6 ways to track down "investor-friendly" contractors
I've found that there are 3 types of contractors in the world: commercial, residential and "investor-friendly". What's the difference?
Commercial contractors are sick of dealing with homes, homeowners and investors. They prefer the straightforward jobs and the big bucks.
They get both when installing plumbing, heating or electrical inside hospitals, schools or other commercial buildings.
Residential contractors don't like investors (and investors don't like them).
Why? Cause they're crazy expensive. By residential, I mean contractors who work on really big, beautiful houses. They work alongside interior designers and they are expert craftsmen. They do top-notch work, but it'll cost you. They give crazy-detailed quotes and and they usually carry fancy, branded-paperwork. They may even have a sales team and a fully staffed office. Attentive and organized.
Great for your dream home. Not for my flip home.
I'm looking for the investor-friendly contractors. The ones who are cheap AND good at what they do. It's a tough combo to find.
I don't care if my contractor's workers are all wearing matching t-shirts, drive matching vans and carry flashy paperwork.
We need one solid contract between us. We need to agree on a price and on a date. And the quality obviously needs to be there. But I don't need someone who can hand-carve my dining room moldings.
I just need you to properly install the materials and know more about plumbing and electrical than I do.
I also like when I'm meeting with a contractor and they carry tips-and-tricks up their sleeve that show me they care about my bottom line.
They may say things like: "Hey, I can fix this for you and here is a way we can do it that's cheap and fast. But it will still be a solid-fix and it will look great."
Here is how I source my contractors.
Stalk other investors job sites
I literally keep an eye on the houses investors are renovating in my area. I'll drive by often, partly because I'm interested in watching the their progress, but also to be a creep and snap photos of their contractors yard signs or vans. If other investors are using them, they're probably cheap!
Doing this also enables me to scope out the quality of their contractors work. I can walk the open house or go for a showing when it's listed. How does the tile work look? The floors? Cabinets? Moldings?
I also like to see if their job site is a total mess. This could say more about the investor's quality-control or organization, rather than the contractor. But it's something I pay attention to nonetheless.
When I'm driving down the Parkway (I live in Jersey) on Labor Day or Memorial Day and I see a contractor in the next lane - I snap a photo. Either, this is the only car they own and their heading home from the beach just like me OR they're willing to work holidays to get the job done. Either way, they're hustling hard. They're clearly trying to grow their business by staying lean or working on a day that most people have off. Give them a call and get a quote.
Probably the BEST way to find other great and affordable contractors is to ask your contractors. They see other trades on the job sites and know who is good and who's not. Ask them: do you know any good electricians or plumbers?
We have scored our best contractor-finds this way!
Head to the Home Depot
... or Lowe's ... or your local hardware store.
I go to the same Home Depot regularly. At least once a week. And every time, I'm looking around. Who looks local, cheap and good at what they do? Who looks slimy and not someone I want to work with? I make mental notes of all of it. I'm skeptical about contractors who are leisurely strolling Home Depot at noon. I like to see the guys picking up materials super early or super late in the day. Or maybe even on a Sunday.
Bigger Pockets has a whole directory of contractors. You can also search or simply ask the question on their forums. I'll be honest, I've had mixed results on here. The directory is self-listed, so anyone can add their own business. But you will probably have better luck on Bigger Pockets than on a site like Angie's List or Home Advisor, because I find many contractors on those sites want to work with 'homeowners' AKA people willing to pay $18,000 in labor ONLY to have a new bathroom installed or $40,000 to have new kitchen cabinets put in, counters and a backsplash. No thanks!
I call for 3 quotes every time. Even though I have a list of contractors I know and use. I head over to Yelp or Google and do a quick search and make some calls. You never know who you might find! Many contractors won't call you back. And many who come out and quote you will be too high, but then at least you know they're not for you. It's a process of elimination.