Contractor or Conman?: Before You Pay Up

Before You Pay UpContractors will say pretty much anything to get that a signed piece of that chequebook in your pocket.

But as soon as your eyes get all dreamy, you’re letting your guard down; and that can have disastrous results. So wake up and take notice of what’s going on around you.

Pressured Into Buying

It’s rather common to have friendly salesfolk offering you deals you can’t resist at tradeshows. 30% discounts off the five-figure sums of home renovation costs (which of course, last till the end of that day) might seem like a steal, so it’s no wonder many people place their deposits without much deliberation.

Well if you walk away from the booth thinking that the $1,000 you just handed over has smoothened your renovation plans, think again.

You could’ve just fallen prey to some slick pressure sale tactics.

Pretty soon, you may begin to find that deposit collection is just about the only area your contractor is efficient in.

Progress becomes draggy and service standards take a plunge as you find it nearly impossible to contact the unscrupulous contractor, who’s even rude when you demand that the work be sped up.

This is often due to the commission scheme of the tradeshow salespeople. Many of them earn commission based solely on the amount of deposits they can secure at the tradeshow.  Since they’ve already gotten their commission, there is little motivation for them to continue providing good service.

So like we said in “What the Paper Doesn’t Say”, hold your horses and don’t get too carried away by the promises of smooth-talking salespeople. Don’t pay the deposit or sign any papers until you fully understand the arrangements.

The Contingency Sum

You may’ve set aside a certain amount for your renovation and vowed to yourself never to spend more than that.

Money Money MoneyBut no matter how many times you spell out to the contractor that this budget cannot be overrun (and no matter how many times he agrees with a smile), you can be sure that once a sly fox of a contractor knows your full budget, you’ll never be able to stick to it.

Somehow, there’ll be fittings that had to be installed that were overlooked, some repairs and replacements, some higher quality materials that just came in which you might want to use instead. Before you know it, your budget has been blown.

 Never tell your contractor your full budget for the renovation. A safe gauge is to keep 15% of your budget as a contingency sum, and pitch your demands to the contractor for 85% of what you were willing to pay in the first place.

This way, as the contractor piles on the additional costs, it’s still within your budget and if possible, you could even ask for materials of better quality.

“It’d Be Nice To Have…”

So let’s just say that you’re halfway through renovating your home and you spot a classy home bar online.

You look at the price online and it fits nicely within your budget, so you show it to your contractor and tell him to get it installed in your living room. He agrees and you return to gazing at the photo of it, lost in your daydreams of hosting house parties that’ll be the envy of the block…

But wait, haven’t you forgotten something?

Just simply stating that you want an addition that wasn’t in the original contract and not asking about the cost basically leaves the contractor to his own devices.

At the end of the project you’ll have to accept whatever figure he writes on your bill. The price you pay for having that bar bought and installed might cost way more than the price of the bar alone.

Without the technical know-how, you won’t be able dispute whatever technical jargon he throws your way to justify his ridiculously high price.

So whenever you’d like an addition to the project, make it a point to ask about the cost. Whatever the initial quotation, you can be sure that it’s a marked-up price, so don’t be afraid to bargain on it.

When it comes to letting go of your hard-earned cash, stay in control of yourself, your contractor and the situation. Don’t pay up till you see satisfactory results, achieved milestones or an acceptable written agreement drawn up.

You’re the one holding the money. You’re the one in control. Make sure it stays that way.


(This story is the fourth installment in the Contractor or Conman? series)

Have contractors taken advantage of your carelessness to get more money out of you? Share your experiences and views on the issue on our forum thread.

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Armed with a mildly morbid fascination with the English Language, Cheak writes and edits content and copy for FortyTwo Magazine and FortyTwo Super Store. He's also known for his insatiable appetite and impressive but rather useless ability to stuff his entire fist in his mouth.

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