When it comes to renovating and hiring contractors, homeowners tend to view the task as a burden, a challenge that may prove to be disastrous. We’ve heard the horror stories and becoming another statistic is the last thing anyone wants to face, much less handle.
Remodeling is on a strong upswing and predicted to generate over 340 billion this year alone. Homeowners are eager to cash in with upgrades and additions, but finding good contractors can prove difficult.
With women in particular, whether married or single, the act of interviewing potential contractors, asking important questions, and understanding the construction process can be intimidating. Construction is typically not a “female-friendly” topic and the whole process of contracting and discussing project goals with unfamiliar construction lingo being thrown around makes it difficult to assess what makes a good contractor and a good match.
Don’t get me wrong, it can be challenging for men too, but they generally tend to be more comfortable dealing with and talking about household repairs. This is why many women will defer to the spouse when hiring contractors or, simply choose to “trust” the contractor because it just gets overwhelming. They want to get it over with and get going with their project. But this is where serious problems can begin when you choose to trust someone you know nothing about much less their business ethics.
As a woman and a home renovation planning coach, who has advised consumers for the last 16 years on how to deal with unethical contractors, I have found that it has typically been the women who step up asking for guidance, desperate for help to resolve their situation. They are more than willing to roll up their sleeves and take on the contractor who has dared to cross them and make their lives difficult.
The “mama bear” emerges and they’ll stop at nothing and do whatever it takes to protect their homes and families. They write the letters, file complaints and have absolutely no problem going face-to-face in the ring with someone who once was imposing. I know this because I found myself in this position 17 years ago after a remodeling nightmare I went through and not only survived but won the fight.
I’ve met with and had inspiring conversations with these women who like me, were not willing to lie down, give up or shut up. They fought hard and they fought fair – unlike the “contractor” – whose tactics included lying about events and playing the blame game. The hard lessons learned created in them a strength and resolve they didn’t imagine they had, and though some lost the battle in court, lost their money and some their marriages, they came away with the knowledge they should have had before they began their projects. Wisdom we all wished we could have had beforehand, without having to pay such a steep price.
Going through our individual trials, we all were shocked that there is such little oversight with contractors and how easy it is for them to get away with egregious behavior and the consumer is left with little help from consumer protection agencies. There is only so much they can do and it takes a long time to prosecute or discipline the contractor. Many file bankruptcy or leave the state just to do it all over again somewhere else.
I recently read about a contractor in Missouri who took over 200k in monies from several consumers and fled to Texas. When interviewed by an investigative reporter following the case, the contractor denied he wasn’t going to pay back the money, but had to move and do something else to earn the money. Right. Ridiculous. They’ll never see the money and state officials agree.
This is why I strongly believe women need to take the lead and get educated on how to make smart decisions, hire competent ethical contractors, understand the construction process and learn to better manage their money, project, and contractor. I can tell you it’s a whole lot easier than going through a baptism-by-fire experience of dueling with an unethical contractor and a house in shambles.
Women can easily learn the best practices and utilize simple solutions for avoiding remodeling disasters, hiring good contractors and managing their renovation projects. People don’t know what they don’t know and that’s what gets them into trouble. Education goes a long way in giving you control and peace of mind when renovating and working with contractors. And it’s not rocket science; it just takes some due diligence to get informed and apply what you learn.
Simple things like, knowing what your state’s downpayment laws are, payment schedules, how to thoroughly vet a contractor, using construction documents and protective clauses in your written agreements to control the project, avoiding paying twice and mechanics liens, managing “extra work” demands and properly utilizing change orders. All of these are common construction laws and documents used in renovation projects that you can use to better manage your project and protect yourself from getting blindsided.
One thing I know, if I, and the many women I’ve connected with, can navigate the perilous legal system, clearly communicate our case, handle the probing questions with confidence and take on an unscrupulous contractor, well, getting educated beforehand is a cakewalk.
It has to be said that there are good contractors and bad contractors; I’ve worked with both. The trick is finding the good ones. So, if you’re a woman who is planning a renovation project, I hope and pray that you’ll heed my advice and avoid an encounter with the contractor from hell!
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