All Posts June 7, 2018

Need a Good Vendor: A Guide

Need a good handyman or Sub-contractor?

Use these questions to start your interview with a potential vendor. They will help you protect your investment property, both structurally and financially.

Having a vendor list you can trust is crucial for maintaining your investment property while staying within your budget. If you know they’re going to get it done right, sometimes it’s worth the extra $50-$100 at the beginning, rather than the expensive 2nd fix that may be required if you use a disreputable vendor.

Sites like HomeAdvisor help connect property owners with contractors and subcontractors who can pretty much do any job! From painting to plumbing to electrical to hot water, it’s a great resource for people who don’t have a verified vendor list.

Another option is Keepe, an app that works like the Uber for handymen. It connects you to a handyman who can do the job.  Using photos you send, they can estimate the costs of labor and materials, and then they schedule with your tenant.

If you’re looking for someone directly though, how do you verify that they’re the real deal? Here are some tips on how to vet your vendor:

Are they licensed, insured, and (for larger jobs) bonded?

Always ask to see proof of their license and insurance. This is a critical step, and anyone who is a decent contractor for any type of job will understand and willingly provide you with these documents. They will also likely have them handy or have someone in their office send you a copy.

What are the payment terms?

Do they require an upfront deposit?

If they estimate that the job is going to be $100 or $200 but still need funds up front, that’s a red flag.  For larger jobs, asking for ½ of the bid or estimated price up front for materials is normal.  It’s not ever normal to pre-pay the entire projected cost.

Time & Materials vs Firm Bid

Is their estimate based on how long it will take them and what the materials will likely cost, or do they have a firm bid? Most likely a firm bid will come out to be more expensive because the contractor has to accept the risk of having estimated the job wrong, so… the risk is a factor in their bid price.  If you agree to pay for time & materials, the contractor has no risk, as they’ll be paid for whatever the job costs them so no risk buffer needs to be built into the price.  That said- they also lose some incentive to work as efficiently, and the owner then has the risk of the estimate having been too low.

Net 30

You’re waiting for the tenants to pay rent next month so you can pay this vendor – make sure ahead of time that they’re willing to extend 15 or 30 days time for payment.  Many small contractors operate on a thin margin and have to pay their labor weekly or bi-weekly.  Making them finance the job doesn’t usually make sense for anyone.

Who recommended them to you?

The internet

What do other people say about them? Do they have a good rating? What do 1-star ratings say about them and when were they posted? Remember that people only review when they’re either ecstatically happy or severely disappointed.

A friend

Ask what kind of job they did. Hopefully your friend has before and after pics. Or they might have a good story about them that will help you understand who they are and how they work. It’s important to be able to trust the person in your home, even if it’s not your stuff in that house.

It’s also a good idea to be able to trust that vendor with the tenants:  It’s never fun trying to calm the tenants down if the vendor prematurely tells them something like they might have asbestos or lead or mold in their home.