As fall arrives here in New England things in the residential building and remodeling industry typically begin to slow down and this year is no different. However, slowing down from Mach 2 to mach 1.5 is hardly noticeable when you are going that fast. Especially if you are on the homeowners side of the table, trying to find quality and dependable contractors to perform your remodel, addition or repairs that have been on your wish list since the snow began to melt back in March. Truth be told (and this is ultimately bad news for the consumers) is that 2015 is the busiest year we have seen in remodeling in over 10 years here in the Boston area. That’s not just my opinion but that of most tradespeople with whom I speak and who have been around long enough to know.
The good news for general contractors like myself is that the phone is ringing, proposals are being proposed, contracts are being contracted and work is, well work is getting started at least. And herein lies the problem or the proverbial bad news. Where are all the damn workers to do the work??? Where are the carpenters, electricians, plumbers or even laborers? The simple answer is that they are busy and have no interest in spinning an additional plate for you Johnny homeowner or me Nate Dishington General Contractor extraordinaire! So its safe to say that if I cant find them, then you the poor homeowner that needs your leaky roof repaired or a loose deck board replaced sure as hell can’t find them either!
“Ok, Mr Boston GC, then what do I do? My roof is leaking, my floor is squeaking, my windows are drafting, my paint is peeling and if I dont get it fixed, my wife is leaving!” The solution lies in the 1998 classic by Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese? Which is (I am paraphrasing here) essentially a story that illustrates what happens when we realize what used to work no longer works. The days of posting ads on Craigslist looking for a qualified tradesman to come swoop in and save the day are not necessarily over but they have taken a break. There was a time when a single post for a job from either a homeowner or a general contractor like myself would garner over 40 or 50 responses from a broad array of eager, qualified and criminal applicants and with a little skill and patience you could sift the wheat from the chaff and find someone halfway decent to perform the task at hand. I myself have made hundreds of positive (and negative) connections via CL over the years.
So now what? From the immortal words of the great Mr Miyagi , “Patience Daniel son” You must be patient. I am not suggesting you wait for that deadbeat electrician who doesn’t show up when he says he will or wont even return your phone calls. What I am suggesting is be patient while you keep looking! Ask everyone that you know to refer you to someone and keep following up until you find that someone who knows what they are doing and can save your marriage. Besides the usual sources like friends, family and coworkers you need to get creative. Ask the the woman in front of you in line at Starbucks, ask your milkman or even the kid who bags your groceries. You never know who is going to come through with that name that leads to the person you are looking for.
Referrals are still the most effective way to find a qualified trades person to do both large and small jobs. But even if a referral does answer their phone and does show up on time and does submit a professional proposal when they said they will, continue to be patient and keep looking and keep your radar antenna up for signs that something is not right or that you don’t quite trust them. Remember, these people are going to be in your home, around your kids, your things and you are going to be handing them over large sums of money for work that hasn’t yet been performed! Yikes! (You poor people)
Last but not least, be prepared to pay. The simple economics of supply and demand dictate the fact that if you want someone even halfway decent in this market and at this point in time you are going to have to pony up. If the guy gave you a price to fix your patio and then never showed up it’s because he realized he didn’t charge you enough and went somewhere else and got paid. So remember you have 2 choices. 1. wait until the bottom drops out again in a few years and all the average contractors come down to earth. (and I say average contractors because the good ones will always be expensive) 2. Realize your cheese has moved and its sitting next to the bottle of wine that your plumber is sipping at his lake house on Winnipesaukee!
Happy remodeling Boston!