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Why are Contractors so Unreliable?

6 Red Flags You Need to Know to Avoid Hiring an Unreliable Contractor

One of the hardest parts about hiring a contractor is separating the good from the bad. It often comes down to those subtle signs that are easy to miss, unless you know what to look for. We have given you a list of 6 red flags to look out for when hiring a general contractor. Read on to find out why contractors are so unreliable, how you can identify an unreliable contractor, and how to ensure you hire a good one.

1. Bad Contractors are Good at Sales

The best salesperson isn’t the best contractor. Some contractors will come into your home and they will have great salesmanship. They talk the talk and they’re hustlers. They might even wow you, or impress you. But here’s why they don’t live up to the hype. I call these contractors the one-hit wonders, because you hire them once, you don’t like their work, and you’re never going to hire them again! So they’re always on the hunt for their next client, and they’re always working on their sales skills.

I can tell you from experience that the absolute best contractors DO NOT need to sell themselves. They all share a few traits in common. They are humble, modest, and they don’t brag. Their work does the talking, so they don’t have to.

2. Contractors who Complain

The best contractors are solution oriented. The bad ones focus on problems and they tend to be very high maintenance. They’re going to give you a giant headache if you work with them, and here’s what you should look for to spot this.

If the contractor comes to your home for an estimate and starts picking apart your home or the job, and they start complaining a little bit. The idea of this is to make you feel bad. If a contractor is complaining then there’s usually 2 reasons for this. Firstly, they might not have the skills to do the job, they don’t even want to do the job.

If you live in an older property then it’s likely you come across this problem with contractors often. This is because typically older homes can require a lot of problem solving. Some people just don’t want the headache, and would rather work on new builds.

The second reason they might be complaining, is because they simply don’t have the resources or the team to take on a large project like yours, and maybe they just don’t want to say so. If your contractor is complaining even at simple tasks such as repairing a door latch, alarm bells should be ringing in your head.

3. Any Contractor who Wants to be Paid Upfront

If any contractor that wants your money before the work is done, especially if it’s the full sum, you want to walk away from the deal. If you pay your contractor up front there is a high chance that you will get ghosted and never hear from that contractor again.

Most contractors will ask for a deposit if you want to sign a contract with them to work on a project. The difference here is someone who asks for a large amount of money is extremely shady.

Problems that can also happen if you pay someone upfront as they don’t do a very good job and the quality is really poor, and then you don’t have any recourse because you’ve already paid them.

4. Contractors with No Online Presence

You must beware of any contractor that doesn’t have a website, social media presence, or online reviews. There is an exception to someone who is fresh out of college, but if someone doesn’t have a valid reason why they don’t have a website or online reviews, then you more than likely do not want to hire that person. A reputable contractor will have a website, so if yours does, check to make sure they don’t have a lot of bad reviews.

A new contractor may have no reviews if they’re just starting out, but you may be able to ask their previous company for a reference just to be safe and ensure they’re not unreliable.

5. Material Swapping

This is more difficult for most customers to identify. A material swap is when a contractor draws up an agreement to use a certain type of material for a job. But then uses a cheaper, inferior product instead. They’re usually relying on the idea the client can’t spot the difference, or that they won’t see it before it’s covered up or painted over. This means you should insist on seeing your contractors’ materials before a job begins.

Good contractors will be happy to show off a quality product, and explain why it’s superior. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to identify these products, ask a friend with some construction experience look things over. Take a picture and send it to them if need be. Materials are very easy to tell apart for anybody who’s worked with them before.

6. Estimate Changing

This is probably the most overused trick in the construction industry. This is when a contractor looks at a repair job or remodel, and they offer you a fair price. They then carry out the early work of the project, and then realize it’s going to cost more than they originally thought, and asks you for more money. A full repair is going to be much pricier than estimated. This puts the client in a real bind.

If the project involves some demolition work, then the contractor will start leaning on you. They use scare tactics, and tell you the house is too dangerous and nobody else is going to come in and do the work for any less. The contractor can then fall back on an old argument. For example, “We didn’t know how bad it was going to be, until we opened up the walls.” The problem here is they’re technically telling the truth.

This real issue here with unreliable contractors, is they don’t warn the client what they could potentially be getting into. They just throw out a number knowing the client would say yes, and then spend the rest of the job trying to find out a way to drive up costs. Good contractors will inform the client of an excavation clause, or an exploration bid. This is an estimate for a small controlled demolition, that will let the contractor see the extent of the problem. Once they have a better grasp on the project, they can amend the bid.

Occasionally this can be built into the original estimate, or it might have to be tweaked. However at least in this scenario the client knows what could be coming. Make sure to ask your contractor about these things. If they’re unwilling to go through with this, then chances are the contractor is unreliable.

How can you Protect Yourself from Unreliable Contractors?

Follow these steps to ensure you hire the best contractors, to prevent that unneeded stress!

Only Hire Licensed Contractors

Anyone can really call themselves a contractor, so make sure to hire a contractor with a license so you know they have the correct qualifications for the job.

Only Hire Insured Contractors

This is to protect you. You do not want to have anyone working on your home or property, unless they have insurance. This is because if something goes wrong and there is an injury, you are financially liable.

Get a Signed Contract

You should always have a contract, but more importantly a detailed contract where you itemize your expectations, timelines, and payment schedule. All of these things matter, and the more details you have on your contract, the better you are protected. Contracts are safe as it’s the contractor’s job to fulfill the contract.

Take Photos of Work

I also recommend that homeowners take photos of your job site, and all the work in progress. This is because sometimes you don’t realize it’s a bad job until it’s completed.

Ask for Examples of Previous Work

The final way to protect yourself is to make sure you’ve seen examples of the contractor’s previous work. Especially if you’re doing a really big project. Now I know this isn’t always possible, but remember your friend can really like someone’s work, and you might not be so impressed. If you want to be really meticulous you could ask the contractor for a reference from a previous customer.


Hopefully this will help you feel more confident in hiring a really good contractor. The last thing you want to do is spend thousands of dollars on a project that fails because a contractor is unreliable. So, it’s definitely worth doing all the work beforehand to ensure you can trust the right person with the job. Hopefully this article is a lesson learned and you find a great contractor for your project.

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