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Old 05-10-2008, 02:38 PM   #1
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Contractor price fair or not?


I have a Condo in Indiana that I'm trying to fix up to rent. The rental property manager set me up with a contractor to do some repairs. The repairs entailed:

1. Three doors that didn't close properly (requiring some tweaking). One door supposedly required 2 new spring hinges (contractor bought them).

2. Two toilets required new toilet seats installed (I bought the seats). New fluid master in one bowl (contractor bought this) and new toilet flapper in other (contractor bought this)

3. I had previously installed a garbage disposal but I had used some tape to secure the electrical. I asked him to go back and make the electrical connection properly. I'm not sure if this required the disposal to be removed. He also went over what I did with the pipes and made some small modifications. He states he repaired a leak on 1 1/2 line from garbage disposal (although I can state with certainty there was no external leak). He laid down some 1/8" bottom in the cabinet with the disposal (there was some water damage due to a previous leak years earlier)

4. Removed some damaged carpet in a 4ft x 4ft utility room (I could have done this in 10 sec). He put down some tile (which he bought). He coated and painted a small portion of mildewed wall (probably about 3in x 2ft)

He initially charged me $1400 labor and $160 parts, for a total of $1560. I called him back and said this was a blatant rip-off and he reduced it to $1200 total. It seems to me a total replacement of everything he fixed wouldn't even add up to what he charged.

He spent a total of about 3 half-days here. We spent maybe 4 hours talking (i.e. not working). I would guesstimate his total work time to be maybe 12 hours, though I think he stretched it out. He seemed to want to add stuff to the list. It was his idea to add tile to the utility room. I just wanted the carpet fixed, but I agreed to his idea.

I assumed it would be a one day job. He didn't tell me until the end of the first day that he was coming back. He didn't tell me until the end of the second day that he would be coming back for a third. I asked him for an estimate twice. He said he couldn't give me one until the job was finished. So stupid me, I assumed he would itemize everything at the end.

So what does he do at the end? He tells me that the $1400 labor is what he feels the job is worth. He's not going to do an hourly or itemized account. Well, if he feels thats what the job is worth, why couldn't he tell me that at the beginning. When he agreed to reduce my total charge to $1200, he did admit that he had overcharged. He stated that he had seen another contractor's estimate (for totally different work and which I didn't accept anyway) that showed an estimate of $6500. When he saw this, he said he felt he was undercharging. He could have been placating me by saying this though.


Here are my questions (in no particular order):

1. How many hours would you guesstimate he should have spent on this job?

2. How much should labor have been (in Indiana in early May)?

3. How much should these parts that he bought (ignoring the ones that I bought) have cost?

4. My rental property manager stated that $1500 would be the minimum expected for this list of tasks, and no licensed contractor would do it for less. She stated that for large jobs, they do hourly. For jobs like mine, they do it by job. Is this correct?


Note that I was sort of test-driving the rental property manager's contractor. I can probably still out of the contract I signed.

Thanks

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Old 05-10-2008, 02:54 PM   #2
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Contractor price fair or not?


I'm glad I'm not working for you. To me that sounds like the deal of a century. Pay the man, and stop giving him a hard time. Next time, get written estimates for the job and for change orders, or else you're at the whim of the contractor. They could tell you at the end that it is $(insert inflated price here). In this case, however, I don't think this guy did. He just gave you a fair price. (Hard to really say because local markets vary, and you can't price a description on the internet, and I'm not in the field besides!) But if I got charged that for the work he did, I'd be just fine with it.


Last edited by NateHanson; 05-10-2008 at 02:57 PM.
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Old 05-10-2008, 02:57 PM   #3
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Contractor price fair or not?


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I'm glad I'm not working for you. To me that sounds like the deal of a century. Pay the man, and stop giving him a hard time.
Would you mind elaborating? Should this be an hourly rate or by job?
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:01 PM   #4
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Contractor price fair or not?


(I edited my post to add more perhaps while you were posting, so check that out too)


I don't think you can say whether something should or should not be hourly/by job. It's up to the contractor and the customer. If you feel strongly about how a price will be determined you need to outline that before work starts.

To me (outside the trade, and far away) it sounds very reasonable to me for him to just give you a price at the end of what he thinks his work was worth. He's probably used to doing this with the rental manager with whom he has a standing relationship. If the manager has used him a lot, and trusts him, he probably does work and prices this way - do the work, come up with a fair project price. I can see how that might not be the best way to do things with a first job, as setting common expectations will avoid disagreements afterwards.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:09 PM   #5
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Contractor price fair or not?


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Originally Posted by NateHanson View Post
(I edited my post to add more perhaps while you were posting, so check that out too)


I don't think you can say whether something should or should not be hourly/by job. It's up to the contractor and the customer. If you feel strongly about how a price will be determined you need to outline that before work starts.

To me (outside the trade, and far away) it sounds very reasonable to me for him to just give you a price at the end of what he thinks his work was worth. He's probably used to doing this with the rental manager with whom he has a standing relationship. If the manager has used him a lot, and trusts him, he probably does work and prices this way - do the work, come up with a fair project price. I can see how that might not be the best way to do things with a first job, as setting common expectations will avoid disagreements afterwards.
There's a window that needs to be replaced that he never got to. Is this part of this job or will he charge me for a whole new job. The place could use some paint but I didn't want to add it. But since it's by job, why don't I just add it in. That's not even mentioning the fact that the carpets are badly stained, but he doesn't do carpeting. My property manager doesn't think this needs to be replaced, but I doubt the stains will come out. And my air conditioner is going to be $2300.

You see my point. What he did is far from everything that I need done. It doesn't seem like I'll be making any money off of this place, and I wonder if I'll even break even. And who knows what the tenants will do that will require another $1500. It's not like I'm living in this place. I need quick, cheap fixes for some things. By the way, he's been paid, if I wasn't clear. I'm talking about whether I'll continue with the other repairs.

But my main question is, is there a minimum set on what licensed contractors do, or do they usually do it hourly?
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:09 PM   #6
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Contractor price fair or not?


I would have charged that or more for the tile alone.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:12 PM   #7
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Contractor price fair or not?


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Originally Posted by Joba Fett View Post
OP,
Then do it yourself. Your sounding like one of the low-life house flippers.

Little paint...little glue.....some duct, and find a unsuspecting buyer/renter.
Dude, would you mind not taking wild guesses about me. These repairs are a very small part of what needs to be done. I'll be making probably $500 a month max on this place (net), and that's excluding any damage to my place. I'm not even sure it can be rented out the way the carpets are. If I replace them, that's another $3500. I have to calculate this stuff, or I'll go broke doing this.

So, spare me the attitude. Just try to stick to my question.

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I would have charged that or more for the tile alone.
$1500 for tiling 16 square feet?

Okay, better question. Should I even rent this place given the costs and my expected income?

I can cancel the air conditioner (probably) and just leave the place as is. My concern is that I'll be losing big on this endeavor. It could easily take a year to break even on these expenditures, and that's assuming the tenants take it easy on the place.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:40 PM   #8
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Contractor price fair or not?


NO one can tell you what it should of cost by your rant..er...description over the internet.

But...it makes no difference to anyone you hire to do the work, whether or not you are going to make any money on work that they are doing. They still have got to make a living.

Handymen franchises around here (Atlanta) get $90-$125 per hour...do the math. Don't forget material markup if applicable.

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Old 05-10-2008, 03:40 PM   #9
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Contractor price fair or not?


Quote:
Originally Posted by ekle View Post
There's a window that needs to be replaced that he never got to. Is this part of this job or will he charge me for a whole new job. The place could use some paint but I didn't want to add it. But since it's by job, why don't I just add it in.
I don't understand what you're saying. He did some work, told you when he was done how much he was charging you for the work (which sounds very reasonable to me), and you paid him. I don't know what the question of this other work has to do with his price. If he had done more work, he would have charged more for it. But he didn't fix your window, paint your house, or replace your carpets. So of course he will charge you more for that work. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, because it doesn't make sense to me. This "project pricing" that he did is not some random black box. He didn't charge you $1200 for an unknown set of work, he charged you that for exactly what he did.

Quote:
That's not even mentioning the fact that the carpets are badly stained, but he doesn't do carpeting. My property manager doesn't think this needs to be replaced, but I doubt the stains will come out. And my air conditioner is going to be $2300.

You see my point. What he did is far from everything that I need done. It doesn't seem like I'll be making any money off of this place, and I wonder if I'll even break even. And who knows what the tenants will do that will require another $1500.
Sounds like the problem really has nothing to do with this contractor. The problem you're having is that there are too many projects and not enough money (a problem that I can certainly relate to!) Since this is an investment property, you have only yourself to blame for not figuring out what these repairs would cost before you bought it. The contractor doing really reasonably priced work for you is certainly not at fault, and I'd be careful about alienating him with this squabble because you may have a hard time finding someone to do small projects at reasonable prices otherwise.

Last edited by NateHanson; 05-10-2008 at 03:48 PM.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:43 PM   #10
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Contractor price fair or not?


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I don't understand what you're saying. He did some work, told you when he was done how much he was charging you for the work (which sounds very reasonable to me), and you paid him. I don't know what the question of this other work has to do with his price. If he had done more work, he would have charged more for it. But he didn't fix your window, paint your house, or replace your carpets. So of course he will charge you more for that work. Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, because it doesn't make sense to me.

The window was part of the deal. He had trouble finding the part and said he would look into it.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:55 PM   #11
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Well asking us on the internet whether you've prepaid for the window is not really going to answer your question. You need to ask the guy who you paid. I can't imagine he was including work he "would look into" in his bill for the work he had just done for you. In the future, make sure you know what you're paying for when you pay someone.

You're feeling over your head financially with this investment, and you want someone to be mad at IMO. I'd just try to step back, evaluate the finances of your investment, and then make a plan from there. Not renting the place really doesn't sound like an option to me, as that way you'd just be losing money paying a second mortgage with no income to offset it. If you aren't already, I'd get this place advertised, and make sure you can get it rented as quickly as possible. You may even work out with a tenant what work they want done.

Don't worry too much about damage the tenant might do. They're responsible for those costs. Your job is to make sure you document the condition of the apartment at move-in, and have a comprehensive lease/rental agreement signed. The rental business can be good, but it can be a huge headache if done improperly. Make sure you screen your tenants and plan your rental contract more carefully than you've been doing for the rest of this project.
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Old 05-10-2008, 03:58 PM   #12
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Yep, but I would have done up to around 100 SqFt for the same price. If you do not understand this concept, you will never understand contracting.
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Old 05-10-2008, 04:01 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by NateHanson View Post
Well asking us on the internet whether you've prepaid for the window is not really going to answer your question. You need to ask the guy who you paid. I can't imagine he was including work he "would look into" in his bill for the work he had just done for you. In the future, make sure you know what you're paying for when you pay someone.
I know I didn't pre-pay for the window. What I'm saying is I wonder if this would be considered a whole new job (in terms of labor) or a continuation of the previous. There is obviously a difference, the latter probably being much cheaper.

I called the property manager and apologized for questioning her choice. I'll apologize to the contractor too.

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Originally Posted by Tscarborough View Post
Yep, but I would have done up to around 100 SqFt for the same price. If you do not understand this concept, you will never understand contracting.

Yes, I understand this concept. But if I get a quote ahead of time and I understand how the pricing works, I can better decide if I want something else added to the list of tasks. For example, would it have been cost effective to have him do some painting along with everything else. I can't know that if he just gives me a price at the end.
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Old 05-10-2008, 04:08 PM   #14
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Contractor price fair or not?


The term "Contractor" implies that there will be a contract. It can be verbal or written, but to allow anyone to do anything without one is foolish on your part.

To develop a price for a project, a contractor has to have certain things available to him:

Scope of work and specifications, as well as personal observation of the area to be worked upon.

The more complete and through these are, the more accurate and (usually) competitive his price will be. The opposite is also true.
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Old 05-10-2008, 04:12 PM   #15
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The term "Contractor" implies that there will be a contract. It can be verbal or written, but to allow anyone to do anything without one is foolish on your part.

To develop a price for a project, a contractor has to have certain things available to him:

Scope of work and specifications, as well as personal observation of the area to be worked upon.

The more complete and through these are, the more accurate and (usually) competitive his price will be. The opposite is also true.
The only contract we had was verbal in terms of what he would do. No price was discussed (his policy). I never signed anything. In the final itemized list no mention was made of the window we had discussed.

Are you saying he should have provided something more?

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