It can be hard to find a remodeling contractor in Spokane, WA or in any city. Do you recognize any of these stories? A neighbor requested a bathroom fix and ended up with three post-project visits, only to have lingering issues after deciding more follow up wasn’t worth the effort…just pay the invoice and say “We’ll deal with it later”?  A family friend was given a fixed bid, only to be slammed with unexpected change orders that doubled, or worse, tripled their project cost? Worst of all, your Aunt Susan was fleeced by her so-called contractor… she was heartbroken over the unfinished retirement property remodel and ran out of money to finish the landscaping, which lead to the retirement party being moved, and in the mean time, all the fish in the lake have died, and the parakeet has diarrhea. I’m piling on, but you get it. This is how working with a shady contractor can feel.

Most of us aren’t sure where to start to avoid these nightmarish experiences. We have dreams for a more beautiful or more functional space, but we don’t have a reliable framework of assessment to find out if a contractor is a good fit for us. Here are three things to consider.

Managing Your Expectations

Okay ladies and gentlemen – I know you have a Pinterest™ board for each room with approximately 54,000 images each. Remember that your project lives somewhere between a quick DIY fix and designing your dream home on an unlimited budget. The clearer you are on your expectations, the easier time you’ll have communicating with your contractor-to-be.

Free Site Visit and Estimate – or is it?

If you asked me, “How much would you charge me to mow a one thousand square foot lawn twice per month?”, then giving you a free estimate would be reasonable – it is a simple question and all the variables are known. Since the nature of even the smallest construction projects is never this simple, I’d consider the “free” estimate to reside in the danger-zone. An amateur may be naive enough to throw out a number and cross his fingers, or deliberately low-balling jobs in order to stay busy. The free estimate typically goes in one of two directions: you end up with an inferior product or scope of work, or you get slammed with a change order to make up for all the things that were missed in the original bid.

Reject “shopping around to get the best price.” You are at risk of thinking you’re comparing apples to apples when you’re comparing elephants to ice cream. Your description of the scope may have been identical with all three companies, but the quality and detail of the estimates will vary tremendously – not to mention the quality of work.  The lowest price often reflects the biggest mistake (missed ache). Your ideal remodeling contractor in Spokane won’t necessarily play the bidding game because they understand they are not a commodity. If you call and say “I’m looking to get a few bids”, they will see this as a flag indicating you’re decision will be price driven, a.k.a. you’re not interested in a relationship with your contractor as much as getting the job done as cheaply as possible. If you’re worried about being over-charged, remember that the marketplace doesn’t tolerate unfair prices for long – this is the age of instant digital feedback. Ask: Does this contractor have happy, returning customers?

Who are you taking advice from?

Remember that not every opinion source is created equal. Be sure to steer clear of advice coming from sources that don’t have a vested interest in your project. Jonny may be a great guy, but with no track record or online presence, I would have him reroof the doghouse before I let him build my mother-in-law an addition onto my home. Google ™ or Yelp ™ reviews are trustworthy because they reflect the experiences of a collective. Trust friends and family, but always verify.

The bottom line for your ideal remodeling contractor in Spokane/Coeur d’Alene is going to be a lifelong business relationship that is built on trust and communication. If they can see the big picture and help you from pre-design work to finishing trades and clean-up, they may end up your contractor for life.