Continuing on from our blog last week, it’s come to our attention that for anyone outside of the building industry, some warning signs that you’ve hired the wrong person to complete your project or are about to make a risky investment may go unnoticed. So whether you’re hiring a landscaper to fix up your garden, a carpenter to build you a pergola or a builder to manage your home extension, here are 10 warning signs to look out for when hiring a contractor.
NO REFERRALS OR WEBSITE/SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE
If the contractor is reluctant about sharing their referrals or brushes off any requests to see work they’ve previously carried out, then alarm bells should ring. Past jobs are a contractor’s CV with satisfied customers being their best reference, so a reputable and reliable professional will be more than willing to show off their best work by utilising today’s technology and having a website and/or social media accounts.
QUOTES OVER THE PHONE/DOESN’T VISIT PROJECT SITE
If you call up a contractor to discuss your project, whether it’s for ripping up your landscaping, a sewer upgrade or an extension and they proceed to ask a few simple questions, then immediately spit out a price over the phone, this can be a sign that you’re working with a company that probably isn’t aware of their overhead costs.
When discussing your project with a contractor over the phone, any reliable contractor will want to physically see the project site so will request a site visit. They may ask multiple questions about your project over the phone to determine whether you’re the right fit for their company, but they will rarely give an estimate until they’ve seen the site. A site visit ensures that the finer details are accounted for and helps give a more accurate estimate. Just remember though, an estimate is NOT a quote, read here on the differences between an estimate, quote and proposal.
PROVIDES A ONE-PAGE DOCUMENT AS THEIR QUOTE
Any contractor that’s quoting a large job should be offering a quote or proposal that’s longer than a single page. How else are you supposed to know what’s included or excluded in the price? Going with the contractor who offers a one page quote might seem like you’re saving money compared to the fixed price quote, but it also opens up the doors to be hit with variations. With a fixed price quote detailing inclusions and exclusions, you know exactly what you’ll be receiving for the money you’ll be paying. It’s safe to say that in most cases, you end up paying the same amount so you’re better off going with the quote that provides that important information.
SAYS THINGS LIKE, “GIVE ME YOUR OTHER QUOTES AND I’LL BEAT THEM”
If a contractor says this to you, run for the hills! Just kidding, but this is definitely a warning sign that you could be entering into a risky investment. Any contractor should know their numbers which means they should know the percentage of profit they need to make to cover their overhead costs. If they seem to completely disregard the numbers by offering a ‘beat it by 10%’ concept, then they’re probably not the most reliable contractor to hire.
THEY SUGGEST THE JOB BE ‘OFF THE BOOKS’ TO HELP WITH THE PRICE
If the contractor suggests the job to be paid ‘off the books’ to help you out with the price, they’re acting illegally. In fact, when you enter into a building work agreement that’s ‘off the books’, you’re both acting illegally and neither of you have any leg to stand on if things go sour. Legitimate businesses do not operate this way. And just think, if they are willing to try and fleece the tax man, they might not hesitate to do the same to you.
THE COST IS ‘TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE’
As the saying goes, if something sounds too good to be true, it generally is. Always source at least three different quotes so you can get a good idea of what your project should really cost. If the bargain seems too desirable, take a step back and investigate some more, ask questions. Take it as a red flag if they are guaranteeing something that no other contractor could guarantee. Do your due diligence and research!
DOESN’T USE A CONTRACT
Paper is a surprisingly solid foundation when it comes to building or contract work. You should always get things in writing whether it’s through email or on paper. A legally binding contract is the safest option for both you and your contractor, it holds both parties accountable and keeps disputes to a minimum.
REQUESTS AN ENORMOUS DEPOSIT
A major warning sign is when there is a request for a substantial deposit. Deposits are authorised under the Building Work Contractors Regulations 2011 (SA) which stipulates: “(d) in the case of a domestic building work contract made on or after 1 September 2011— (i) if the price stipulated in the contract for the performance of the building work is less than $20 000—a payment as a deposit of not more than $1 000; (ii) if the price stipulated in the contract for the performance of the building work is $20 000 or more—a payment as a deposit of not more than 5% of the price.”
A reliable contractor will refer to a layaway plan with you in which you will pay off certain amounts as the project is performed in accordance with your payment contract. So beware of contractors who ask for a big down payment before demonstrating their own worth.
NO EVIDENCE OF LICENSE
We’ve said this time and time again, you should always request confirmation of insurance coverage and a contractors license. A reliable contractor should willingly advertise their license number on their social accounts and/or their website. In fact, any signage or advertising for the public must include the contractor’s name as it appears on their license or the registered business name and their license number (this includes business cards, sign writing on vehicles, flyers, magnets etc). If they brush off your request to view their license and insurance details, we’d steer clear of them.
If the contractor is more than willing to provide you with their license number, go one step further and actually check what building work they’re legally licensed to perform. You can use this website.
NO CLEAR DETAIL OF THE INCLUSIONS AND EXCLUSIONS
A contractor who cannot provide clear inclusions and exclusions in their proposal/quote is a warning. You should be given a detailed list of what they will accomplish for your project, what is included and what is excluded. Common things that are excluded are rubbish removal, painting and a builder’s clean. You should also be given a virtual or written schedule of the project timeline and the expected completion date. If your contractor cannot provide you with this information, it’s probably best to look elsewhere.
When you’re looking for a contractor to carry out work on your home, save this advice with you. It is essential that you feel empowered during this process so don’t hesitate to ask questions. A reliable and reputable contractor will communicate honestly and openly which shows their openness to collaborate with you and to accommodate your desires. Always be as straightforward as you can and request a contract, this will help eliminate stress and chaos. And anyway, it’s always better to be safe than sorry!