Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

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URSnshn
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Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by URSnshn »

I'm seeking your advice for best practices involving engaging contractors and in the specificity needed on contracts and proposals for homeowners who engage a contractor for updating and/or working on their home.

Generally I've been of the opinion pertinent details should be in the contract (especially on work that is larger and/or more expensive, but I have had push back from three contractors who I believe to be quite reliable and they are making me reconsider - am I too picky and/or making work for them when unnecessary? What are best practices?

Here's an example:

- An issue arises in the home and/or I decide that an upgrade would be appropriate. I vet at least three contractors / companies.
- The sales person or contractor comes out and discusses the job
- A proposal or contract is written up
- And it is at this point that a bit of a conversation ensues where the details of the product and/or job come to light and a bit of back and forth occur. In the case of new windows (a houseful) it took 6 months to hash out the details. I was quite happy with the result.
- But I notice that I've run into contractors or sales persons who are quite resistant to questions and/or to adding or subtracting from the initial proposal or contract. It seems like I am suppose to have researched and understood the full ramifications of the job prior to having the contractor / sales person come out. Email is often used as a communications tool.

What are best practices so that both you and the contractor or sales person have a worthwhile experience and one that doesn't take more time than is necessary?
bombcar
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by bombcar »

Contractors in your area have more work than they need right now, so they're doing the jobs that are "easier" for them (read: less paperwork).

If you trust the contractor, get the basic proposal and costs, discuss it with them, make sure they have insurance, permits, and good references, and let it go (and be prepared to monitor the work and pay for change orders).

Otherwise, wait until the market crashes and the contractors are hungry.
rogue_economist
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by rogue_economist »

If you are going to spend your hard earned money on a contractor you should absolutely demand everything is spelled out in writing to your satisfaction and if they don't like it tell them you won't hire them.

One thing which helps in dealing with contractors is a background in construction. If you have actually done some great, if not pick up a few DIY oriented books and read them cover to cover. The knowledge will help immensely when dealing with contractors.

The last time we needed a major job done we couldn't even get 3 bids, only one contractor even submitted the job as asked, the others tried to convince us to do something different to make it easier for them. We got fed up, put on some work gloves, and did it ourselves and pocketed the difference. Getting bids out of them isn't always easy.
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barnaclebob
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by barnaclebob »

Its a crap shoot and finding full bogleheads approved contracts will be nearly impossible. Many wont put a bunch of tiny details in the contract because it just invites nit picking. If you trust the guy, go for it.
bombcar
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by bombcar »

Are you dealing with general contractors or directly with "the workers" (contractors, subs)?

Because if you are doing the latter they won't want to detail everything; if you want that level of detail you may need to get a general contractor and pay them the 10-20% overhead.

(Anyone will be willing to do a contract for a high enough price, of course! Try offering $10 million the next time, I'm sure they'd all jump on it! :D )
Normchad
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by Normchad »

barnaclebob wrote: Tue May 14, 2024 5:59 pm Its a crap shoot and finding full bogleheads approved contracts will be nearly impossible. Many wont put a bunch of tiny details in the contract because it just invites nit picking. If you trust the guy, go for it.
Yes indeed.

The only reliable method I’ve found for approaching this, is to figure out who your friends and family use. Find out how happy they were with the entire process. Then use those folks. I.e. know ahead of time how they really do business, how they handle issues, how cost and schedule meet estimates, etc.

So many contractors are just bad. Almost seems indemic to that line of work. Many can do good work, but they are terrible at running a business.
Amien
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by Amien »

Question is a bit too broad.

If you need new locks, you get two quotes from reputable locksmiths.

If you need new exterior doors, you can go to Home Depot, order doors and rely on HD-vetted independent carpenter to install.

If you need to renovate basement to add bathroom, bedroom, and install related new finishes and services, you hire a qualified design-build contractor, interviewing at least two, or hire qualified architect, to draw plans, to bid out to general contractor, who will obtain permits, oversee work, and retain subcontractors.

We’ve done all three.
Topic Author
URSnshn
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by URSnshn »

I appreciate all the different perspectives on this topic - very helpful.
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lthenderson
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by lthenderson »

URSnshn wrote: Tue May 14, 2024 5:10 pm I'm seeking your advice for best practices involving engaging contractors and in the specificity needed on contracts and proposals for homeowners who engage a contractor for updating and/or working on their home.

Generally I've been of the opinion pertinent details should be in the contract (especially on work that is larger and/or more expensive, but I have had push back from three contractors who I believe to be quite reliable and they are making me reconsider - am I too picky and/or making work for them when unnecessary? What are best practices?
From personal experience, the more detail you have the better for you. The less detail you have, the better it is for the contractor. As stated above, the best contract is one that you feel comfortable with, but that might now always equate to a great experience when all is said and done.

Case in point is the contract I signed to have an addition built onto my home. Three items ended up in dispute.

1. Contract stated that gutters would be installed around new addition and replace the old gutters on the rest of the house. Verbally the contractor told me he only installs one type of gutters, the kind I wanted anyway, so I didn't feel like it needed to be specific. Come installation day, contractor wanted to charge me a premium price for installing those gutters. I refused to sign the change order. The gutters I wanted were eventually installed but it soured the contract, the relationship and nearly went to court when contractor refused to pay anymore bills until I signed the change order. Fortunately this all happened on one of the last items to be completed.

2. Contract stated we were to pick any sink sold by XYZ store in town. We went to XYZ store and picked out sink. Contractor sent out a change order saying he hadn't expected the sink to be so expensive and had only budgeted an amount of dollars. Since this happened early in the process, we chose not to fight this one and picked out a new sink that was under the "budgeted" amount the contractor told us after the fact.

3. Contract stated that we could pick out any backsplash tile at XYZ store in town. We picked out tile but it would take months to receive. We went with a backup tile. It was installed by a subcontractor who had never installed tile before and they ruined it by staining natural stone tile with the grout. Contractor wanted us to go with a third, non-porous tile, one that wouldn't satisfy my wife. In the end, we compromised. They tore out the ruined tile and repaired the drywall. They credited me with the line item dollar amount allotted in the budget. I bought the original tile we really wanted and installed it myself many months later.

All of these might have been prevented had we been more specific but I didn't know we weren't specific enough until it was too late.
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snackdog
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by snackdog »

I don't deal with contractor or home services companies that send a "sales person". I prefer the company owner or the specialist person who will be doing the work to walk the property with me and discuss it. This avoids a lot of nonsense from larger companies that are set up to max their profit for minimum effort.

I recently did this with a pest service. Our house had been under contract with a big name national pest company under previous owners. They sent out their salesperson who slapped my back a lot and laughed and chatted. He inspected thoroughly and wrote up a proposal for remediation plus ongoing service. He couldn't explain why we had so many issues having been under contract with them the last couple years.

Then I had a local company come out. Their inspection turned up triple the issues (more detailed) and proposed remediation at 1/4 the cost of the big company. They are 5 stars on Yelp and very eco-sensitive. I contracted them and the same guy came out to do the remediation. Excellent work.
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loganvonstrangle
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by loganvonstrangle »

rogue_economist wrote: Tue May 14, 2024 5:55 pm If you are going to spend your hard earned money on a contractor you should absolutely demand everything is spelled out in writing to your satisfaction and if they don't like it tell them you won't hire them.

One thing which helps in dealing with contractors is a background in construction. If you have actually done some great, if not pick up a few DIY oriented books and read them cover to cover. The knowledge will help immensely when dealing with contractors.

The last time we needed a major job done we couldn't even get 3 bids, only one contractor even submitted the job as asked, the others tried to convince us to do something different to make it easier for them. We got fed up, put on some work gloves, and did it ourselves and pocketed the difference. Getting bids out of them isn't always easy.
What books do you recommend?
rogue_economist
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Re: Best practices - contracts / proposals and details - homeowners

Post by rogue_economist »

loganvonstrangle wrote: Tue May 21, 2024 9:28 am What books do you recommend?
I'd start with a one volume book targeted at the DIY homeowner. Reader's Digest New Complete Do-it-yourself Manual is a good staring point and can be found cheap. Its written with the DIYer in mind so its very accessible to someone without a background in construction. Once you have read something like that and have a foundation, you can pickup some topic specific books and explore as needed. Several publishers have done multi-volume sets with individual volumes on rough carpentry, finish carpentry, masonry, wiring, pluming, roofing, doors and windows, etc. If you are doing a specific project, either DIY or hiring a contractor you can do a deep dive getting some books targeted more to professionals and searching for some PDFs on the internet with the latest information as well.

For example, when we wanted to do masonry I reviewed the masonry volume in my multi-volume set, bought a masonry textbook, and then found several PDFs specific to installation of thin stone veneer.
Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they shall never sit in
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