Excellent Remodels, Happy Homeowners: Is This a Distorted View?

Home's green remodel gives mother and daughter spaceI’ll admit that my view of remodeling is distorted. I’ve spent a couple of decades interviewing hundreds of homeowners whose remodels turned out great, and hundreds of contractors who are their heroes. Right at this moment, there are three Southern California homeowners looking forward to an interview with me in the next couple of days for my Pardon Our Dust column in the newspaper. They are giddy with excitement. They will likely say things like: “We love our new kitchen,” and “We can’t recommend our contractor enough.” They want to tell the world about their positive experiences.

So when I get a big dose of homeowners horror stories, like I read in Contractor markups: How much is too much?, I feel sad and sorry for these folks.

If I felt really nervous about attracting bad contractors into my life, I’d be obsessively vigilant in making sure I was hiring a reputable, award-winning, exceptional company. Just OK wouldn’t work for me. I’d have to have the best in town. I’d go to everyone I knew in the area and ask: Who is the best?

And when I got the bid, I wouldn’t quibble over the price.

It’s kinda like the dentist I found through my dental plan. Turns out he was a torturer, a sadist, cruel beyond measure. So what should I do? Never get dental work done? Do it myself? Instead, I asked around and got references for the kindest, most compassionate dentist around, the one whose staff is trained to pull back immediately if the client indicates pain. And I DO NOT quibble about price. I pay whatever he asks.

Why should remodeling be any different? For something so painful, so potentially disastrous, why would you not find the top-rated contractor in your area? It’s downright baffling.

3 Comments on Excellent Remodels, Happy Homeowners: Is This a Distorted View?

  1. laladreamhome

    Now THAT is the kind of information I need. Thanks!

  2. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Laladreamhome, you make a very good point that not everyone is looking to do an expensive, upscale remodel. Point well taken.
    For smaller jobs, like a new roof or new window or new flooring, I’d still like to suggest that one finds the best company in town. There are ethical, organized, talented subcontractors in your town, and they charge the same, in most cases, as the crappy ones,
    And you can still make use of the top-rated contractor in town. If you ask around and get the names of some highly recommended remodeling firms, you can then call them and say the following:
    “I’m not in the market right now to do a major remodel, but I do want to get my roof replaced. Can you recommend a good roofer that you’ve worked with?”
    If they don’t help you, call the next contractor on your list. The good guys tend to hang together. That’s what I’ve noticed after following this industry for nearly two decades.
    Also, check to see if your town has a contractor’s association. Do a Google search on “your town” and “contractor association”. There may be one in a nearby town. These are the good guys, especially if they are associated with NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) or the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) Remodelers.
    Better yet, determine who is the president of the association, or a board member, and call them for a recommendation on a subcontractor. Everyone in the trades knows who is good, and who is not. Let them help you find the good ones.

  3. laladreamhome

    Easy answer. Of COURSE everyone wants the best. But some of us have budgets. Low ones. There are those of us left in Socal who aren’t doing luxury, top-of-the-line redos, just modest ones, or who are renovating out of neccesity (roof leaking, mold creeping, etc) who just cannot handle mark-ups or best of the best, top-rated contractors. Sorry.