Home ownership and real estate can be a lot of work for the home owner. I love old houses, but as with any home things go wrong and you have to make repairs. I have made a lot of mistakes in dealing with contractors and here are some tips and tricks I have learned from my mistakes.

  1. Do your homework. I know it sounds obvious, but sometimes I have had one contractor come and be so swayed by their sales pitch that I didn’t want to spend my time (synonomous with money) waiting for other contractors that may show up, show up late, or maybe not show up at all. Getting multiple estimates help and sometimes teaches you more about how they plan to do the job and the differences in cost.*
  2. Get a completion time in the contract. Make sure you get a refund or partial refund if the work is not completed in a timely manner. Some contractors will push back on this citing reasons like weather, but any good contractor will agree to a date that is reasonable allowing some give for things like bad weather (or late supplies etc.).
  3. Make sure there are lots of details int he contract. Things like “finishing work” and “custom” can mean different things to different people. Make sure that is clear. Make sure it is clear who will supply materials (such as paint). Also check the dimensions of any work and make sure you have taken a measuring tape and checked the dimensions yourself.
  4. Check the BBB and online sites like yelp, citysearch and yahoo local. Often times there are lots of reviews and opinions from former customers and that can give you some warning signs about what could go wrong. Also, give back to these sites, if someone does a good job leave a note and let others know. The things that make these sites successful is community involvement and it is also a great way to say thank you for a job well done.
  5. Get everything in writing! Every time something goes wrong you will wish that you had your conversations and agreements in writing. Keep track of correspondence by sending yourself email, or writing it down in a journal. If anything does change mid-job make sure you get both parties (you and the contractor) to agree to it in writing.

These are just a few things that have helped me and that I have learned from mistakes I made in dealing with contractors. My other great tip is craigslist! If you have a little job you can find plumbers that work for top plumbing companies for half the price. My rule of thumb is “If I would try to do it myself then outsourcing is a good option”, but if you need the work guaranteed or it requires a very specialized skill it is probably best left to the pros 🙂

* BTW, here is a great little way Garrett does his research on different vendors I think is worth copying (this example was for exterminators to investigate our little ant infestation):


  • 12 –month contract which is 7 services total. No 1-time visit.
  • price break is initial visit of $150 and 6 more follow up services within the year at $77 each.
  • total is $150 (initial) + 6 x $77 (follow ups) = $612 – $30 coupon = $582 total
  • money back guarantee
  • available tomorrow morning to come out
  • Dog/people friendly products
  • all insects and mice/rats
  • Ref#1356####
  • ghetto cust rep


  • quarterly service contract
  • $225 initial service
  • $95 each quarter
  • all insects and mice/rats
  • any pests in between scheduled services is FREE of charge
  • $225 + 3 x $95 = $510 – 10% discount for payment for one year in advance = $459 total
  • Satisfaction guaranteed
  • Dog/people friendly products
  • Can get out to house wed 8-10am.
  • 877.976.0001 x723 brittany
  • cust rep no idea what anything was. Didn’t even ask about the ants

TOWNSEND PEST SERVICES – http://townsendpest.reachlocal.com

  • 425.336.1551
  • $190 – perimeter spray and inside treatment
  • additional service – $84 per visit. On average 2-5 follow ups
  • guarantee in between follow ups is free.
  • $361 average for treatment solution
  • Dog/people friendly products
  • availability tomorrow
  • Specific for ants not any other pests or rats/mice

Eastside Exterminators – http://eastsideextermina.reachlocal.com

  • nice site – nice people on the phone. Provided the most information and sounded like they knew what they were talking about.
  • based on square footage of house – 3000 sq ft is what I said
  • initial $267.50 + tax (specifically for the odorous ants) outside spray kills everything and inside spraying is for ants
  • vacate while spraying if there is a lot of spraying – couple hours
  • follow up on quarterly service – $92.50 – 117.50/quarter based on tech’s experience with how many and where they see the ants.
  • availability tomorrow or open this week
  • 30-days to jump on service without having to do initial again. Otherwise goes back to initial cost to have em come back.
  • 425.318.4621

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