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Getting My Zen On & Contractor Lessons.

Its been a very trying past few months. I had a contractor quit while in the midst of 5 jobs, and another contractor quit while working on 1 house. So there’s been many lesson learned and I’m gonna share them with you – ’cause that’s what I do. I share. I play nice. Amongst all the craziness I will tell you that I have remained remarkably calm, which is not a DNA level trait for me. The state of calm is learned, people.

So, sorry for the radio silence on the blog. OK – let’s get to those lessons! When dealing with contractotrs, keep the following ion mind:

I Give You My Word. If a contractor talks too much, promises endlessly and gives you his word – he’s a liar! Don’t trust him. For those of you working in the Baltimore, MD area – take it from your boy Craig; Avoid Joe Chavis of Joe Chavis, LLC. As much as it pains me to say so, Joe is just not a trust worthy guy. If you come across him – read all of the lessons below – and proceed with GREAT caution.

The Money Grabber. Never give money up front. NEVER! Don’t even think about it. Whether dealing with subs, or generals, most contractors will ask for 30% up front. If your job is $10,000 that’s $3 grand. If its $50,000.00 – you’d be shelling out $15,000.00 just to get the ball rolling. While I know it seems crazy – most of us have done this without even blinking an eye.

You wouldn’t pay a heart surgeon before he gave you a new ticker, right? How about a mechanic? Would you pay him for a  new tranny before he put it in your car? Then why – why do we pay freakin’ CON-tractors (notice the “con” as in Con-Man and Con-trary) a dime before they get rolling? Why? My guess; because they have the balls to ask for it! If they didn’t ask, would you offer? Of course not!

If you MUST pay up front – pay ONLY for materials but not for labor.

Tony The Tiger. All contractors – EVERY single one, sooner or later “flake.” NO Contractor is problem free. NONE! Ok, maybe 1% are problem free, but even they “flake.” Knowing that they are all basically ticking time bombs, why then would we offer to give them such large checks before any work is done? But – that is a trap I’ve fallen into many times. If you’re guy is “shit-hot,” and always delivers, ask yourself this – “What if his truck broke down, or his wife left him, or if he got sued, or had a serious emergency?” Who would get paid first? Who would be taken care of first? You or him? And – if his small buffer of savings ran out, how would he use that FAT check you just gave him?

They ALL flake!

Extreme Makeover to Extreme Dud. Be wary of ANY contractor who finishes the demo in a day, then slows down to a grind just after the demo. ANYONE can swing a sledgehammer. A lot of newbies get impressed when they see such a stark change in their rehab in such a short period of time. Again, demo is easy AND cheap. Any gorilla can do it. Don’t be impressed.

The Artist. Some of these guys think they are Picasso. They’ll make you believe that good work takes time. Bullshit! The VERY best drywallers I know are also the fastest drywallers I know. Same goes for painters, trim guys, plumbers…and right on down the line. These guys make money by being good AND fast. You can’t make money in this business by being a quality supplier only. The best guys are stacked with jobs because they deliver quality and speed. Stay away from Picasso!

Quick Draw McGraw. Every job begins with a great scope of work and a draw schedule that clearly defines how the money will be paid once that work is complete. When you’re doing one rehab or ten, its so easy to get away from the scope and draw as long as you see progress. But folks – the Empire State Building was not completed in record time and on budget by straying from the blueprint. A well-defined scope and draw are your precise blueprints for success.

Unscrupulous contractors have learned to manipulate the draw when they start to get behind. Here’s how it works; You don’t follow the rules above and you pay the contractor some money up front. He uses up that money for his growing crack habit – and now he can’t afford to pay for your interior and exterior doors – but maybe his tile guy owes him some money. So, instead of following the draw he does some tile work – then asks, “Hey can I get that money for the tile?”

Your answer should be, “Yup! As soon as you give me those doors!” See, they have to sign off on the scope and draw, and the more you hold that up in their face – the less they have to argue about. Stick closely to your blueprints for success and use every opportunity to point them out to your contractors.

The Partner. This is one of my favorites! Contractors for all their issues are NOT stupid. And, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to do a little digging to surmise what we investors must be making in profit on these deals. I’ve actually run into guys that felt entitled to a share of the profits. The shift in their demeanor will be subtle, and it usually happens after you’ve done your 2nd or 3rd deal with the same guy.

Here are the signs: The contractor will start to slow down a bit while getting chummy at the same time. Maybe over lunch he’ll say, “Damn – I envy you Craig.” or, “I’ve always wanted to do what you do.”

Then, he’ll say – “Hey Craig, how much did you pay for that house?” or “I saw that you sold that house for $____ dollars – that’s CRAZY!”

Trust me – its happening folks. You’ll think he’s happy for you, but you’re contractor is wondering why he made $5000.00 while you made $50,000.00. At that precise moment, you need to nip it in the bud. Tell him YOU are the investor and that he is the contractor. Period! If he wants a partnership, he needs to put up the money. Period!

Good luck. Follow all of the above, and you’ll be on your way to conquering your contractor issues.

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