Thursday, March 1, 2012

Blog 3: The Threequel

The Second Date With Your Suitor

So the first date went great, good conversation, nice candle-light discussion of where to place the bidet, and how to improve the flush on your toilet.  You've talked to your friends, you checked the references, possibly have seen some work first hand, and the numbers given jive.
Now, not every contractor is like me, in fact, most just want money and don't give a flying-framing-hammer about your house or creating a relationship with you outside of your bank account.  But that's what the previous Blog was about:  making sure you do work AND relationship checks on your suitors (I'm assuming you have somewhat of a good judge of character).  I love what I do, I adore every second with my tools and your home, and I also love the fact that I get paid to do it.  To me, this is not a job, its a life-long hobby that fills me with great satisfaction, while filling my fridge with food and my bank with enough to pay the bills.  And knowing that when its all over, people all around Toronto and the GTA can enjoy what my hands have given...my little mark in this life if you will.  This Blog is how to keep me happy :)

A Few Simple Rules For Dating Your Contractor

1.  Can I Have Some Money Now?
Have the funds available for the entire project BEFORE it begins.  Renovations are expensive and the money goes out in a very short amount of time.  I always send my clients the payment schedule and contract well in advance of requiring the first deposit, that way they are fully prepared and there are no surprises.  Please do not hope that coming paycheques will time perfectly with milestone contract payments.  I've been there many times, and stopping a job because the client cannot pay instantly decreases my faith in any future relationship with that client.  Unforseen circumstances that decrease cash flow can happen as well, such as vehicle repairs, medical bills, property damages, etc.  I would rather go through all the motions with you knowing you need to save the money, than get a first deposit just to find that you never had the rest.

2.  Get a contract damnit!  Do not hand over a dime until pen hits the paper. Next Blog will focus on the details of the contract itself, stay tuned.  The contract makes sure you know exactly what to expect and when, and on our end, makes sure you know exactly when to have payments ready, so please read it before signing, and review it daily.

3.  If no official start date has been set, for whatever reason, but you have said "yes" and want commitment in return, then expect to pay a deposit anywhere from 1 to 5%.  This secures his time, his trades' time, and helps give a little towards doing extra things like multiple meetings, completing drawings, obtaining permits, etc.  Just you saying "yes" is not a commitment, in fact, in our world, its absolutely meaningless.  Contractors get screwed more times than you think (just this past year for me, and 4 times over 15 years), so we tread lightly in deep waters, after all, it's us that needs to earn your trust and jump the hoops to gain you as a client. So how do we know that we can trust you?  Would you let us do a background check on you?  Would you provide bank statements to show us you actually have the funds to complete the project?  Probably not, so really it is the contractor taking the leap of faith in the relationship, as you have all the tools you need to research someone properly.  Therefore, you need to  commit, and in this industry, $ is the only proven symbol.  My family does not have shelter or food from good intentions and pleasant conversations.

4.  Always Kiss On The First Date!
If a firm date has been set, then expect to pay anywhere from 10 to 30% of the contract.  30% sounds like a large amount, and it is, and if it's a $10,000 bathroom, for example, that's a $3000 payment before any work actually begins.
Daunting, scary, downright frightful, but here's why it can be so much and why it needs to be paid:  in a typical bathroom renovation, 20% of the reno budget is spent the first day! Plumbers and Electricians are the most expensive trades and you need both day one, and usually they're there for the day, along with general labour for demo, and disposal fees.  As mentioned before, Contractors get screwed often, so the daily budget requirements need to be available in order to keep the project moving forward at all times.

5.  However you've discussed the payment schedule is how it should remain, on both sides.  He should not ask for money until ready, and you should not give it until satisfied.  However, don't be relaxed on it:  if he requests the next payment at the end of the day, make the effort to get it to him, as most of the time that money is needed to pay for labour and pick up materials for the following morning.  There are many contractors that will not continue until they've received the next deposit, and based on some experiences I've had, I don't blame them.  Personally, most of the time I keep progressing anyway, as there's always something booked in after, so I'm always on a deadline.

6.  Ch-Ch-ch-changes.  If you've added work, or an unforeseen issue needs to be brought up to code, it should be handled with a Change Order, or a written amendment to the contract, ask for this.  Generally we like to see these payments taken care of immediately so they don't get muddled and confused with the original contract, or forgotten about altogether.  If you'd like to make it a cash deal (oh don't be so prude) then make sure its not a code issue:  pay for those on the books so there's recourse just in case something happens.

7.  Ending with a Smile, and showing your contractor why he should work for you Again.
Legally you should be holding at least 10% of the contract as the final payment.    This Payment is given at the end of the project on your satisfaction.  A couple days before the projected completion date, your contractor should go through the finishing details with you.  This is where you will create the Deficiency List (a whole other Blog coming soon):  the items required in order to gain your full satisfaction, and subsequently the final payment.  Generally they are items such as paint touch ups, maybe a little ding in the wall,  etc.  Because you have already made a list, these items should be completed on the last day with no problems.  Make sure that when you put the list together you are specific and cover everything, so when the last day comes and he wants his money, you're not springing anything on him.  Nothing is more frustrating to a contractor than a client that continues to make lists, especially at the last day or the night before, and surprises it on him (also a Blog to come).  So be as good to your contractor as he is to you, and create a long lasting relationship.  You prefer to use the same mechanic for your vehicle, right?  So apply those reasons to your contractor and your home :)

Next Blog:  The Prenup....er....The Contract:  your best friend

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