Behind any good real estate investor is a reliable contractor. Whether your business is built on flipping houses or buying investment properties, a quality contractor is essential. They will help keep your project moving in the right direction and cut off potential problems before they get too big. They will handle everything from simple maintenance on a rental to customizing your kitchen to look exactly how you want.
There should be little question as to how important they are, however finding a keeper is not as easy. You may go through half a dozen before you find the right fit. The key is never to settle for an average contractor and when you find one you mesh with to do everything in your power to keep them. It is not a stretch to say that a good contractor can completely change your business for the better. Here are five tips to help find a reliable contractor.
- Use Personal Contacts/Network: There are several ways to find a contractor. Anything from Craigslist to social media groups can be a good source under the right scenario. As with most things in business you are almost always better off starting with your personal contacts. You may be surprised at just how many people you have in your business circle. You never know who may be able to supply a quality contractor referral. Reach out to your attorney, real estate agent, mortgage broker and fellow investors and ask if they would be open to referring anyone to you. You should also keep your ears open at local networking events and real estate investment groups. From the people you know and the contacts you have made you should be able to find a handful of potential contractors you can reach out to.
- Don’t Wait: One of the universal keys to business success is to always be a step ahead rather than a step behind. This is especially the case when looking for a contractor. Regardless if you are an active investor or still looking for your first deal, you should have a contractor in place. Your business and your goals can change over time, but you never want to have to scramble to find a contractor when you need them. This opens the door to making rash decisions that you may regret later on. If you do have a deal you anticipate closing, you want to keep the ball rolling without any delays. The first thing you should do is strike up a conversation with a potential contractor and see if they are a good fit. They can do the best work in the area but if they are booked solid for weeks it doesn’t do you any good. You also need to know that they will return calls and be where they say when they say it. The sooner you can get on the same page with your contractor the more comfortable you will feel making offers and pursuing projects.
- Remember Big Picture: It is human nature to always try to get the best possible deal. Whether we are buying a house, car or phone there is the instinct to negotiate. However, you need to know when to pick and choose your battles. You often get what you pay for in business. Instead of looking for the contractor that can give you the best quote or undercut the competition you are looking to find the right fit. You need to balance quality of work with availability with price. Out of those three price should be the lowest on the pecking order. You make money in real estate by doing quality work that generates demand which in turn influences your sales price. If you use a contractor simply because they can help you save a few bucks you aren’t looking at the big picture. Ultimately this kind of thinking is small minded and hurts your bottom line in the future.
- References/Referrals: It is ok to ask a contractor for referrals. There is a large segment of investors who are scared to ask necessary, and important, questions. You should treat finding a contractor almost like interviewing someone for an important job. You need to know who you are aligning yourself with before getting too far. Ask if there are any references or other projects they can provide. If they get offended and upset, it can be a red flag that they are not real professionals. If they don’t mind getting what you ask for you know they are someone you can trust and want to work with. Regardless of how you connected with a potential contractor or how well you know them, you need to always ask for references and referrals before working together.
- Try An Audition Job: The first job you have together doesn’t have to be a make or break rehab project. In fact, there is nothing wrong with starting out small and building a rapport. You can start with a minor project on a rental or smaller project and see how they respond. Are they clear on what they are going to do and how they will do it? Are there any last-minute issues that make you think twice? Do they want more work and are confident they can handle bigger tasks? Starting out on an audition project is a good way to get to know each other and see if there is a good fit.
There are plenty of good contractors in every market. Don’t wait until you need one to start looking. Use these five tips to align yourself with the right contractor for you and your business, today.