3 Questions Your Contractor Shouldn't Ask

Leave a Comment - 156



Subject: contract

i recently had a roof replaced. the company was also suppose to fix siding due to wind. they did roof but not siding. when i looked at contract it had no figures or scope of work on my carbon copy however on theirs they filled in costs and scope of work which did not include siding. can they legally add that info to their copy when it is not on mine


Subject: Bids and Ethics

I am not a contractor, but I am a business person who has both given and received many bids. I am pretty shocked by some of the above comments.

1) There is absolutely nothing wrong with getting multiple bids on a project. The point of getting bids is to find out -- all things being equal -- how much it will cost to get the job done. One data point does not tell you that. The "all things being equal" part is really important. If you do your homework and get recommendations and you should already be speaking with good contractors. Your chemistry with the contractor is really important, and a lot comes out in the bid process, and the same goes for whether you see eye-to-eye in term of taste. Some contractors think inexpensive replacement windows are preferable to the originals in an old house. I don't. That's fine, but the one who tries to talk me into those doesn't see the world the way I do and it is probably not the right fit for either of us. Some contractors are more collaborative and creative than others and can come up with solutions you hadn't even thought of and many people very much appreciate contractors like that. Other homeowners and contractors don't want to collaborate and that's fine. All of those factors mean that people like me rarely *just* choose based on price, but based on the bigger picture. Even if people did choose just on price, the whole point of capitalism is that the contractor gets paid what the market will bear for his or her services, and contractors are incentivized to keep prices reasonable. Some are just more efficient than others. Some are in higher demand than others because they've been in business longer and have established a reputation and can charge higher prices and still have plenty of work. If the chemistry is right with someone less established, and the price is a little better, many people might choose to take a little bit of a risk with a lesser-known person or company.

2) There is no universe in which it is ethical for a homeowner to share another contractor's bid. Vague information like, "you didn't get the job because your bid was quite a bit more" is fine as feedback, but to share the other party's written bid -- no. I do not buy the argument that the losing contractor needs this information so he or she can know what suppliers to use or anything else. It's to a contractor's advantage to find the best-priced supplies, and figure out how to do the job efficiently -- just as it's to the homeowner's advantage to find the best price for the same work. It is just plain wrong for a contractor to expect to just be handed the information about suppliers that a competitor worked hard to find.

3) It is also totally unethical for a contractor to share his bid on the same job with another one so that they can keep their prices in line with one another. In fact, it's bid-rigging/price-fixing, a practice that is anti-competitive and illegal, in addition to being unethical.

4) I can't understand why a homeowner would stiff a contractor. That is also wrong and I am shocked that anyone needs to be told that.

5) I am rendered nearly speechless by the concept of a contractor asking a women who else needs to be involved the decision and so can't even begin to imagine what to say about that.

For those contractors who can fill a book of business with only people who do not get other bids -- good for you -- but for homeowners who don't have that sort of a trust relationship with a single contractor and are wondering if you're doing something wrong by meeting with multiple people and getting multiple bids and comparing them and not sharing bids you received with other people competing for the job, just don't let that nonsense influence you. Work with professionals who are reasonable. A reasonable professional will not expect to be the only one bidding on a job and will certainly not expect someone elses' proprietary and hard-earned information to be handed over by you. They won't rig a bid process, and they won't hold it against you if you just feel the chemistry isn't right. Contracting is a business like anything else, and people in business should expect to conduct business on a businesslike basis.

Linea Elken

Subject: What questions a contractor should/shouldn't ask

My Grandfather came to this country around the turn of the 20th century. He came from Norway & knew very little English. He started out as a carpenter, then began contracting his own buildings. His son, who was born here, went pretty much the same route. Grandpa's not being able to grasp the nuances of the English language would never have been able to understand why it's ok to ask a question one way, but not another.

My Uncle had very little education & wasn't the smartest hammer in the kit, but boy! Could he build buildings meant to last for a few hundred years. I'm sure he would not have been able to understand these nuances either.

My suggestion to a potential customer would be to ask why the contractor is asking the questions he is asking. And older people really need to have a trusted younger person with them so that they can understand why the contractor is asking the questions he/she is asking.


Subject: the good contractors don't bid

I think this whole bid thing is bad advice. Start telling people you got 3 bids and all the good contractors will drop out. There is always someone that will say they can do it for less. Hire based on local references.


Subject: Bids

I have been a contractor for 25 years and stand behind every single project. If a potential client tells me that they are getting multiple bids, I ask "do you have a budget in mind" or I will ask them very specific questions to find out if they are playing the bidders war game against my local competitors and myself. I am a very honest person and the guys that work for me are as well. I refuse to work for people I think are only out for the lowest price. Means that they may care about their money but not necessarily about the home or the project they are asking to get done. Money is not everything in this world and over time in this business I have found that, I would rather just do such a good job that I am recommended to their friends and family etc.
Comparison shopping is important but as a consumer myself sometimes, I truly look for the person that is going to work with me and my needs the best or at least I hope they are my best option. I say good luck to any consumer out there looking for a good contractor. There are a lot of guys/gals that say they know what they are doing but truly they have no clue. So my advice to the general public when it comes to contracting people to do projects for themselves is to educate yourself on the type of work you want done first. Have a clear picture in your mind of what you want done. If you do not have the time to do this then you are responsible for the decisions you make and should only kick yourself in the you know what when the project goes downhill.


Subject: BIDS

What wrong with wanting to see what the competition is charging? Some are so hard up they charge 25% of what should be charged. Most clients that are not A-list members are solely interested in price and don't get the opp to read the hundreds of reports some companies have. I personally don't do written estimates, as potential clients just use it as ammo ..... they end up showing everyone what the other companies wrote the job up for so everyone will keep cutting their price ..... I don't play the game. I know my work is far better than any of my competition and my price reflects it.
I personally just recieved my 1000th review and have a 96% A satisfaction rate, and I don't have that many relatives and friends.

Michael Lawson

Subject: Bidding

I can tell from reading the comments, who is and isn't a real contractor. First and foremost, asking to see a bid only occurs for one reason: a customer claims you are way out of whack. I have asked to see a bid just recently when a customer claimed I was not just "high" but obscenely high. I asked to see the bid and they provided it. As it would turn out, the customer had used my bid (the first bidder) as the scope of work for the other two bidders and there was an intentional typo on mine for this very reason. Even though the patio was to be 20x20', I put "200 sq. ft. patio". The other bidders bid as such and I bid a 400 sq. ft. patio- hence the difference in price. The customer was so embarrassed by the revelation that she offered us the job on the spot- we refused. Dealing with a customer without ethics is as bad as dealing with a contractor without them.

As for the other two questions: never ask about being alone; that's absurd. If you are extending them credit, pull a credit report, otherwise it's completely unnecessary; get a small stipend up front to ensure they are serious and are willing to pay.

Edward P Smith

Subject: Bids

I think after a contractor has lost a bid and it has been awarded to someone else it is a nice courtesy to let him see why he lost. Otherwise he will have to continue bidding on jobs, lowering his price $1 at a time until he finds out what the market will bear. It is unfair to him and his employees who are trying to feed their families to keep this information secret after the bidding is over. Didn't he work hard, for free, to put together a bid for you? Unless you are so committed to the race to the bottom that you won't be happy until working people are living in abject poverty you won't participate in pulling people's strings like that.


Subject: Re: "Will anyone else be

Re: "Will anyone else be involved with decisions about the project and payment? I want to be sure not to waste your time, so it would be best if everyone is available at the same time."

Would anyone ever ask this of a man? I'd be unlikely to hire a contractor who questioned my capacity to make decisions without my husband or some other man present.


Subject: anyone else going to be home?

More often than not, if only one of the two homeowners is home, either the husband or wife will disagree with something on the bid.

I (and most contractors) would rather all parties involved be present. Too often I've had signed contracts and deposits in hand and materials ordered only to have the absent party call to change something they didn't like thay was already agreed upon by whomever was at the appointment.

It's not about someone's capacity to make decisions. It's about me wasting my time and resources only to have to change items on the contract and ultimately charging the customer whatever fees I am penalized for because all decision making parties were not present at point of sale.


Subject: Another red flag question

Don't hire a contractor who asks, "How much were you planning to spend?"

Guarantee the bid will come in just under, or over, your budget.

Frank Roberson

Subject: Two points of view on a bid

For homeowners:
Get a total of 5 bids and throw way the 2 low balls, leaving you with the top 3 bids. All things being equal most experienced contractors will come in very near the same prices.

Don't ask your contractor if he will match the lowest bid you received. Why? Because in most cases it will be a bid from a know-nothing. Why in the world would you use a fool's bid as your guide?

For contractors:
Have a system that includes every square inch of the work you are doing. Do your best to use competitive prices and good mathematics when presenting your proposals. Stay away from homeowners that get a nincompoop contractor to give them "pipe dream bid" and then ask you if you will match it. Why in the world would you ever let somebody else set your prices.

For both of you:

It is best to let go of a million dollars' worth of work - at the wrong price - than to accept the job and bring utter misery to both parties, the homeowner and the contractor.


Subject: I manage an apartment

I manage an apartment community, and one of the ways we streamline capital projects is to write the scope ourselves and provide it to all the contractors that are bidding. That way, we know that the bids are apples to apples. I also distrust any bid that rolls everything together: I want to see breakouts of materials and labor, so that I know where the differences are and whether it's something I'm willing to may more for.


Subject: I would not give a detailed bid until contract is signed,

I owned and operated an electrical contracting company In California from 1995- 2005. Beware of Owner Builder that acts as thier own Project manager/ General Contractor. I used to give detailed estimates breaking down materials and labor until I did not get a job and found out that the owner was using my detailed estimate as a blueprint to have his handy man do the job for about 60 to 70 % cheaper than I could do it. The fact that I was Licensed, Insured, Bonded, had a real office and real overhead. business license, workmans comp, liability, advertising, etc.. Not to mention over twenty years experience in the trade. I consider this a blatent rip off that there is no law prohibiting. Ever since I realized this I refuse to give anything other than a Labor Materials Bid until a contract is signed which spells out every single detail of the project.. If the customer objects to this, all you need to do is point out that by law the customer has three days to back out of the contract legally. Another thing to watch out for is a customer who does not want to make progress payments equal to work completed, and wants to pay in the end. They are probably trying to scam you also

Aubrey O. Nabb

Subject: watch out for sub-contractors

The main contractor may sneak in sub-contractors who will do shoddy work, then you are stuck with the end results as the main contractor will back out of liability !!
Get a lawyer to draft a contract that spells out if a sub-contractor does work that the main contractor is liable for faults.

Scott Hedrick

Subject: Looking at other bids

I would be curious after the fact about other bids, because I'd like to know how to improve my own. But I don't need to see other bids before I make my own. I don't need to see other bids in order to figure out how much it will cost me to do a job or how much I should charge. But seeing other bids might show if there was something I forgot or, if there are sufficient details in the other bids, that I am overpaying for something and should look for a new supplier. I want to learn from failure, not rig a bid.


Subject: lowest price vs highest price vs specs

Amazed no one mentions specs in this thread. The way I look at at a bathroom of "x" square feet can be updated anywhere from $6,000 to $20,000 (generally speaking.) It all depends on the type of plumbing, electrical, lighting, flooring, shower, fixtures, windows, wall treatments the home owner wants - basically everything. When homeowners get bids, unless they can present the builder with a detailed spec sheet of what he/she wants or be willing to spend a little on an interior designer (NOT an interior decorator) the bid will include the cost of wildly varied materials. Plumbing pipe can be copper, but it can also be PVC, a homeowner might be happy with a $60 light fixture or a can or two in the ceiling, or they may opt for extra sconces, an ornate lavatory light, cans in the ceiling AND shower, a towel warmer etc - the list is endless (just to reiterate my point.) A homeowner may not have the experience or the acumen to realize what's going on in a bid, so it's not such a terrible idea to share bids - if anything it can spark a discussion of what the finished product will include - the spec list, a part of the contract that's just as important in the long run as the actual price. It can also weed out those contractors that are inexperienced, and those that are not bonded and insured. In the end the cost of a remodel may be what the market can bear or actual cost of labor and materials plus a percentage. Both are fine, as long as the homeowner and the contractor agree. It also helps to remember greed is a human emotion, not a contractor disease, and from my experience I've seen both greedy homeowners and greedy contractors. Personally I'm not very interested in other contractors' bids, but I don't mind if the homeowner decides to share. I may point out the extras I'm including in my cost, or the extras the other are including in theirs. Overall people are great when presented with fairness and a transparent process,and bid sharing is a very tiny part of it.


Subject: Evaltuating bids

I recently installed a backup generator. The first bid for the electrical connection quoted $8000 for the work and was annoyed when I asked how many weeks he intended to take. He added that it was so expensive because he needed to install a concrete pad and I had dual zone air conditioning! I pointed out that there was no need for a concrete pad, and I had the specifications for the generator to prove it, and that he could see in front of his eyes that I had a single zone heat pump. In the end I found a contractor for $3000. I remarked to my wife that I must have "rich and stupid" tattooed on my forehead. As for paying for the materials, I normally prefer to pay for the materials myself, in that way I can assure that top quality materials are used. If you leave it to the contractor he has an incentive to always use the cheapest materials because it directly impacts his bottom line.


Subject: Home Contracting

In the past year I spent about $100,000.00 on home remodeling. I had:
A) Bathroom remodel-complete gut to the studs and all new everything, plumbing, electrical etc
B) Kitchen remodel-complete gut to the studs, new appliances, new electrical, new cabinets, countertop, floor etc
C) New carpet through out the entire house
D) New exterior siding over the entire house, demolition of the old back deck and new expanded deck using pressure treated lumber
E) new entry doors, windows
I researched each and every contractor I asked to bid on a specific job. I used the BBB, looked at how long in business, what they presented to do to accomplish my goals. I was upfront and told each one that price was a concern, but quality of the finished product was the most important. I am very happy to report that each contractor performed expertly. I am very pleased with the results. One contractor asked for 50% down, this was a red flag. The contractors who did the work either took 10% down, and pay as we go, or the exterior company, took 10% down and the balance on completion (if I was satisfied). I put down $3600 on a $36,000.00 job and paid the balance once my punch list was satisfied. Do you homework before and you won't be sorry on the back end.

Richard Baker

Subject: bidding

I have been on both sides of industrial sized projects and I told several secretaries the secret to a quality, but reasonably priced project is to write down your finished expectations, separate materials cost from labor and always get 3 bids. You advise the contractor that you are going to with the bid that is closest to but less than the average of the high and low bid, Sixteen times this has been done and no unhappy customers.


Subject: The only time I've shared a

The only time I've shared a bid in the past was when I knew I'd alreday ruled out that particular contractor. I got 3 bids on a house project, & 1 contractor asked why he hadn't gotten the job & I told him he was more than 30% higher than the other 2. He asked to re-bid saying he could match it, but I don't go down that road & told him I'd already awarded the job. He actually asked me who had gotten the contract, but no way was I going to tell him that !!

Safe repair and sales Lock


When you're letting a stranger in to work on your home, be sure they don't ask suspicious questions. Know what to look out for with these hints from Angie's List.

Dave Kollman


I sure wish that I'd known about Angies List 4 years ago. I went to an auto restorer called M&M innovations and was totally scammed. It's a shame that after discussing a deal, it can't be sealed with a handshake. I guess I'm living in the old days where a handshake meant something!



I've been in business for 25 yrs. and its not just contractors who are scam artists, untrustworthy, or unreasonable. I've been stiffed by clients but only a few times. I ask for a non refundable deposit to avoid this. The deposit is taken off the final bill and anyone who is sincers about not ripping me off will understand this. There are con artists on BOTH sides of the fence.
I also ask about others estimates because I try my best to work within client's budgets. Mine is a cleaning service so there arent really any materials for them to pay for, mainly labor. I never try to be the lowest bidder. My price is my price and if its too high for the clients wallet I do my best to make it fit by custom tayloring a service plan.
However, there ARE some people who you just can't make happy. I avoid them at all costs, let the rookie have them.



I would love to have anyone of those contractors that i see on the HGTV shows or DIY. I doubt that they exist...they are in front of a camera so they have to behave.

Kelly franics


I,as a Contractor,ALWAYS ask for a down payment before starting any work. Ive been 'shafted' before by Customers,who,after I start my work,decide they can do the job themselves....then Ive lost 3-5 days work for nothing? A deposit keeps everyone ' on the level'.



I don't want to know nor do i care about the competitions pricing. I sell my company and the quality products and services we provide. If the projected is complicated or has many phases, I will ask for a copy of other proposals with the name of the contractor and the price blacked out. I don't bid, I sell.



As a contractor, I am of course concerned how payments will be made, but of course, that's what a "Contract" is for. It's hit and miss, and often I end up going with my gut. The best thing to do, I've found, is to clarify my rates up front, make sure I communicate effectively with both homeowners (husband & wife, partner etc) and then include what I will and will not be providing in my proposal. I'm not particularly concerned if someone is married, widowed or divorced either. My primary goal is to find out what the customer/potential customer wants, present what I can do in the best light I can, then generate a proposal that reflects all these elements. Trust me, customers are not shy about telling me what they want to spend...



Comments should be in order by date if at all possible going forward. Follow up to my new roof from hail storm situation. Thanks Khess, I shared the claims adjuster report with the contractor who claimed he "needed it in advance". He came in over $500 in price than the claims adjuster report. (I had told him in our first conversation I had a $500 deductible). He had clearly copied by line item the exact information from the report and changed around a few prices to be inconspicuous. When I told him he was not hired and why, he said “I’m the one that got your new roof approved” (which was not true, I’d talked to my insurance company and the adjuster had been out there before I got any estimates. I’m so glad I didn’t choose him. I received the insurance check and hired the other guy willing to do his own estimate, not the one who clearly copied the insurance claims adjuster report. I did share the claims adjuster report with the hired guy after I received his estimate and I have a little left over to get some other work done by him.



But what do you think of the contractors who give you one estimate then comes back later and say well that estimator is no longer with the company and he gave you the wrong estimate, this is now the price you will be charged, I smell a bad contractor.

b c


I've had a wide range of contractor experiences, including workmen would wouldn't listen to me, the wife. I finally told one workman that if he didn't do what I asked (all in scope of work), instead of going to my husband, he could pack his tools and leave. He said he wouldn't take direction from me, went to my husband and SURPRISE!! Got told to pack his tools and leave. If a workman can't work with me, we dont' hire them.



Thanks very much for this. It always bugs me when contractors ask if I'm married -- that's none of their business! I always compliment a contractor who instead asks if there are any other homeowners involved in the decision. I can't wait until more contractors catch on! It doesn't just make me feel safer, it's more polite!

Mike Cooper


always a goood idea to explain your intentions and to educate both parties. Comfort is power. I find I can never cover all the bases to win a bid. Most folks will win a bid and it wont be because of price. Its good business to make you potential client feel good about both parties intent. And yes some potential clients are not worthy of good service. Do whats right and explain you will be off the hook.



We recently had new patio doors installed. One vendor insisted that both husband and wife be present for the salesman's visit, which was an initial turn-off. But we went along with their request and the salesman subsequently explained that they had run into issues in the past when one spouse made all the arrangements and signed the contract, but left the other spouse in the dark about key details, cost, etc.. This caused issues for the company when they showed up to install the doors or windows, or after installation when payment was due. For those who feel insulted by this request, realize that contractors need to protect themselves from customers at times, just as customers need to protect themselves from contractors sometimes. (BTW, we used this contractor and have been happy with our decision.)



We had a HORRIBLE experience 2 years ago. Needed a new roof & minor work done due to ice storm damage. Instead of doing our research & full due diligence, we took 2 bids and went with the guy who offered us the "deal" if we signed with him that day. Two months later, the work was done (thank Jeebus we were at home daily), a sub-contractor threatened to take a lien out on our house, the "contractor" was in jail and there's no way in he## that we'll ever get any kind of "warranty" on our home if anything goes wrong. We were inexperienced and just plain STOOPID. If it weren't for having some insurance money to help cover costs, we would've had a very expensive, rather than embarrasing, lesson. By the way, Angie's List is fairly new in our area, so we weren't able to get any valuable information from here.

B Williams


As a kitchen and bath designer/contractor I always asked about budget ranges, pictures of what the client wanted, who were the decision makers and how payment would be made (deposit and percentage of completion incremental payments were part of my terms). When there is open and frank conversation about these matters the project progresses on schedule. I also found it was important to clarify who would be giving day-to-day instruction. Nothing's worse than one spouse directing something and the other countermanding. Then, who pays the cost of correction? We're in business. Most of us intend to do everything we can to deliver a professional product to a satisfied customer. It's all about clear communication and honesty.



At the settlement of our first home, my husband was called out of the room and unbeknownst to me, was instructed by our agent to work out a deal with the sellers to split the cost of a new roof. I had no knowledge of this until everything was signed. My husband didn't know that we were entitled to a new roof and that this was really against the law. I was livid. For my first foray into home improvement I went to the tile store with the amount of tiles I wanted to install to a small section around our fireplace. I felt that I had measured correctly and had a list of other items needed. The salesperson told me I had done it all wrong and punched up several numbers on his calculator and gave me the "correct" amount of tiles needed. My first choice of tiles would have made this unaffordable, so I went with a cheaper tile that was just O.K. When I was done I had leftover tile, grout, etc. The job was actually completed with the exact amount of tile I had originally measured for. This was it for me. I was done. So when my husband asked me to contact a pool company for an estimate, the first question the salesman asked was " Will your husband be home." I told him that I would be making the decision and writing him the check. He told me he would only come out if my husband was there. We never did get the pool. This is not an isolated incident as you can see by these posts, and it is still going on. I have had wonderful rapport with several professionals at my home but have had some workers who were downright rude and patronizing. I chose one plumber over another because the first one did not want to follow the specs and move the pipes in a bathroom remodel, so I chose someone else. The first plumber then contacted the township and said that my plumber was not licensed (which he was), thus holding up my job. This isn't even half of the problems I've had do deal with because my husband was not home at the time, and I have many friends who have experienced this. I will stick only with past contractors and independent workers who have been honest and respectful of my input. In fact we usually only hire workers who have been recommended by contractors we already know or have been recommended by friends or Angies List. I also recently had an experience with a chimney repair. The first estimate (from a franchise)said "chimney repair $1,900. The second had everything listed, itemized by stages to be done, the products and sizes of the products to be used, start and finish date and warranties. The first looked up at the chimney top and gave me his estimate. The second man went on the roof and took pictures of the damage, showed them to me, and then made his estimate. Both were for exactly the same price. The second company did a great job. I check out everyone I hire (several different ways) before I even call them and I will share bid information after I have received them all, if warranted. I don't feel that it's necessary to show them right away. I also do not give out any financial information. When they give me their estimate I tell them if I can't afford it, and that pretty much ends that conversation. I then decide if we can afford part of the estimate, like having a tree trimmed back instead of removing, or having some of the work done now and some at a later date. We've never been asked "how" we're going to pay, The estimate states the amounts and dates, and we sign it, knowing when the money is due. We never get to ask them to see their bank statements or ask if they have paid their employees on time. Both spouses being home does not guarantee that all information will be remembered. Everybody has questions after the meeting is over. Some contractors, unfortunately, dont get that while the husband tells you the project is a "go", they still have to pry the checkbook out of their wifes hands to get the work started. All kidding aside, A fair price from an honest contractor is all everyone is looking for.



I agree with CJS -- something I would like to see discussed on Angie's List . . . giving the keys to your "castle" to virtual strangers --



Very good discussion here. When we had reroofing done,we got 4 or 5 estimates/ The lowest came from a company wth a fine reputation installing the kind of roof we wanted. Another bidder asked if he could see that bid because he didn't know how the job could be done for that price. He admitted I had a good deal but his partner piped up that you should always throw out the lowest and highest bids and take one in the middle! Theirs of course. What a jerk! I was supposed to turn down the low bid by an excellent contractor because of some dumb RULE about choosing the middle price? I also agree that "What is your budget?" and "How much do you want to spend?" are annoying questions. I walked out on a kitchen remodeling outfit when the saleswoman kept answering my inquires about what these cabinets or this countertop material cost with, "What is your BUDGET?" The only proper answer to my questions were dollar figures or per sf figures, but figures.



I've never known anyone to ask questions like that.
I do know we'll ask if both spouses will be home- because the one won't remember everything to ask or what was told- better to go to a call with both present.
Don't need to ask to see other bids- customers will show them w/o asking, can you beat this?.
We'll ask how you'll be paying- the work is COD unless you ask for other arrangements beforehand, we're not a bank or credit card co.



Had a fellow replace a window. Price was fair. When he was done asked for a recipt. "Oh No" he said. I'm doing this off the books. I will use him no more! TK

Daniel McMillen


If the contractor wants all of the decision makers available, one way to do that if distance is an issue is to ask them if they use Skype. My wife and I bought a tankless water heater because a contractor was willing to try something new and use skype to talk to me in Afghanistan after talking to my wife. I was the one who did the research and had the questions. My wife was the one on the property who would be putting up with the workers - we both had an active interest in the project.



Sounds like one very offensive window company that hit every single thing, and then had the audacity to repeatedly call back with special offers, rebates and other forms of pressure. I gave them an F on Angies List and discovered other members had the same awful experience.



I am a contractor and I do ask to see other competitors bids after I have presented my own. Most customers will offer the bids from the other contractors once I have indicated that I don't need to see the name of the contractor or the final price of their estimate. I inform them that what I really want to know is that we are bidding spec for spec. (apples to apples so to speak). I recently bid a project, with a very detailed estimate for 56k. I lost it to a company that bid the job for 36k. Was it the same project? Not hardly. The customer regrets now not hiring me or showing me the other contractors estimate so I could point out the differences. Just because someone "says" they are going to do a job a certain way doesn't mean didly until you see it in writing.



I run from any contractor who, prior to bidding, asks if I will be paying cash.



hmm, i guess i should stop asking the cute ladies if they are single...

Vicki Looney


Outstanding info on communication. So essential to ask directly for what you need to know. Beating around the bush only makes a client think you don't know what you're doing.



Why aren't these comments in order by date? Makes it hard to read. Anyway, I've had a hard time choosing an electrician to work on my home. I got 4 bids and they were as much as $450 in difference from the highest to the lowest. There are certainly other factors that came into play when I had to make a choice. And HE will be doing the work this Friday. It is certainly not about the lowest bid for me. I've spent almost $30,000 on remodeling since Sept 2010, and I -know- how to choose a contractor.



Some yrs back I contacted a Window Replacement company in Roanoke Va about replacing my windows with the new insulated double pane windows. The very first phone contact they said... How much were you wanting to spend? I said, well I have X numbers of windows, etc... how much is it? They said they couldn't give me a price over the phone. So I said..that's why I contacted you for an estimate. They finally agreed to come, then when they gave me the price... I said... Yes...I want this done. They replied HOW do I know you have the money to pay me? Then they said...How much do you have.... How do I know you will pay me.... blah...blah...

Rick Three Bears


Good point! I am a small contractor and I know how vulnerable older, widowed and single people feel. I always respect their privacy and offer to send my verifiable information before I show up.



@Mike, if the contractor wants you to purchase your own supplies, this is a bonus sometimes in that if you’ve paid for the supplies, then there will be no mechanics lien placed on your home for the contractor not paying the supplier.

George Butel


Another flag should be how insistent they are about "needing" to have your house key. My insurance company in Texas, on its burglary claim form, asks for the names and addresses of ANY contractors or repair people who have been in or around the premises prior to the burglary. That should tell you something about the reputation of contractors in general. If they must have a key, have one lock that is different, and give them that key, and change that particular lock before they use it and then back to the original lock when their work is finished. You have to assume that they will have your key copied. I have recently switched to Schlage's rekeyable locks--rekeyable while they are still in the door--to change the key temporarily. Assume the worst.



I hate when contractors say " this is what the other contractors are going to tell you" or show me items other than what i requested



As a licensed female contractor, I do my due diligence and educate my clients on my products and set their expectations up front. That way when they are speaking with other contractors, they already know what can and cannot be done in their home. Too many contractors promise clients the moon, just to get the job. Once they begin work, the homeowner remembers what I told them and unfortunately become disappointed. It is nerve racking for me to see all of these contractors underbid jobs and then they give the client so many change orders, that the client ends up paying more than I originally quoted them. On another note, If I know that a homeowner already has 3 or more bids, I usually will not waste my time going out to their home because they are typically looking for the best price vs. the best quality. Contractors do need to be more diligent in pre-qualifying customers because a lot of customers run out of money or refuse to pay in the end. I have not had that problem, however, I know quite a few that have.
A client - contractor relationship should be a pleasant one. There should be open communication and understanding. There should also be mutual trust.



As a homeowner, I find it extremely frustrating to have certain questions asked by contractors such as "what do you do for a living?" and "what's your budget"? While the contractor might have legitimate reasons for asking the latter question, as a homeowner, just give me your best price for the work involved that we’ve just discussed. I'm not going to barter with you. I don't have the time for that nonsense. As far as knowing what I do for a living, why do you need to know that? If I say I'm a doctor or a lawyer, are you going to jack up the price? If I say I'm a janitor, will you reduce the price? I had four window companies come to give me bids. Each of the four salespersons asked me that same question. I stated that I did not care to disclose that. I don't think I should have been put in a position to have to comment at all in the first place. One of the salespersons got indignant with me when I did not disclose this non-essential information. Later, when measuring my window space, she saw one of my framed degrees sitting on the floor in one of the rooms, leaned over, read the degree and commented on the university. But an undergraduate degree in business management didn’t tell her a thing. Contractors, your curiosity does not trump my privacy. And don't call me, I'll call you if I'm interested in you doing the work.



What's with some of the workers or contractors refusing to listen or to follow instructions from a woman hiring them? Do they think our physical parts create a mental block of some sort? How incredibly bigoted! And STUPID - we have money too guys!



To be sure you are getting apples to apples bids, it pays to research your job and write a Request for Quote yourself so each contractor understands in writing what you want or, for a big job, hire someone to spec the job materials and time for you with the understanding you will pay for their time but they are not eligible for the job. Then insist that each contractor write all bids on your form. They can add, if they see gaps -- which would give your consultant something in writing to check out for you. Use the same consultant to check up on the contractor along the way.







What an absolutely great article!!!!! I hope every senior reads it! I think you should run this article several times a year - especially in the Spring.



I also had a company who would not come to quote gutters unless my husband was present. He said "My experience is that if the husband isn't there we have to come and reexplain everything anyhow so it's just a waste of our time." I was the one making the contractor decisions, however, and I certainly didn't pick them!

Tim Gore


Gore Development is a general building and engineering contractor licenced in the State of California with 25 years of experience.

The three questions should never be asked of a client. Basic Contracting 101 would advise the contractor to meet the client, let them do the talking and learn what they want to accomplish.

Any contractor who asks these questions at their first meeting will cast in stone his fate.

Very stupid questions to ask a potential client.

Dannie Queue


Our homebuilding contractor would listen to me, the wife, but the workmen would not. For example, I found them putting in long, narrow window holes on either side of a doorway and told them that we didn't want those, they were not in the plans, and that a double door was going in there, not a single door with side lights. After I left for work, they put them in anyway. My husband couldn't speak to them because he doesn't speak Spanish and I do. I would tell the workmen something and they would go right to my husband to ask if it was right. I've had other contractors and workmen do the same. Several had their bids turned down because they acted as if the wife didn't exist. Heads up, contractors.



I loved the article and found it valuable. Maybe all of us aren't as sharp or witty as CJS professes to be, so we folks found the article very informative!

K Hess


CLT that is a common scheme. The guy wants the same value as the insurance check. PICK SOMEONE ELSE!

Martha Prothro


I find that it saves time and confusion for me to explain my decision making role before the contractor asks. I am divorced but my brother lives in the home I own and helps with expenses. I have a higher income than he does and I own the home, free of any mortgage or liens. Explaining this in the beginning really helps in the bid process. However, once work begins, the workers almost always ask for my brother's opinions or approval on choices they make. He now knows to tell them to come to me with their questions unless he and I have already discussed the matter and he knows what I would say. I do believe that the home improvement industry generally is behind the times in terms of respecting women's roles. It's gradually improving.



Vey useful, I know they shouldn't ask, but it's good to know my instincts are correct.

Mary Colletti


A contractor who came highly recommended by a friend, also a contractor, asked me what I expected to spend. Didn't like the question - what if I gave a number that was more than it was worth. I have no idea how much it will cost, that's why I'm getting estimates.



I share bids - as the homeowner, I have nothing to hide.

But, I DO redacted the other contractors information (company name, phone, etc.) from the photocopy I provide the competitor.



I like the idea of showing everyone the bids at end. Bids on painting my house ranged from $3500 to $11,800. I may just do this.

A C Metcalf


This is VERY good info. I am very wary about whom I let into the house and would certainly be on guard about some of the questions you pose. Thanks a lot.



It is important to get detailed quotes in writing and signed. Be sure that each quote includes the same details including clean up haul away if necessary otherwise how can you compare



This reminds me of a contractor years ago when I was having windows replaced. I was working from home, and my wife was VP of her company. I talked with the reps and gathered info; wife and I then talked about it and made a decision. One contractor came to talk, but then refused to discuss the project unless wife was present also. Guess who didn't get the job and was never invited to bid on anything else? Instead we found a wonderful contractor who understood that some people have more important things to do than stay home to wait for a sales pitch. The guy who got the job subsequently did many other jobs for us.



I have had great success with Angie's List and I can tell you that I think that the first two items are no brainers! I do feel that sometimes it is worth sharing other quotes, as long as it is not prior to the contractor generating his own bid based upon his knowledge of the work proposed. Once all of the bids have been reviewed, you can either qualify or disqualify a bid, and sometimes there is good reason for a difference in price. "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price has been forgotten" Benjamin Franklin



I've had hail damage and had a new roof recommended by the claims adjuster. I called 3 roofers, one of them wants to see the claims adjuster's report. The other 2 didn't ask that. They all give free estimates, the one who wants to see the report didn't even give his estimate, says he bases it on the report? My house is 10 years old, I've never filed a claim or hired a contracter. Please give some feedback anyone that has had this experience. Thank you.



most homeowners get in trouble with their home projects because they hire unlicensed workers or contractors, or dont check licensing at all. And resist the urge to hire the lowest bid. There are 2 sayings you should consider: "the price may be low because the product has little value, and cant be sold for more", and "you get what you pay for". And if the person you hire wants you to supply the materials, thats a red flag suggesting he has no good credit, or funds to purchase the product.
use your head when buying, and forget the Walmart strategy of hunting the lowest price- doesn't work for most home improvement products.



I have been in the process of getting quotes for replacing my roof and have found it quite a learning experience. What puzzles me the most on how the number of square needed for the project differs by as much as 22 square. That is alot of shingles to be charged for both material and labor, especially when you are using a shingle the costs $200 a square. My feeling is the additional shingles would never be delivered as I think these dishonest contractors think you will not count the bundles when they arrive a t your house. Also, I have been amazed at the fact these contractors do ask the price of the other quotes...and not for the fact of measuring apples with apples.



Both the homeowner and the contractor should qualify each other so both have a realistic idea of the projects cost / value. Homeowners should always get 3 bids before making a decision if time allows. This gives the homeowner some idea of what 3 different contractors thinks this project should cost. For me, I will gladly furnish a free bid and backup what I have quoted. I then always ask if I might review the other bids for future reference. It allows me to be more competitive for future work. I would never ask to review bids until I have submitted mine. Also if you live in a home built prior to 1978 ask for the contractor to show proof he has completed the requirements to work on houses of this time period due to possible lead paint issues. Never pay before work is completed but a small deposit is acceptable and if the contractor accepts bankcards, put the deposit on it. Spend a little time checking references and if it is a large job go visit his past work (room additions, etc). Check state licenses and call the local building inspection department and ask about the contractor. On smaller projects use your gut and don't always accept the lowest bid. I used to work for a lot of doctors in my younger days and their biggest peeve was being over-charged because they were doctors. I charge what the job is worth to me so I cover all my cost and a make a profit. Remember the contractor needs to make a profit, but they don't need to retire off of your job. Be careful in a down economy because many people are attempting to be contractors and sub-contractors and they want the homeowner to pay for their learning. Used only experienced, qualified people. My old catch phrase was....Qualified Professional Remodeler....also www.nari.org is a good place to check on contractors....Good Luck and Good Results....JRC



As an architect with 40 years experience, I would bring these thoughts to the table. If the owner does not have written specifications and/or drawings of the proposed work to be done, then every contractor's bid will vary according to what the owner has verbally described to them as the scope of work. So the contractor and his or her subcontractors may spend a lot of time preparing a proposal and the owner will then be comparing apples to oranges to kiwi fruit and really doing a disservice to everyong involved but mostly to themselves.

Good clear, honest communication is what it is all about.



Though I understand that a potential contractor wants to avoid wasting time and present to all decision makers at one time, my husband works out of town 100% and I am the primary decision maker and handle all the finances in our family. (I'm a CPA, so it makes sense). Our initial favorite choice for a contractor flat refused to come out or to even discuss a project with me without my husband being present. He refused to listen that my husband was not in any way involved in the decision, or the payment, which was to be in cash by the way. How offensive that their stated policy was not to present to the "little woman" but they would happily present to the HUSBAND alone! So we went with another contractor whom I told that I was single. Yes, Contractor #1 avoided "wasting his time" but also refused to listen to facts and lost a big lucrative renovation. Just sayin'



Agree with CJS.

The article assumes many people are simply out to waste contractors' time after they've let them into their home. Likely good contractors/salespeople can size up serious customers rather quickly by what they see, etc. Too often customers are sold into hasty decisions.

Good contractors work with their customers and good customers work with their contractors.

Angie's List owes its customers, purchasers of services, better than this article.

Tom D


There's a problem with all these homeowners saying, "never share any info on bids with other contractors." The problem is that almost no homeowners are qualified to fully assess the bids/proposals for completeness, detail, code compliance, etc. At the same time, there are quite a few "contractors" out there who don't know what they don't know - they're idiots.

An alternative approach would be to tell all the bidders that all the bids/proposals will be shared with all the bidders. The clueless or shoddy low-bidders will say, "them other guys are just ripping you off - you don't need permits or that other extra stuff...." and the knowledgeable, good-quality bidders can point out all the holes in the low bids.



#3. Could you pay $??.?? in advance to get started?. That says the contractor is in solvent and has eather NO CREDIT at the supply houses he deals with or is BROKE, OR both .. No matter what a BAD , BAD thinf any way you look at it

Jim Richards

Subject: Payment

I am an HVAC/R contractor. When I show up on the job site with the equipment, half of the contract price is due before it is unloaded from the trailer. Upon complete installation of equipment, but prior to inspection, 1/2 of the remaining balance is due. And upon approved inspection the remaining balance is due. (unless of course the job has been financed).
This is pretty much standard for my area, since once I set the equipment and tie it to the structure, I can not remove it if you will not/can not pay. I have to go to court, etc etc.

Dealing with folks who really don't know their options; ie. their furnace is broke beyond reasonable repair costs. I usually give them good, better and best as options for replacement, and explain the differences, benefits and drawbacks to each one as compared to others.

And since I do not advertise, other than if I am somewhere and strike up a conversation, I might give out a card, almost my customers are referrals from satisfied customers.



My wife and I recently started getting bids on replacing our driveway and patio with plain and decorative cement. I asked for a copy of their insurance and their license. The guy gladly handed over insurance information and then told me he wasn't 'licensed' because there is no license requirement for his profession in Indiana. Sure enough, I called the Clerk's office who referred me to the Indiana Attorney General who referred me to the Secretary of State who sent me back to the Attorney General. But bottom line, the guy was right. No licensing in this state unless you're a contractor.

Joe Whitehead

Subject: Insurance and licensing

Well to be honest: If they can't get insurance (or finance a bond), then I certainly don't care if they have a license or not. Insurance companies don't like to put good money after bad.

Joe Whitehead

Subject: Well to be honest: If they

Well to be honest: If they can't get insurance (or finance a bond), then I certainly don't care if they have a license or not. Insurance companies don't like to put good money after bad.

Laurie Loving


Good article. I asked a contractor for references. His reply? "That would be an invasion of their privacy."



I wonder if men who contact a contractor are always asked if their wife will be there? In our family, I'm more knowledgeable about home repair issues than my husband and play the lead role in soliciting and evaluating bids and such. Both our schedules are very tight and trying to get us both home during business hours to meet with a contractor is almost impossible. It feels discriminatory when a contractor insists that my husband has to be there.
The times I'm most suspicious are when the contact has been initiated by the contractor - working from a contact list or previous customer list or something wanting to give us a quote. Then it makes me suspect they're going to be the type who try to get me to sign on that day - to take advantages of some special deal that won't be available if we wait longer. That is always a big red flag.


Subject: Today Only Specials

Oh I so agree with you. They want the wife there so they can offer that today only price. They don't want to hear "I have to talk it over with the Mrs." LOL On a related topic, I was getting windows and called in four companies to bid on the work. UP FRONT, I told them I was seeking multiple bids and they would only get one shot so they should give me their best bid. And yet some either gave me the today only story or said they would beat any bid or both. Gosh I hated that. Needless to say, none of those contractors got the work, regardless of their price.



Contractors should know that homeowners do not always choose the lowest bid. We talked to three painting companies about painting our house, and we chose the middle bid, which was significantly higher than the lowest, because they SHOWED UP IN PAINTING CLOTHES. This made a huge impression; it meant that all of our money was going to go directly to people who would be doing the work. The lowest bidders were planning on painting latex over oil paint, which seemed like a bad idea. AND I was happy to pay a bit more to know that the people working on our house would be paid fairly for doing a good job. They did great work, and we were happy to pay them well for a good job.

maura lindsay


My husband is a busy professional and I take care of all contracting of renovations and remodels to our homes. I have done major projects in 5 homes over the last 12 years. One very common question, and my personal favorite, is " What does your husband do for a living?". Do contractors not understand how obvious their question is to customers? REally! If you are bidding based on your costs and a fair mark up then there is no need to know how much my husband makes, or in other words, how much you can possibly mark up the project.


Subject: 100% customer Satisfaction

been a contractor for many years now,and i always ask what the person im potentially working for does for a living. 95% of my work is insurance funded. So when it comes to price, what he or she or both may do for a living does not matter at all. But being able to know my customer is very important to me so i ask many questions that have nothing to do with the job but instead with the persons i will be working with hand in hand.


Subject: Other reasons

They are more likely asking the question to determine how much he might know about construction/repairs/remodeling/etc., if he's blue collar, and how much of a type A personality he is.



I definitely learned the hard way not to just go with the cheap bid. Cheap rubber roof one year combined with disappearing roofer = not-so-cheap new roof two years later. No money saved. No recourse. I hadn't verified his alleged contractor license #. Live and learn.



Ruth - great response. The need to communicate effectively falls on both parties in a transaction. There is nothing wrong with asking why someone wants certain information, or any question to illuminate something that you don't understand. Just because you are doing business with someone and they do something for a living doesn't mean that they can read your mind and know your questions or concerns before you voice them.



This is a ridiculous article.

Perhaps they should have included that your contractor shouldn't ask "Can you take your pants off?" and "What is the PIN to your ATM card?".

Other than to drive traffic with a catchy title, I don't see the point of this article.



Take three bids and cheap guy gets the job is not always the best way to select your contractor. As a professional roofer we are often underbid by "Cheap Charlie" . We hear it often, "We want to use your company but your bid was much higher" . If they really want to use our company I would think it would be fair to compare "apples to apples" with the lower bids. You can always find the cheap guy but just remember, you get what you pay for. Lots of ways to cut corners on a roofing installation. Do you want a corner cutting roof installed over your head, protecting your most valuable asset? My price is higher but there is good reason for it--we don't take shortcuts.



Any time a customer or contractor asks an "odd" question, it's appropriate to say. "Why do you ask?" or "What do you mean?" It's crucial that each understands the other at the outset, no matter how many questions it takes.



What nonsense. I share bid prices with contractors because (1) I want the best price (2) no use wasting their time preparing a bid if they know they cannot be competitive. I think it is rude to do otherwise. Besides, there are on-line forums where contractors share names and information about customers only interested in low prices. And contractors talk all the time about customers who do them wrong. You are just setting yourself up in the future.

Frank Mondana

Subject: Then you enjoy getting ripped

Then you enjoy getting ripped off. Hell, if you make it known that you do this, some of the bidders may get together and work the situation. I've been in construction estimating for 18 years and have never come across a case where bids are shared. In many states in can even be illegal.



I would agree 100% that a contractor that asks to see a competitive bid prior to giving the homeowner is really sending out the wrong message. I have asked to sit down and compare bids to make sure the customer is getting an apples to apples comparison and the majority of the time they aren’t. The one gentleman that likes to share the low bid with his preferred contractor and ask them to match it, I think is being very selfish and unfair to the preferred contractor. You most likely preferred them because of how they worked with you, their level of knowledge etc. and now you’re asking them to match the price of someone who didn’t leave you with that same feeling.



I was taught many decades ago that in the world of marketing or selling, that we are "architects of words", and that our success is predicated on what we say and how we say it. This article clearly points out contractors who have not yet learned how to use words to sell their services.



I would agree that asking "what the other BIDS are before giving you mine" is the sign of a DIShonest contractor. So what if it's not a sealed BID process? It is still wanting to know what others have figured out before taking the time to do your own homework! Yes, this is probably the same person that cheated in school!



I would be concerned if a contractor asked to see the other bids BEFORE giving his own - that smells like he's just going to undercut whatever lowest bid you already have, and I'd be worried he might cut whatever corners necessary to do it. On the other hand, if he gives an independent bid that isn't the lowest, THEN you might share the other bids with him; maybe there's a reason. Maybe this guy was assuming more expensive materials than you really had in mind, or maybe the OTHER guy is cutting some corners. I had two bids recently, and when I expressed sticker-shock at the price on the second one, he asked about my other bids. I told him what the first guy had quoted; the second one said he couldn't even buy the materials wholesale for what the first guy quoted on the entire job, which made me wonder what the first guy was up to.

Also agree with C Cox; whether you pay cash or finance makes no difference, the builder has his money either way. Insist on a thorough, independent inspection before taking possession, or better yet, before making the final payment to the builder.


Subject: Undercut?

It would never occur to me to think that a contractor asking to see the other bids, before presenting his own, is angling for a way to UNDERcut. Seems far more likely to me that he'd be looking for the angle to maximize his profit. "Hmm, I can do this for $500 in materials and eight hours of labor - my bare minimum cost would be $800, but how much will this client pay? Can I charge $1000 instead? Can I bump it up to $1500? If someone else is offering to do it for $1300, I could set my bid at $1200 - the client thinks s/he's saving $100 but I'm actually making $400 extra profit."

Sharing information is well and good. Sharing pricing information, especially before the asker has submitted his own estimate/bid, is dicey.


Subject: Angies's list and commentaries

The fact that your second contractor said he couldn't even buy the materials at the first contractor's price doesn't mean that is actually true. Before engaging in a renovation, remodel, replacement it would be good to choose what products you want installed and what they cost including installation costs. This info is on the internet for many products. To know whether a contractor is in the ballpark for the work he bids on, it may be worthwhile to look up in one of the Mean's estimating handbooks. Even if that may not result in the exact price, it will inform of the magnitude or price region into which the work falls. Thereafter, talk to the contractors, ask them how they will go about solving some of the trickier aspects of your projects to find out if they actually know what they are talking about. A good idea is to specify what products you want and make it clear that you will not accept substitutes without your express authorization. Otherwise contractors will substitute with products that are similar but may not be as good as what you chose, but on which they get a higher contractor's discount. It is also a good idea to make a drawing, even a hand sketch, of what the outcome should be. Like that you know you are talking about the same thing with the contractor. From the contractor's standpoint it is often difficult to guess exactly what the client had in mind and it leads to dissonances if the final outcome doesn't match the inner image of the client. Always ask if there are any difficulties with what you want done or if the contractor has a better way to suggest. By doing this with a number of contractors to get a choice of prices, you will learn a lot about what your project actually takes to build.



Will everyone agree that poop does not run up hill?
The contractor who installed my septic tanks did! Worse, the COUNTY inspector agreed with him and passed the job. The whole system installation was against code,state and county!We had to have his system completely pulled out and a new system installed.At this point we found out it was not the system we purchased to start with.Let me tell you, going to court over poop is not fun!!



Very Well Put Kevin Klepper!!I'm glad to see that I am not the only one that wants to qualify potential customers.I'm not trying to be funny, but some people can not afford the pictures that they see in their minds.All I'm trying to do is help the customer get the best for what they can afford



Great article, thanks! As much as the contractor wants to qualify ME, I ask certain questions and expect certain things to come of the visit to qualify THEM to do the work! It most certainly goes both ways and is empowering. For example, I had a bidder on a 2 bath remodel job give me a quote. Why didn't I use him over another? Not because he was the highest quote, but because he failed MY qualifying tests. He had no need to peek into the crawlspace when I asked him if he wanted to see it, and he didn't spend more than ONE minute reviewing the 2 already demo'd baths. Also he didn't offer any suggestions about materials to be used or asked me what I planned. I am very happy with the company that is doing the work. The other guy was a disappointment at the bid process!



What's this whole 'sharing bids is dishonest' nonsense? You aren't a municipality going through a SEALED BID process, you are just a home owner trying to get the best deal. If I like a particular contractor but his bid is not the lowest, I will ALWAYS share the lowest bid with him and ask if he can match it. That way I get the best guys at the best values. And if he can't match it, I know the other guy might be cutting corners.
Do whatever saves you money and gets you the best work!

Zan Richards

Subject: Bids

Don't be so sure. Let's say this contractor "matches the low bid" what makes you think a corner won't get cut on your installation? If a contractor is willing to match another contractors bid then something is off, either he doesn't know his true cost of doing business, or he'll use a lesser quality material etc etc. I'm curious where it became the status quo to jack contractors around on their price. Bargain shopping is for garage sales...When dealing with a contractor, reputation, job portfolio, references and warrany policy is the ticket, your not winning by asking a contractor to drop his price and a good one would walk away from a prospect like you



Never share a competitors bid with another contractor. First if a contractor asks for the bid of another he just told you he is willing to be dishonest. Second if you give him the other bids you just told him your are willing to listen to someone who may be dishonest. Honest contractors are willing to do the work to generate a bid. chose the contractor who is willing to listen to your needs and to deliver on them.

Kevin Klepper


Love this article..I am a General Contractor on Angieslist.com ,and one of the top rated by reviews in tri state..I have won many service awards and my 35 years resume goes on...I ask alot of questions to potentail clients,it's my right to,as it's your right to ask me a ton of questions..I have 10 qualifying questions that need to be anwered,or I am out the door,or even better,we don't go back and forth with e-mails as a lot of people e-mail me from start. And usually I get the questions answered...There is a lot of reason for this questioning, it qualifies if I want to 1-work for this person
2-See if they are same page as budget for job their size.And the list goes on...It's very important to find out if people are realistic, in NYC the average building requires million insurance, workmens comp, building permits,and paying everyone off from doormen to super..So I need to find out where they are at,you can't do bathrooms in NYC for $10,000 as a lot of people think...Bathrooms gutout start at $20,000...And I let people know that on phone or in e-mail right away,so we are on same page..Thank you Kevin Klepper A-1 Home Improver Constr.Manhattan,NY



Elaine..our story exactly. I will never the mistake of relying on the real estate agent's inspector.



One caveat about using a home inspector: Make sure you use someone who is recommended by a friend NOT the real estate agent who is trying to sell you A HOUSE. Our "inspector" missed all kinds of major problems that we were not looking for being from another area and not knowing what to look for. We do not buy real estate often and this was our first time moving to a totally different part of the country.



L recently had a contractor who stated he would do the job for the insurance estimate made by the Adjuster. Figuring the man would charge me somewhere in the neighborhood of the amount charged for the walls (Square Feet), the worker stood flat footed on the floor and painted the ceiling (Appx.442 Sq. FT.). He then charged me $2,800.00 over his original bid. The original bid was $0.76 per Sq. ft. and he charged me $6.33 per sq. ft.
It was an expensive experience for an 85 year old person. On top of it all, he did noit do all of the work contracted for in the beginning.



Even if a contractor asked, I would not share the amount of a bid with him. I am always upfront about telling people that I get multiple bids. If the contractor is making a fair bid, it will be a fair bid. And even if the bid is monetarily fair, there are other things I look for in a contractor: courtesy, whether we can work together on the design, and his experience with the type of work I'm having done. Finally, does he love what he's doing? If he doesn't like the line of work he's in, he's not going to do a good job even if the bid is a "fair price."


Subject: Share and be prepared to be

Share and be prepared to be rewarded. Friend asked me for opinion on finding inexpensive a/c compressor because mechanic said it was bad (sometime cold / sometimes not) I advised replacing the slipping serpentine belt ($18)...problem fixed. Friend asks about a/c "leak" inside car; because service station was quoting $1200...$5 vent tube...problem fixed. Friend asked about installing new home a/c unit because company quoting $4500...$18 start capacitor...problem fixed (still running 3+ years). Neigbor pays free-lancer $9000 for new fence (braces intstalled improperly / too short, no gate brace / corners not properly supported)...needs to be completely redone... Friend gets new carpet installed...installer does not include cleaning of subfloor...new carpet ruined... Home inspector claims roof x number of years old because "that is what realtor said" / inspection reveals previously re-roofed and must be removed to rafters in order to meet code. Share information, you may be suprised at what you learn. And no, I am not a contractor etc. Ex-military, ex-mechanic, and all friend.



Dennis should understand that wording a question in a certain will NEVER MAKE anyone share info with anyone. I guarantee that no matter HOW you word anything will FORCE ME to GIVE YOU any kind of information. However, I MIGHT be willing to tell you if I am considering other bids than YOURS and WHY. THEN we can negotiate YOUR bid.



Thank you. This was valuable info.

C Cox


B Thompson should know that whether a financial institution has financed the purchase of his house or he paid cash for it, he is the owner of the house. The only way for him to not pay for the house is to go thru foreclosure (and lose whatever downpayment he's made). A far better approach is to hire a professional to do a house inspection prior to taking possession (which is a good idea no matter what the situation is when making the largest, most important purchase that you make in life.) Note: I am not in the house inspection business or in real estate either.

B Thompson


I learned the hard way not to pay cash for a house. Finance first then pay off after knowing that the house is acceptable. After moving in I learned that most of the work was shoddy and unacceptable. He had my money so refused to work with me. That even included only 1 inch of insulation, used faucets, bad wiring. I could go on and on. The inspector turned him into the state which did no good because he was friends with the powers that be in the capital. Never pay in full until you have lived in the house for a year. Interest on a loan is far less expensive than redoing so much


Subject: Define your scope people

B Thompson makes a good point as to why the scope of work MUST be defined before a home owner or a Contractor decide to get into bed with one another. If you had taken a couple of days, weeks or even months before jumping into this deal to define your scope of work and what exactly you wanted in your house, and exactly what you expected the contractor to provide, and you got him / her to sign off on it; then it wouldn't matter if your contractor was best friends with Obama or Holder, the scope of work becomes the division of responsibility in the contract. He wouldn't have a leg to stand on in court, and your rework costs could have been recouped fairly quickly.

Everybody reading this thread, both home owners and contractors (if you don't already do it) should take more time reviewing the work scope before submitting and deciding on bids. IF you are a home owner, your work scope details exactly what you want; i.e. brand "Super-Posh 10000" installed around X, with flooring type Y that includes a drain. Whatever you plan to do, write it down on paper and have the contractors come in and review it with you. These contractors know (the good ones anyway) what works and what doesn't and the best way to get it squeezed into your house. You might find after reviewing the scope with a couple of reputable companies that "Mom & Pop Store product A using specialty item X" not only saves you time and money, but gives a better, LONGER LASTING and RELIABLE end result than going total Big Box Store Display.
This gives a better result in the end for everybody. One, all the contractors bid to Apples to Apples so there isn't a reason to share bids with other companies. Two, the homeowner is protected because there is no doubt as to what was supposed to be done. Work agreed to outside of the scope, (Change Orders) are billed at a T&M rate that doesn't leave any doubt as to what the final invoice looks like. If you do change the work scope based on another contractors advice, then take the time to communicate the changes to all of your other bidders. This keeps things Apples to Apples.
Mr. Thompson, I feel your pain on a crappy built house. I really do think shady contractors (and there are more and more coming out of the woodwork) totally take advantage of people and situations. Take your time people and really define what you want to accomplish at the end of the project, put it down in ink and have the successful contractor sign it!!!


Subject: I learned the hard way

For $200.00 you can get your home inspected by a licensed professional. This cost less than the interest a bank will charge you. duh



There is nothing wrong with asking about the other bids..you just have to word it in a way that will make people SHARE the info with you...People, for the most part, don't mind sharing something...it's in their nature! I have been asking to see other bids for years, and have great success with it.


Subject: asking for other bids

I have asked frequently to see other bids, and explained that I am trying to insure that we are quoting comparable products and services. I think it is a reasonable request. But I typically ask after I have already presented my price, so they don't get the impression that I am adjusting my price to meet my competitors. Consumers are often not aware of what the fine print means in a contractors bid. I like to help educate them, and help them to make an informed decision. I rarely have a client who is not happy to have me explain what the previous contractor has left out in his presentation.

Frank Mondana

Subject: Uhh, yes, it is wrong to ask for competitor bids

It is not OK to ask. I've been in construction estimating and if it gets around that a company has access to other bids, the other companies usually drop out.

All this would do is allow the bidder to "buy" the job by undercutting everyone else (then hopefully making it up with change orders).

Mark Thacher

Subject: Asking about other bids & who is going to be at home!

While generally I agree with what Angie is saying, however I think we need to look a little deeper in to these qualifying questions that your potential contractor may be asking.
First: Salespeople entering into homes of people responding to an advertisement also need to know what kind of people they are dealing with. My sales people have told me many horror stories of making a presentation to a wife at home alone and the husband comes home unexpectedly-there is a real uncomfortable moment where your not sure what the husband is going to do. Also it not uncommon for 16, 17 year old girls to answer the door, being left home to let the salesperson in and invite them for refreshments, parents think a little before you haphazardly ask your underage children to cover for you. Of course it's every salesperson dream to get the 4:00 PM appointment in the inter-city, where street gangs control the area.

Second: Has far as taking a look at the other estimates; while on it's face may seem a bit unethical--we are not talking about government bids where the recipient is well qualified to make an apples to apples comparison. Most reputable larger Home Improvement Contractors have margins they need to adhere to; with competition the way it is there is not much wiggle room to just drop the price significantly.

In looking at the competitors bids the Contractor can assist the homeowner in making sure they are getting what they are paying for, as far as brand, and installation. The red flag for the customer would be after looking at the competitive bid they drop the price considerably--If there was so much profit in job, why didn't they give you the best price in the first place? As a customer I would feel like they were trying to take advantage with such a large drop.

My overall point is start investigating a company prior to them coming out. You should be asking your qualifying questions: How many employees do you have? What is the name of the person that will be coming out? Will he be in a company car/truck that is marked? Then plan on being home for the appointment (including your spouse); if you are just going to be relaying the information to her/him they have no way to make an intelligent decision without being at the presentation-the spouse not home is the one who always complains they did not get what they bargained for in the deal. Of course talk to friends and see if they have had any good experiences with contractors. Check Angie's list, confirm licenses and insurance.

Also, DO NOT PAY 100% OF THE WORK WHEN YOU SIGN THE CONTRACT--it's not good for you or the contractor. You will start to feel you got ripped off anytime they are 10 min late; and they will regret getting all the money upfront because you keep calling afraid that they will not finish the work.


Subject: It's not like homeowners are required to get sealed bids.

For Pete's sake, there are things that governments have to do, because they hold the public money in trust, that a homeowner has no moral or legal obligation to do. One of those is making bids secret, or sealed. Contractors are curious. They are human. And they are also a source of good information. If someone tells me, "the only way that other guy could have given you a bid that low is if he's using [product XYZ], which is no good because [cogent explanation of why XYZ is not right for the job]," I know to email guy number 1 back, and ask for more information on the product, and where he's used it before. Guy 1 might actually get the job, and for more money, if he quotes a better product, once he knows that I care about quality. Guy 2 might get the job, for giving me the heads-up. I might even learn enough about the process to do it myself...but more likely, I will figure out how to ask for a better, more on-target quote, with quality of materials, process and type of workmanship properly specified.

And it's not just about materials. Chatting about quotes has stopped me from hiring someone who would have been willing to have his nephew work down in a 6 foot deep trench, with no bracing, in an area where the hill was subject to slides, convinced that if something went wrong, he could "just jump out fast." If I hadn't chatted about this with another contractor, the nephew might be dead, and the uncle and I would both have blood on our hands.

Talking is good. It leads to clearer expectations, more reasonable expectations, better work, and safer workers.


Subject: Shown the door

Any contractor who asks me to share a competitor's bid is shown the door. That is an incredibly dishonest tactic, and I don't want to hire a dishonest contractor.

I always tell contractors that I will be getting three bids, that price is a factor, but not the only factor, and that I am willing to pay a fair price for quality workmanship and materials. Some won't even offer a bid if they know there will be others bidding.

If I catch them lying to me about the job, that's a disqualification as well.

A. Andrews

Subject: bids

you are either ignorant or a crook. if you bid on government jobs it will be called rigging of the bids and is a criminal offense subject po monetary fines or jail. you are fortunate you have not bid on government projects, you might be behind bars now.

vince phillips

Subject: bid prices

Is this a joke? If you have been asking and getting the prices of your competitors, your clients are idiots. Or you are just plain lying. It is unethical to ask to see another's bid on a project; and, for obvious reasons, I would refuse to do any work for a client who revealed such information. As Angie stated, there are ways to obtain information which does not cross over the line, but this clown has clearly not learned where that line is.

janitorial servicesan jose


When you're letting a stranger in to work on your home, be sure they don't ask suspicious questions. Know what to look out for with these hints from Angie's List.

Thom Wright

Subject: Angies list doesn't work

Oftentimes recommendations come from the same contractors and their friends/family that you are checking on. Negative comments oftentimes come from competitors looking to improve their own image by falsy denigrating others.

There are better ways to determine if a contractor is responsible but it will require a little work on the part of the consumer, something very few are inclined to do.

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I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

That's very difficult to answer without seeing the house. As one poster said, the prep is the most important part. On newer homes that don't have a lot of peeling paint, the prep can be very minimal even as low as a couple or a few hundred dollars for the prep labor.

On a 100 year old home with 12 coats of peeling paint on it, then the prep costs can be very high and can easily exceed 50% of the job's labor cost.

A 2100 sq ft two story home could easily cost $1000 just for the labor to prep for the paint job. That number could climb too. Throw in lots of caullking  or window glazing, and you could be talking a couple or a few hundred dollars more for labor.

Painting that home with one coat of paint and a different color on the trim could run roughly $1000 or more just for labor. Add a second coat  and that could cost close to another $1000 for labor.

For paint, you may need 20 gallons of paint. You can pay from $30-$70 for a gallon of good quality exterior paint. The manufacturer of the paint should be specified in any painting contract. Otherwise, the contractor could bid at a Sherwin-Williams $60 per gallon paint and then paint the house with $35 Valspar and pocket the difference. $25 dollars per gallon times 20 gallons? That's a pretty penny too.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is $2000 to $4000 and up, depending upon the amount of prep, the number of coats, the amount of trim, and the paint used.