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15 Signs of a Bad Contractor

1. No License, Registration, or Insurance

Don't allow a "contractor" to remodel your home who

does not have the proper license. The only exception is for very small projects that are specific to the capabilities of a handyman. Even then, hire a handyman who has a registered company and insurance.

2. Large or Unusual Down Payments

You may say, "Okay, I will not hire a "contractor" who asks for an unusual down payment, but what is unusual?" A typical, minor kitchen remodel costs about $25,000. The down payment should be no more than 30% of the project. In other words, the down payment would be $7,500 for this project. The rest of the payment schedule should be 30%, 30%, and 10% (after the project is completed).

3. Pressuring To Buy

"If you buy today, we will offer 15% off."

"If you don't buy today, then your project won't start for 2 months."

"Contractors" pressuring homeowners to buy now or offering deals to purchase immediately is generally a red flag that something isn't right. At the very least, the request indicates that the company may be strapped for cash. And, in that case, how can a company warranty remodeling work if the company isn't in business; so, don't be intimidated by high-pressure tactics.

4. Skills Don't Match Project

Would you hire a dentist to do a root canal? Of course you would. Now, would you hire a dentist for chiropractic work? Not likely. Although both services are medical related, they can't be performed accurately by individuals that are not trained in the specific service. This scenario applies to contracting, as well. If you want to replace your roof, you won't hire a carpenter to do it. It may seem like roofing and carpentry apply to one another, but they don't. So, watch out for "contractors" who don't have the skills to match the project.

5. Not Responsive

Did you leave a voicemail? Have you written an email? And, did you receive no response? This is a warning sign that you are working with a bad contractor.

With email, cellphones, and social media, there's little to no excuse for zero communication. Honestly, if that is the case, then the lack of response is by choice.

6. Trouble Keeping Appointments

If your "contractor" that you are thinking of hiring, or who you have already hired, has difficulty keeping appointments, then, at the least, you have an overworked contractor, which could lead to longer project completion times. But, most times, it is a form of unprofessionalism that is indicative of more company-wide or management-style issues. For instance, it could indicate a lack of structure or process, such as not having office personnel to schedule or follow-up with appointments; it could indicate a lack of tradesmen available to help complete a project; or, it could indicate a lack of interest in your project, which, if that is the case, then you definitely don't want to hire the contractor.

7. Bad Reviews

The Internet is a great place to find honest feedback about contractors nowadays. The first place you will want to check is Google. After Google, check the results of a Google search. Type the company name into the search bar and find a couple of websites where the company is listed and look for reviews. Finally, check social media, specifically Facebook and Houzz. But, if the company has bad reviews, then proceed with caution. One bad review may not indicate a bad contractor, but a lot of them will.

8. Contractor Uses A Lot of Subcontractors

So, if you were to build a new house, you would hire a Home Builder. But, you may be surprised to find that throughout the process, the home builder's company only does a few parts of the project. That's because the home builder hired subcontractors to complete the specific work on the project; i.e., foundation/concrete, plumbing, electric, etc. For a home builder, this is standard. For a kitchen remodeler, this is not. Ask your contractor if he has 'guys' he works with or if he hires a plumber, an electrician, a carpenter, etc. to do the work. If he has a lot of subcontractors then you can expect to pay more at the least. But, this shows that the contractor is just someone who is organizing and hiring other people to do the work. You don't want to pay a premium for someone who is just orchestrating the project.

9. Bad Attitude

A bad attitude makes it uncomfortable to work with someone, so don't hire a contractor who has a bad attitude. For a kitchen remodel, you will be working closely with a contractor for 4-6 weeks, and you don't want to work with someone who has a bad attitude. You want to know that if something comes up, then you can have an open-and-honest conversation with your contractor. Otherwise, a bad attitude could be a sign of a bad contractor.

10. Low Bid

Always receive 3 bids for any home remodeling project, especially more costly projects like kitchens, bathrooms, and decks. This is the rule of thumb. If you receive 3 bids for a bathroom and one of them are substantially lower in price, then there are a couple of things going on.

Ask the contractor if what they provided a bid for matches the scope of work. Missing 1-2 line items is typically the case. If the contractor said that he did bid the job correctly and the price he provided is a lot lower than the other 2 bids, then he is probably inexperienced and is underestimating the costs of the project. This is definitely not a contractor you want to hire because he is trying to make money and if he underbid the project, then he won't have the money to finish your project or finish it correctly. Either way, don't hire this bad contractor.

11. No Contract

Don't allow a "contractor" to touch your home without a written contract. A contract protects both the contractor and you. If you don't sign a contract, then a couple of things can possibly happen:

  • bad work, but nothing to hold against the "contractor" to prove he was supposed to do work

  • incomplete work, but no record of what was agreed to

  • ran away with money without doing work, but no contract to prove he was supposed to do work

In the end, don't proceed with a contractor who does not agree to sign a contract.

12. No Permits

When you purchased your home, you did so because it is an investment. In other words, you should be able to sell your home for more than what you paid for it; i.e., make a profit. Permits provide a record of inspected, and approved, work. If you sell your home, then you can offer permitted work as evidence of an improved home, which drives a higher home price. Plus, when the county reassesses your property, your home value will go up (but, you can decide if that is a good or bad thing). Either way, don't allow a contractor to work on your home without permits. If the "contractor" insists, then he is probably not a good one.

13. No Permanent Place of Business

This does not necessarily represent a bad contractor. What it does represent is the size of the business, which is small. If a contractor does not have a permanent place of business, then he probably just started the business in the past 1-2 years. But, if he is licensed, bonded, and insured, and he insists on permits, then he is probably a good contractor. If not, walk away because he is not a good contractor.

14. Inexperience

Would you prefer a medical doctor or a medical resident? Probably a doctor. In other words, you prefer experience. An inexperienced contractor could be a good contractor, but it can be difficult to trust that the work will be completed properly. If an inexperienced contractor seems to be a good contractor, then proceed with the project knowing the risks of using an inexperienced professional. And, if you are trying to determine if the contractor is bad, then look at other items on this list to see which category he fits in. You will be able to know pretty quickly which one the contractor fits into.

15. Sketchy Paperwork

If a contractor presents paperwork to you, then validate it. Most townships and cities have electronic directories of currently registered general contractors and tradesmen. Also, you can call most places to verify. So, if a contractor offers a license, permit, or bond that doesn't seem right, then call to confirm whether the paperwork is legit or not. If it is not, then immediately stop conversation with the contractor because he is a bad contractor.

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