‘How-to’ of Hiring Contractors - Page 2

Longtime Eichler expert says it’s all about the communication, not about what it costs
Fridays on the Homefront
How many Eichlers has your contractor done? Photo: David Toerge
Fridays on the Homefront
Could lead to "improvement catastrophe."
Fridays on the Homefront
Staying on top of code changes is important.

Once you have verified that the contractor under consideration is licensed, carries the required bond coverage, and has experience with Eichlers, you still want to confirm their familiarity with the contemporary challenges of working on mid-century housing.

"There are lots of codes that are in place now that weren't in place when their Eichler home was built," Key notes sagely. "What codes kick in once they start the work?"

"If you open up the walls, that's what kicks it in," he explains. "Then, it's considered a 'remodel.' You're doing a scope of work that is significant."

As an example, Key points out a client who needed to replace some beams in his Eichler's atrium, recalling, "He talked about another contractor coming in and giving him an economical solution. The problem is, he [the homeowner] doesn't know what questions to ask. If he knew everything, he wouldn't need us."

"You can do that [beam project] for a few thousand dollars, but the problem is, it doesn't meet code requirements," Key recalls about the job, which his company bid at $20,000-plus. "Those are things that the contractor needs to bring up…That's why it gets over $20,000 by the time you do all the work that's necessary to replace those beams."

"We get clients that come back and want us to get them out of trouble," he says with a grim smile. When hiring a contractor, he adds, "It's not about what it costs, it's about what he's willing to do."

"What we try to do at Keycon is help educate the client," Key says. Generally, when clients are unhappy with what they hear, "It's a misunderstanding over what is actually involved."

"Each project is about developing a relationship. It's about clearly defining a vision and what the expectation is," Key says in summary of the entire contracting process.

Key suggests starting your contractor interview asking something like, 'How do I match my budget with my vision?'

"If clients asked that a lot more, they'd be in a lot less trouble with projects," he predicts, having rendered his bottom line on the subject before cracking, "If I could write [that in] a book, I'd be out of business!"