Builders, Handymen and Remodelers
So, I was standing on some exposed floor joist talking to (but really interviewing) two contractors who had reached out to us for work on one of the many projects we have going. And as we talked, I thought the conversation would make a good column.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “How did Joey end up on an exposed floor joist if he’s just now meeting with contractors?” The answer is simple. Lucas and I had been there working on the job for the past couple of days replacing some rotted subfloor, fixing plumbing and reinforcing floor joists.
The reason Lucas and I were doing the work is because we had had a hard time getting bids back from contractors on non-trade-specific work. And since we can’t have a house just sitting, Lucas and I went to work on it.
As a side note, this phenomenon of contractors going to look at a project and not putting a bid in on it may be cyclical. Marybeth noted that this same time last year, we were running into this exact issue. We’re not sure if it has to do with school starting, contractors playing catch up from vacations, or just the temperature outside. But either way, it’s a cycle we need to take note of when planning for the third quarter.
Back to the contractor interview.
I like to interview contractors before I allow them to give me a bid. The reason for this is that you can ask some very simple but pointed questions to find out if the person representing themselves as a contractor knows what they are talking about.
Here’s one example. Any time I interview a painter, I ask them how they like to paint popcorn ceilings. If they say they spray them, that’s the kind of painter I want. If they say they roll them, I’m probably not going to hire them because rolling has the potential to damage the texture.
I’m not willing to take a risk on it, and a professional painter wouldn’t either. Also, that question often reveals that the reason they want to roll the ceiling is because they don’t have a sprayer.
Back to my story — while I was talking to the two standing on the joist with me, I was asking similar questions about framing and plumbing. After one of them said they would start on one corner of the house and replace everything, I knew it was time to do some educating, and also that I wouldn’t be hiring them.
I told them I break “general” contractors into three categories. (And by general I don’t mean a contractor with a business that hire subs to do an entire project for them. I mean someone who has general knowledge of most aspects of construction but hasn’t become trade specific.) The three categories are builders, handymen and remodelers.
Builders are accustomed to starting from the ground up. These guys often work on larger projects in new construction like building entire houses, new garages and new decks. And since they start from the beginning, everything is plumb and level when it’s completed.
Handymen tend to take on smaller projects and have knowledgeable in most trades associated with housing. They can do minor electrical and plumbing jobs, painting and minor carpentry. This is who you call if you need a new toilet, a door changed out or some light fixtures moved.
A remodeler is someone who has extensive construction experience and is willing to take on larger projects. Where they differ from the builder is their ability to work on preexisting structures. They understand that when working on a 50-year-old house, settling and warping can prevent framing from being perfectly plumb and level. They get things as close as possible, and then they are diligent to cut trim angles to compensate for any discrepancy.
As investors, we will need all three of these guys. The handymen are great for your rental turnover and general maintenance. The builders are good for new construction. But for flipping, the remodeler is essential. They can do anything and make it look right.
Remodelers are some of the most talented and creative guys I’ve met in the construction industry. The problem is that they are getting fewer and farther between. The best one I knew turned into a flipper himself, and we haven’t been able to replace him since. I am proud of him, but the void is real.
So, a word to the wise, when you find a good one you’d better hold on to them.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.