Thursday, March 20, 2014

Poor quality lasts long after the cheap price is forgotten

I like watching those home building/remodeling TV shows.  The granddaddy of them all is This Old House.  It's easy for me to watch and instantly pick out the "builders" from the "pretty boys".  Guys like Norm Abrams and Tom Silva know their stuff.  I doubt guys like original host Bob Vila know which end of a hammer to hold.

The ones that build a house for a deserving owner while they're on vacation for a few days scare me.  Think about it...would you want a house built in 4 days?  There would be workers crawling all over each other to get their part done and get the hell out, quality be damned!  In 4 days the paint isn't even dry yet.

Now there's a new show that I'll admit I haven't watched yet, but sounds interesting, called Catch a Contractor.  Love it!  There are indeed a bunch, maybe even a majority of contractors who need to be caught....and tarred and feathered.

BUT....IMO there should also be a companion show called Stupid takes two to tango.  Here's an example of what happens to me often:

Mr & Mrs B (previous customers from 16 years ago) came back to me and said they wanted a new home built.  They had a budget of $X, wanted Y square feet, and wanted ABC amenities.  

We went to the architect and began the design process, but along the way they kept adding footage (10% more) and amenities (now they wanted ABCDEFGHI & J), but they would absolutely NOT raise their budget.  They said if I couldn't do it, there was another builder they had talked to that could.  

Adios Mr & Mrs B!

My brother recently ran into Mrs B in a local store and she rather sheepishly volunteered that things hadn't gone exactly smoothly.  Bro later checked the public records and found that the B's had to go back to their bank and renegotiate their loan upwards twice, totaling over $100K.  And to hear them tell it it was all the contractors fault.  

Their cheapness got them what the deserved....a cheap, crappy house!  The builder told them what they wanted to hear to get the job, but could then only hire whatever left-over labor was still out there.  Same with materials.  

He was a crook for doing business that way, and the B's had larceny in their heart, too, trying to get lots of extra stuff for nothing. 

Cry me a river.  They deserve each other.

Do yourself a favor before you build or remodel: RESEARCH carefully.  Three references aren't enough.  Get at least a dozen.  Call them all.  Call their subcontractors and see if they pay their bills.  If they don't you'll find lots of subs who have only worked for that contractor for a few months.  Longevity is good.

Check public records to see if they have liens filed against them.  A Better Business Bureau A+ record doesn't mean what it used to.  (Many claim the BBB is now just interested in signing up new dues-paying members.)

And THINK! You're not going to get a Mercedes for the price of a Chevy, I don't care what the salesman says.



  1. Quality is so much cheaper in the long run. There was a time when the only new shoes I could afford were from Kmart for $20. After one month they looked like crap and I had to wear crappy looking shoes for months until I could afford another pair of $20 shoes. When I could afford $120 shoes I bought 2 pairs and they both lasted me for 20 years and until I retired. Didn't even need to resole them and they always looked good after a quick polish. It is definitely cheaper to be able to afford quality.

    Bob Villa knew his stuff. That show was originally homeowners doing simple remodel or add on to small homes...all DIY or as he referred to it sweat equity. It was ruined when they went upscale (probably to get more endorsements) before long sweat equity was a lost concept on the show. I may do a post on the exact show where "This Old House" jumped the shark.

    You could build my house any day. When I ask my "Trusted" contractor about some ideas I have for remodeling he often says stuff like "I could do almost anything, but it would be really expensive, and it would probably suck because that is a really bad idea." You gotta love honesty!

  2. My sister-in-law lives in Kirkland, Washington, a few blocks away from one of those houses selected by a national TV show for remodeling.. Three days later the house was completed. No problem with quality but the house ended up too high priced for the neighborhood which made it hard to sell when the couple couldn't afford the new taxes.

  3. Wow I am sure glad my retirement does not have that much drama.

    1. Try as I might, I'm just not a "rocker", Tom. :)

  4. Oh - I know exactly what you mean with those HGTV shows...those flippers scare me! They are either really, really good and therefore can work so quickly, or they just slap stuff together and cover it with a pretty color paint. I used to like watching "Holmes on Homes" - he really tore into shady, sloppy contractors.

  5. The only one I would ever watch was "Holmes on Homes". Canadian Dude, so probably we're speaking a foreign language here, unless it was picked up by one of the US networks. Don't know.
    My "go to" plan when it comes to renovating mostly involves simply not letting trades people in the house. I have a small network of "muscle" that I can call in if I need help, or if it comes down to it, line up for extended paid work. All of them are competent individuals (and licensed, like electrical and gas for example) who know that *I* know where they live...

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