Shopping for a Contractor? Remember This Rule.

Construction worker hammering nail to wooden plank on construction site

Construction worker hammering nail to wooden plank on construction site

There’s a joke among Realtors and contractors… though it’s only a “joke” because it’s so true.

The premise is this: The Realtor has a client who has a house under contract, and the appraiser has just called out some work orders.

Maybe it needs a ratty old deck replaced, and some stair railings put up. “It’s an emergency!” The deal can’t close unless and until that work is done!

So the Realtor puts the word out among the Realtor community: “Hey, can anyone recommend a contractor to rebuild a deck and install stair railings?”

The questions come back:

“When does it need to be done?”


“What’s the budget?”


“And what level of quality?”


I’ve been in the business for 15 years + 3 years as a home inspector before that. I’ve seen this EXACT scenario play out more times than I can count.

It’s as if people think contractors are gathered in some giant waiting room, sharpening their tools and their skillsets hour by hour just WAITING for the phone to ring with new business, ANY business!

Oh, and of course they must be so desperate for work that of course they’ll do it for the 1979 minimum wage of $2.90 an hour!

You, oh desperate real estate buyer whom the solar system must revolve around… YOU are the answer to every contractor’s prayers!

I mean… right???

Not so much. Let me explain…

First, when I say “contractors” I mean people of every trade: carpenters, painters, roofers, plumbers, electricians, excavators, the list goes on.

They all fall under a general rule that covers pretty much the entire service industry, regardless of the specific service. Here’s the rule:

Price. Quality. Speed. Pick two.

Example: You want a great (low) price, and you want it done YESTERDAY — as quickly as humanly possible, like our joke above.

Well the only contractors you’re going to get who are available that quickly and for a low price are obviously not in very high demand. They’re desperate for work. They’re probably not licensed. They’re probably not very good at what they do.

By choosing “low price” and “fast speed” you’ve chosen against “high quality.”

On the other hand, if you want high quality and you want a great price… you can *probably* find a person who is willing to help you out that way… when the economy turns wayyyy down… or maybe after that person has retired and you’ve spent time building a close relationship over the years or decades… and that person is ready to come over on the occasional weekend and help you out with your project.

You’ve chosen your two from the list again: “high quality” and “low price.” Fine. Just don’t be in a hurry… at all.

Nowadays, EVERYONE good is busy. Period. That means they’re very hard or impossible to get on short notice.

And EVERYONE good, is also expensive.

I’m not saying that you can’t get reasonable quality, in a reasonable time frame, for a reasonable price.

But you would do well to do some research, some interviews, some calling and asking around and checking with past customers BEFORE setting your expectations.

And remember the general rule: Price. Quality. Speed. Pick two.