Finding reliable contractors can pose a major challenge for new real estate investors. Pick the wrong one, and you can face a nightmare rehab scenario. Because of this, investors often ask me how to find a contractor for home renovations.
I find poaching the best strategy to find reliable contractors. If you see a construction crew at a job site, stop and get their information. This way, you not only find contractors, you get to see the quality of their work. If it’s high-quality work, you’ve found a solid contractor for renovations. Let’s talk about some useful tips and strategies to find a good contractor for your home renovations.
Strategy 1: Poaching
This is absolutely my favorite strategy for finding contractors to help with home renovations. I use the term “poaching,” but I don’t actually mean taking contractors away from job sites. Rather, poaching entails driving around town and looking for job sites. If you see a construction crew, swing by, introduce yourself, and get their contact information. This way, you can contact them later to schedule any future renovations.
Poaching has two benefits. The first obvious benefit is that poaching allows you to find contractors. You confirm, face-to-face, that yes, these people work as construction professionals. However, the more significant benefit involves quality control. If you find a contractor online, you can read reviews, but you can’t truly see and feel the quality of their work. When you meet someone on a job site, you can quite clearly see the quality of their work. You can walk around the job site and inspect what they’ve been doing, which immediately lets you know if you’d like to hire them yourself.
If interested in using this technique, here are a couple other considerations:
Look for the old, beat-up trucks: If you find a new $100,000 pickup at a job site, the contractor’s probably out of your price range. As a rule, I look for the older, beat-up trucks. This tells me two things. First, these guys have been doing it for a long time. And second, they’re probably not going to charge me an arm and a leg for the work.
Look for subcontractors: When you hire a general contractor, they outsource most of the work to subcontractors. In the process, they charge you a fee on top of the cost of the subcontractor labor. I don’t want to pay this unnecessary fee. Instead, I’d rather hire the subcontractors directly, as they’re the ones who’ll be doing the home renovations for me anyway.
Strategy 2: Home Depot Parking Lot Runs
The next strategy I use also involves some driving around—but in a focused manner. I like to drive around Home Depot parking lots. If you walk around one of these stores, you can’t help but run into contractors. These contractors need to park there, too. As a result, I’ll cruise around Home Depot parking lots occasionally, and I look for the same style, beat-up pickups that I do while poaching. When I find one with a contractor’s information stenciled on the side of it, I write down that contact information. Then, when I need some home renovations completed, I have one more contractor I can interview and potentially hire.
While this strategy doesn’t show the quality of a contractor’s work, it connects the dots. If you end up interviewing someone down the line, you can request pictures (or sometimes even a tour) of a previous job site.
Strategy 3: Home Depot Contractor Desk
Here’s another Home Depot strategy. You’ve likely seen it before, but the store has a designated contractor desk. If you’re a licensed contractor, you register with Home Depot and receive trade discounts. Most of these guys set up purchasing accounts there too, because they do so much work.
If you approach the Home Depot employee working the contractor desk, you can ask for business cards of registered contractors. Most of these contractor-facing employees will have a pretty good idea of each contractor’s specialty. I once needed some very detailed woodwork done on the side of a home, and I asked for referrals for high-quality carpenters at Home Depot. I found three, interviewed all of them, and ended up hiring one who did outstanding work for me.
Strategy 4: Apartment Associations
Another great option for finding contractors involves apartment associations. You may not realize it living in an apartment, but most areas have associations designed to protect the rights of the local multifamily property landlords. Known as apartment associations, these groups include landlords with massive amounts of combined real estate experience.
If you’re new to an area—or just need help finding a reliable contractor in your home town—you can reach out to one of these apartment associations. Multifamily landlords tend to have close working relationships with contractors in a variety of different specialties. As a result, they can point you in the right direction, regardless of what sort of work you need completed. Local contractors also tend to sponsor these associations. You can check out an association’s website and just scroll down to its sponsors section to find some contractors to interview.
Strategy 5: Real Estate Investment Club
I’d like to begin with a disclaimer here. I don’t necessarily recommend attending local real estate investment club meetings. You’ll be pushed a lot of products, some good, some not so good. But, I personally believe the risk of scams outweighs the solid contacts you’ll gain at these meetings.
However, like apartment associations, local contractors sponsor real estate investment clubs. This gives you another great opportunity to identify potential home renovation contractors. Find the website for your local investment group, check out the sponsors page, and jot down the contact information for any contractors that look relevant to the home renovation work you need completed.
Strategy 6: Real Estate Professionals
Last but not least, real estate professionals are a great source of referrals for solid contractors. Real estate agents and brokers often need to scramble to finish inspection-related repairs during a sale closing. As a result, they tend to establish relationships with high-quality, reliable contractors who can quickly complete necessary home repairs.
Additionally, fellow real estate investors can be great referral sources. If you’re a novice investor, chances are there’s someone in your neighborhood who has been investing for a far longer period. These experienced investors have years of hiring contractors under their belts—good ones and bad ones.
Ask around your area and track down the contact information for some of these more experienced investors. You don’t lose anything reaching out, offering to buy someone a cup of coffee, and then asking questions about local contractors. If someone doesn’t want to meet up with you, nothing is lost. But, if you do meet an experienced investor, you gain two benefits: 1) someone to ask about local contractors, and 2) someone to bounce real estate investing ideas off, in general.