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6 Stages Of A Relationship Between Investors And Contractors
As a general term, contractors can include plumbers, remodellers, roofers, electricians, handymen, tradespeople, landscapers, etc. You get the idea. You would think that the toughest investor challenges you will face are getting funding, marketing to tenants, managing the property, or laboring yourself out of bed when a tenant calls your personal hotline at night. But no. Managing and building a relationship with contractors is one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) challenge presented to property investors.
Contractors are in a tough business with tight cash flow, abusive clientele, overly high expectations, and a low margin. They get squeezed financially and mentally by individual home owners, organizational clients, developers, and main contractors. It is a business whose success depends on quantity rather than quality. Which is why their attention is always on securing their next projects. And this wide net being cast diminishes their focus on a project the longer it drags on. Some of the common ways you can suffer from the unfocused contractor syndrome are delays in completion, poor workmanship due to a rush for time, and going over your budget.
If you are someone who buys and sell houses frequently you must already know that relationships with contractors resemble a pattern. A pattern that has an uncanny resemblance to dating. This pattern is not a principle applicable to all relationships. But it will most likely work out for you this way until you find your contracting soul mate.
- First date
The first date can be a nervy affair where both parties attempt to find out at a surface level whether they can be a good fit. It could be a blind date set up by friends sort of like a referral. Or someone who you already know but suddenly find that you have something to offer each other. No matter, both parties will put on their best behavior and make statements that they will regret later on in the relationship. Investors will declare that they pay timely and contractors will laugh at your horror stories.
To avoid wasting the time of each other, it is best at this stage to layout what you think are make-or-break requirements. For example, you have a project on hand that has a specific deadline and budget. And be straight up that you do not offer the best of margins. But you can bring a considerable volume of business for the contractor if things go well. Be courteous in communicating your expectations or you might pass yourself off as jerk. You will have your own set of things that will piss you off. For the contractor, the biggest turn-off is delayed payments. So make a promise that you will pay the moment milestones are reached.
This is the stage where both parties attempt to show that they can deliver on their promises made previously. Contractors may show you materials that meet your requirements. While you show them that you have indeed secure the house in question and ready for works to begin. You show them pictures of the house and the floor plan while they come up with 3-dimensional design prototypes for you to marvel.
Remember that being materialistic does not good for all parties. In this case, only going for the lowest price is not always the best decision. Sometimes paying a higher price for the same amount of work makes perfect sense when the element of time comes into the picture. You are also looking for contractors with “inner beauty” in terms of being honorable, decisive, dependable, and responsible.
Engagement is when you decided that you have found your partner. You agree on pricing, work schedules and payment terms. To avoid heated argument in future, it is best to be as detailed as possible in the contract. At the same time, you must avoid going overboard with these details.
A good guideline is to be detailed on major items while leaving some room for the contractor to maneuver on less important work scope. If you micro-manage, they might find it hard to breathe. Give some personal space!
Now everything has become a legally binding agreement. You are in a partnership and any funny business can mean a long cumbersome legal process. Should disputes and conflicts occur in future, pictures and images will serve as good evidence that a party has betrayed your trust and legitimate expectations.
After the honeymoon period where initial projects go smoothly and your payments are made without much fuss, the 2 parties will start to do things in a routine. They start to get familiar with how each other works. And make life more complete for each other.
The best scenario is that you can just call up your contractor on a new house you have bought, leave him the address, and he will sort out the rest. He will instinctively know exactly what you want, what you need, and what you do not want. The next thing you know, the renovation works are done and you sign off the final check for him to cash in. The next day, you appraiser informs you that the value of the house has gone up 20%. What a fantasy scenario that would be.
As we are not talking about a real marriage here where 2 person ties the knot, when problem happen in a contractor-investor relationship, the easiest way out is to end it.
Sooner or later one party is going be disgruntled. It almost always comes down to one party taking the other for granted. For example, a contractor starts feeling that you should pay more for his dedicated service. An investor starts to fee that workmanship is starting get complacent. You start to feel overcharged on works, and other projects start to look attractive to him. And so on. Casual comments start to include a spot of sacarsm. Disagreements start escalating to arguments. And arguments naturally lead each party to start avoiding each other altogether.
When these relationship stages play out, accept them and move on.