The Homeowner’s Guide to Denver Contracting
I’ve heard it time and time again.
“My landscaper never showed up.”
“The guy you sent me never answered or called back.”
“The painters said they’re booking jobs 6 months from now”
“They said my job is too small.”
Hopefully the sentiments of a Real Estate professional resonate and help you realize that you are not alone.
So what can you expect when booking a contractor and what’s the work around for these issues?
Like many, many, many other things in Denver, contractors are in very high demand. In fact, if you read any reputable periodical (not CNN or Fox News) you’ll find that there’s a shortage of tradesmen around the United States. I usually chalk this up to the vision of “success” in America these days. You know, the one where your parents think you’re killin’ it because you make $80,000 a year in your first tech job. In reality, you’d probably be pulling in at least double that if you become a journeyman electrician these days, plus you’d get your vitamin D from working outside. I digress…
My next piece of evidence is based on the housing market; you didn’t really think I would write this without plugging the crazy market did you?
If you’re reading this it means you’re probably interested in Real Estate so you likely already know that the prices are increasing at an uncontrollable rate. It’s 50/50 whether you think it’s going to crash, but Pros know that’s not the case so we’ll stick with that assumption. The reality is that homes we’re purchasing now for $600,000 probably need some work. And the homes that don’t need work are going for at least $700,000 anywhere near the city. People who bought these project homes 3 years ago are unloading them and stepping it up to house #2 aka the house that doesn’t need much work, if any at all. Most buyers I talk to are in the $500,000 - $700,000 range these days and many are ok picking up the tab for a bathroom or kitchen remodel down the road, if it means ending the rental cycle and leveling up to home ownership. Because people are doing insane things to secure houses right now, sellers are even able to cash in on properties with a shitload of work. Things like basement remodels, dirt yards and Victorians with small rooms are selling fast. It boils down to demand for contractors being driven by the higher number of houses that need work these day and the complexity of the work increasing.
The final piece of the pie is the massive housing shortage we have here. Think of it like this:
There’s a finite number of tradesmen available to work on homes, but an increasing number of homes are being built with no slowing or end in sight. Those tradesmen know that, like oil and gas, it’s boom or bust. They pick up the work from busy General Contractors because they know that several other jobs are lined up for them once the current one is complete. That’s why you can’t find a handyman, carpenter, plumber, or an electrician. Because they’re busy building 20 homes this year for Workshop Denver (Google it and call me). And they can’t take a week long project that costs $3,000 when they can take a 4-week project where they make $20,000. Remember that these people have bills to pay and families to feed, just like me and you.
So what’s the bottom line?
Simple. There aren’t enough contractors and too many projects to get jobs done in the Metro area so paying customers are forced to wait.
So now that you think the world is ending, what the hell can you do to escape?
Here are my suggestions:
Get on it early - If you need work done on the AC, call and book the work in February; don’t wait for the first hot week in June.
Call me - I do this job full time and I constantly meet and hire contractors. They also know I’m a killer referral source so they usually take care of my people more than randos that contact them.
Wait for bigger jobs - If you need some work done, wait until you have a few tasks lined up and hire someone for all of them. For example, it’s going to be hard to get someone to install a single window, but if you have 10 windows to install that’s a different story.
Call multiple contractors. This is simply a numbers game. If I don’t send you a name, then find a few people to call. The more calls you make the more likely you are to score
Don’t be a dick - Contractors are business owners. They’re likely twice as busy as you and don’t need to interact with assholes. Being rude, condescending and cheap is the best way to have them ghost you.
Accept this reality: you need them more than they need you. The tides will turn because, like everything else, Real Estate markets are cyclical. But for now, be patient, be grateful and be happy that you finally found one.
Stop looking for Google reviews. These people are so busy that maintaining a website or asking for reviews is simply not in the cards for most of them. If you get a good feeling about them and they have a license, make your move.
Living in Denver can be super frustrating, which is true for many fun and entertaining places around the country. Buying a house is certainly no different. My hope is that those who are reading this article will find some useful advice about how to get contractors to do the work they want done in their homes.
As always, thank you for reading this and please let me know if you have any questions.
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