What To Do When Your Contractor Is Slow

By Chris Wilson


As a real estate investor or property owner, you will inevitably need to work with a contractor. This is because your property will need renovations and/or repairs sooner or later. Unfortunately, working with a contractor can be very difficult and frustrating.

Common problems that you may experience include missed deadlines, cost overruns, and undesirable results. Most of these problems stem from miscommunication or contractors who are too slow. Fortunately, this post will help you know what to do when your contractor is too slow.

Home Renovations

Most renovation projects around the home are complete in two to six months. However, this timeframe can be very unpredictable. It will depend on various factors, such as the size of a home, the complexity of the remodeling plans, and the reliability of the contractor. You may feel frustrated when you think your contractor is taking too long to complete the job.

Forget what your contractor told you about the timeframe. You need to understand that most projects will require you to make more than one trip to Home Depot or any other materials supplier. It is common for things such as mold behind sheetrock walls and weak support beams to derail construction plans.

In many cases, a contractor’s time estimates rarely hold true. You can avoid most renovation or construction roadblocks. However, the amount of time your basement, bathroom, or kitchen overhaul drags on depends on the size of the space. Therefore, you need to have some realistic expectations.

For example, your contractor may choose to do a whole gut within two days. However, that is the least difficult part. If you want to relocate, replace, or upgrade the electrical and plumbing systems, which often is the case, the project will take much longer to complete. In the best-case scenario, the whole project will take one month to complete. Realistically, you should plan for two to six months.

Why Projects often Cost more and Take Longer than Expected

The main reason why this happens is that some contractors want to make more money from each job they do. Earning maximum profits is Business 101. Some contractors, however, tend to go too far.

Many property owners are also to blame due to their unreasonable demands and expectations. Do not expand the scope of the project the moment your contractor opens one wall. Other reasons why most renovation and/or building projects cost more and take longer include:

·         When the Contractor’s Primary Goal is to win the Contract

Many general contractors tend to highlight an attractive price to win contracts. This is because of the fierce competition in the field. However, an artificially low cost is not the most important consideration when it comes to home renovation or construction projects.

You should not sign a contract to hire a contractor simply because of the low price. Once you sign the contract and the work begins, this is when contractors will start manipulating the project to their advantage.

·         When General Contractors Create a Hostage Situation

Some general contractors tend to highlight unforeseen issues the further a project proceeds. These issues often require more work and additional money. As the owner of the property, you should know that a contractor with enough experience has seen almost everything. Since most homeowners lack extensive experience in renovations, this knowledge unevenness places power on the contractor’s hands.

For example, suppose you are $50,000 deep into a remodeling project that has been going on for two months. Your contractor will know that you will be unlikely to balk at an additional $15,000 worth of work to improve your home.

You need to understand that the additional work may be unnecessary. It may not even be worth the additional cost. If you push back, then your contractor will likely do you a “favor” and adjust his or her price to prevent the breakdown of the project. Nevertheless, contractors are more adept at navigating the project than property owners.

·         When Property Owners Get Too Emotional

Obviously, your home is a very important part of your life. It probably took you more than ten years to save up for the down payment. The more emotional you are, however, the more money your general contractor will know he or she can make from you.

For example, suppose you mistakenly told your contractor that you overbid by $150,000 to purchase your dream home. In such a scenario, he or she will feel comfortable charging you an extra $10,000 for a remodeling project. He or she will also feel comfortable extending the project’s completion date.

·         When Property Owners rely on Default Thinking

You may begin a project with the expectation that it will last longer and incur more costs than it should. Exposing your default thinking to your contractor is not a good idea. He or she might choose to take advantage of you.

It is up to you to curb this type of default thinking and make your contractor stick to the terms of the contract. Some contractors try to use intimidation tactics to force things through to their advantage. The solution to this problem is to have a Delay Fee clause in the contract. Essentially, for every day your contractor goes beyond the deadline, you get a credit.

·         When Contractors use the Smile and Charge Tactic Successfully

Most general contractors are skilled price gougers. They will recommend some additional work while constantly smiling and being nice. They understand that most property owners just want to work with a contractor who takes the time to listen and always finds a wonderful solution.

They know that homeowners are busy with their kids and jobs and may not fully understand the nuances of remodeling. By just talking things through or responding to emails, some contractors expertly guilt and persuade homeowners into paying more or extending the timeline.

·         When Contractors Discriminate Pricing Based on the Neighborhood

Many contractors will charge significantly more to do a project in expensive neighborhoods than to do them in cheaper ones. Wealthy homeowners are more likely to pay for higher renovation prices since their homes are more expensive based on the price per square foot basis.

For the contractor, however, the labor and input costs largely remain the same. If your general contractor thinks that you are wealthy, he will not expect you to ask for the receipts. You need to remember that the cost of materials does not change based on house price; therefore, always check your receipts.

Strategies to Keep your Home Remodel on Time and Within Budget

Get Multiple Bids

Instead, of being in a hurry to do the job look for bids from several contractors and be ready to walk away. Also, while drawing up the project contract, you need to be as detailed as possible when it comes to time, cost, and work to do.

If your contractor attempts to charge you more, simply refer him or her to the contract and have him or her carry on. If he or she refuses to do so, then you must be willing to fire him or her and hire someone else. Remember that you only have to pay for completed work; therefore, do not let your contractor swindle you.

Document your Communication

It is important to communicate with your contractor in writing, so you have a proper record of the conversations you have with him or her. If you do it in-person or over the phone, you should write down a brief summary of your conversation as soon as possible. This will help a great deal when you are trying to recall something you discussed, including the date and time, just in case you will need the evidence when you do end up in court.

Have Alternatives

One of the best ways to make your contractor finish the project on time is by having a detailed list of alternative contractors. This will make him or her feel the pressure of losing business if he or she tries to screw you too much once he or she starts the job.

One neat trick is to have your handyman work on a different part of your house while your contractor is there. This way, the contractor will know that you are a resourceful individual with other alternatives.

Add a Late Fee Clause in your Contract

This is necessary if you really need your contractor to finish the job on time. Sit down with your contractor and come up with a conservative timeline that will make him or her agree to the late fee clause. You also need to be comfortable with the conservative finish date as well.

The clause should clearly state that for each day he or she is late, you will get a reduction in price or credit. In addition to helping to reduce your anxiety, this late fee clause will make you start rooting for your contractor to take it easy.

Do Not Pay More Money

The property owner wants the project complete as soon as it possibly can, and the contractor wants to make money from the project. Therefore, if the contractor does not meet the deadlines and at times does not even show up, you should not make any further payments. The contractor is sure to finish up the work if he or she discovers that any further payments are dependent on performance.

When all else fails, you can settle any dispute with your contractor in small claims court. In such a scenario, you will not need a lawyer to take the case to this court. However, you will need to provide evidence against your contractor. This will require you to provide a copy of your contract and all the documented timelines, communications, and photos. The court will use these to rule on matters concerning the financial impact of the delays. 

Chris Wilson

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