7 Mistakes Women Make When Hiring a Contractor​

Picture of Dawn Matze, the Woman Builder

Dawn Matze, the Woman Builder

Dream. Build. Love.

You’ve finally closed on your new home or investment. It took lots of painstaking documentation for the bank and plenty more inspections and appraisal appointments. Now you’re ready to get a general contractor at your home to get started on your remodel. 

 So what if your home used to be an illegal dog kennel? It’s now your lovely mess of a house that you plan to make beautiful. So what that you have never done this before? You are excited and have a boatload of energy…what could go wrong?

A lot depends on who you hire. 


Don’t hire the first contractor that shows up to your home or project.

Times are tough. Everyone wants to remodel. You’ve called a number of contractors for pricing.  But alas no one showed up as they said.  The only guy that came was a scrappy dude who spoke broken English. He drove an old Chevy truck that maybe had some tools and equipment in the back.  Only a few dents, but hey, that’s to be expected right? It’s construction, after all.

You walked through the house and showed him what you wanted remodeled. He said he could start tomorrow. Even though he never made eye contact, out of sheer desperation, you hired him on the spot. 

Wake up people! Construction is like no other profession. The industry is riddled with wannabe contractors and ‘so called’ builders.

If the right person doesn’t show up, move on to the next one. Be patient and ask trusted friends for referrals, check out the work that was done by them and do your homework before hiring.


Don’t pay your contractor in advance. REALLY?

Many a distraught owner has called, asking me what they should do, because their contractor never showed up to start.  Or sometimes they tell me their contractor didn’t finish the job.  

Human nature is to feel unmotivated if you’ve already gotten the reward of payment. That’s just the way our minds work. If you pay in advance at any time for work that was not completed, no matter what the service, their incentive goes down and follow-through will be difficult.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER pay in advance for labor…..NEVER.

This even applies to good contractors. Don’t tempt an honest man or woman. Unfortunately, many homeowners have said they have gotten ‘ripped off’ when in reality it was their own responsibility to only pay for work that has been completed. Buyer beware.


Don’t do a construction project on a handshake

–  it’s not 1990 anymore.

Some of the ‘good old boys’ want to shake your hand to seal the deal. I say that they are being lazy and don’t want to draw up a bid or quote. The handshake agreement is not specific or detailed enough to guarantee and define what you are getting.

This can become a nightmare. Most homeowners and investors or people in general have different expectations about what is to be done. Putting agreements in writing spells out expectations clearly and is the only way to hire someone for construction work. You don’t need a beautiful, fancy invoice, but you must spell things out. Define the scope of work and payment expected in as much detail as possible for a clear understanding.

Handshakes are great but not for a construction project. Document what you’re getting every time. Don’t be stupid.

“Hiring friends and relatives is usually a disaster.”


Don’t go for the lowest bidder.

You’ve got 2 bids for your bathroom/ kitchen remodel and you pick the cheapest contractor.  After all, you’re on a tight budget, you want to be under budget if possible, and this guy seems to be the right price. 

90% of the time the cheapest bid results in the lowest quality work. Contracting is a service-related business – you get what you pay for.

How do you resolve this? Look at what you’re getting for the service provided. Compare side by side. Look at what you ‘need to have’ not ‘wanna have’. The highest bid and the very lowest bid may give you hints at what things need to be included or are missing in the quote. This is valuable information. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Understand exactly what you’re getting for the quote provided. Get clarity.


Don’t forget to check up on the contractor’s license and insurance.

This is one of the most common mistakes owners make. How do you know they are licensed? Maybe they are using their buddy’s license, and does he/she even know about it?  Perhaps they had a license and it is expired. When a homeowner does not verify these things, they are in the dark, unprotected and vulnerable. Proof of insurance is equally important; this shows that the contractor has general liability insurance to protect your property and any issues that may arise.

Most contractors are legitimately licensed. As prices escalate and materials and labor get more expensive, there is a strong temptation to work without a license. Take some responsibility here and look them up online.


Don’t hire your relative, neighbor or friend.

Everyone has a cousin, uncle or brother who is a contractor. They all say that they can cut you a sweet deal. I’ve never seen this turn out well. The friendship turns sour, there is a discrepancy or miscommunication with work done, or not done, and voila!……hard feelings and grudges remain.

Hiring friends and relatives is usually a disaster. No other way to say it.


Don’t micromanage your contractor.

Good general contractors don’t need your business. They are usually really busy. If you seem to them like a ‘nightmare’ client, they will walk away quickly. With that said there is a balance between checking up on their progress and micromanaging their every action. That balancing act has to include a trust on both sides of the agreement within reason. This can be a discussion you have at the beginning of the build.

No one likes to be micromanaged. It takes the incentive away from doing a terrific job and feels like distrust. Often, you’ll find contractors charging a lot more money for ‘pain in the ass’ customers. But still the contractor will lose money in the end.

As a contractor I want to make sure they are the right client for me, just as they are sizing me up as well.

Avoid these 7 mistakes when you hire, and you’ll avoid most of what often goes wrong during a remodel. 

Happy Renovating,

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