken record, and that’s because this is one of the most proactive things you can do to ensure a good contractor relationship. One of the most reliable ways to get an idea of what a contractor can offer and what you can expect is to check out their prior work.

Ideally, you also want to get referrals from prior customers as this will give you a good idea of what the contractor’s previous client relationships were like. Another good idea is to look on the Better Business Bureau or other professional websites to see if there are any formal complaints against the contractor in question.  

Bad Signs to Avoid

That being said, there are also some bad signs to be on the lookout for when choosing a contractor that works for you. These signs hint that the contractor may be unprofessional or unscrupulous, and these are obviously shortcomings that you want to avoid as they will be quite corrosive to any customer relationship.

This might sound a bit harsh, and of course, there are many hard-working and diligent contractors out there, but all the same, it is important to be proactive as a client. Failing to do so can lead to cost overruns, delays, and other unforeseen problems that could lead to headaches for you and the contractor alike. 

Sketchy Cash Deals 

This is arguably one of the biggest warning signs to keep a lookout for when negotiating with a contractor you are considering hiring. If somebody asks for a large payment in advance before any work has been done, this is a red flag. No good contractor will do this as it is simply a rule of thumb to pay a small deposit in the beginning and then give the bulk of the payment throughout or after the project.

This demand is even more suspicious if the contractor asks for this in cash. Requiring cash payments in a contract between a client and a contractor is not illegal, but it is unusual as it may be an indication that your contractor is off-the-books.

Stay away from any sort of unofficial payments.

Stay away from any sort of unofficial payments.

Lack of Familiarity With Local Permit Laws 

Municipal permits and regulations can be quite confusing for most people, so it is important to have a good contractor who knows their stuff. Being able to navigate the bureaucracy of your local permit department allows you to avoid major problems down the line. If a home building or restoration violates local building regulations, you could be on the hook for major fines and will have to pay more money to get the building rebuilt to code.

The best way to build your contractor relationship on a foundation of transparency is to ask your certified pro to include all permit costs in their bids. This will signal to the contractor what you expect as a client, and will also give you an idea of just how well your contractor knows local building regulations. 

Big Promises 

Whether they specialize in HVAC or kitchen restoration, all contractors wear many different hats. They often need to work with different subcontractors, source materials from partners, procure the right equipment, establish timelines, and determine budgets.

So if you are talking to a contractor and few or none of these details are being mentioned, this is typically not a good sign. Covering these details is an important part of due diligence, and a good contractor should be able to adequately answer questions you have on all these aspects of your project.

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Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes