by Olesia Chikunova, ADU Specialist.
Construction is a hot topic. As in any market, it is an issue of supply and demand, and right now the demand for construction labor across US, and even more so in Bay Area, is high, while supply of it is low. This literally means a contractor can pick and choose his clients, and the client has to present her project in a way that makes a contractor take this job.
I am not talking about multi-million dollar projects. These are relatively rare and still sought after. I am talking home additions, accessory dwelling unit construction, average bathroom or kitchen remodels.
There is also a certain unspoken cut off point for every contractor when he decides if he should or should not take this particular project. So you have to understand when you need to look for a handyman, and when for a design-build firm. However, some rules are the same across the board.
Why would they not provide a written estimate after meeting a potential client?
If you want a realistic custom estimate, be prepared to pay for it. Asking for a free estimate is asking someone to work for you for free. Why would an experienced and most likely sought after contractor do that? You will get a rough order of magnitude number, but never a fixed bid. Just too many details go into it. We know, we do estimates for ADUs all the time.
If one of your first sentences in your conversation with a contractor is about costs and tight budget, you are giving all the wrong signals. Looking for a quick fix is also a wrong verbiage to use.
Whether by mentioning other bids, or important connections, you might be trying to make sure they will give you the good price. The reality is you are shooting yourself in the foot: what a contractor hears is you are not prepared to trust him or her.
There are some contractors that will let you demo or paint, but most just won’t.
This assumes that you have picked a contractor that had nothing to do till you called. Sounds bad for both of you. Why should you pick a contractor who does not have jobs lined up? Why have you waited till the last minute?
In this case you should know a lot more about construction than an average Joe or Jill.
It really slows the contractor down, it will take him twice as long to explain it to you, than to just go and get it himself as usual. And please, do not expect any warranty in this case.
Do not assume that management fee is deductible. It takes a lot of admin support to move the project forward. The smaller the project, the more support it needs. Do not ask to break down into 20 various individual jobs. Or ask to separate labor and materials. And tell straight away what you have allocated for finishes, furniture and fixtures. The contractor does not know if you are planning to install a $300 or $4000 Toto toilet.
Please be prepared. Do your homework. Have a list of things you want done – in order if priority. You are more than likely to underestimate the current costs, so some compromise most likely will be needed.
Drawings, sketches, idea boards are truly helpful to get everyone on the same page.
What is your budget? A good contractor will always ask this question. They want to know if you have realistic numbers in mind, and they definitely do not want to waste their time. You are not doing any favors to yourself , or to the contractor by not disclosing the budget. Here is an example of how we talk about ADU budgets.
Then just do it. Because a remodel is never easy. Downplaying work a contractor does is impolite.
Especially when you are talking a kitchen or bathroom remodel in a house build in the last century (98% of the time).