6 Tips to Avoid Low Quality Contractors
Every property manager has at least one contractor or vendor horror story. They are an unfortunate reality of the industry. While they are bound to happen, taking steps to avoid low quality contractors improves overall property operations and eliminates headaches.
High quality vendors complete projects correctly, finish on schedule, minimize property disruptions, and limit change orders. Consequently, property managers are able to focus on other tasks and running the property, rather than dealing with tenant complaints or scrambling to find a vendor who can actually do the job.
1. Check Local Associations
Start your search for a new vendor in local professional associations. Low quality contractors typically do not invest the time and resources to join professional associations.
Consequently, property managers should begin their search in local chapters of property specific associations. These are typically a better resource rather than the national directories. Some of the best property management associations to search include:
- Apartment Association
- Community Associations Institute
- Institute of Real Estate Management
- Building Owners and Managers Association
- International Council of Shopping Centers
- Professional Retail Store Management Association
In addition to these associations, check trade specific associations. See if a roofer is a member of the National Roofing Contractors Association, for example. The local or regional Chamber of Commerce is another great resource to avoid low quality contractors.
2. Ask Material Suppliers
Material suppliers rarely recommend low quality contractors. This is because they want property managers to continue using their products. If you ask a Benjamin Moore employee to recommend an apartment painting contractor, chances are they know a good one. They will only refer contractors that can do a great job, because they do not want to risk losing business. Additionally, they will likely refer a contractor that is either a certified installer or at a minimum very familiar with their product.
3. Try Property Manager Insider’s BidSource
One surefire way to avoid low quality contractors is using Property Manager Insider’s Bidsource. This free tool helps property managers nationwide find new contractors. Even better, these contractors are experienced working with property managers, are actively looking to do more property management work, and have capacity!
4. Get and Check References
While most contractors provide references, not every property manager takes the time to check them. Even though most references give good feedback, it is still an opportunity to double check their work. Make sure your potential contractors have specific experience at your property type for the exact type of work needed. This is an especially important step to avoid low quality contractors on major projects.
5. In-Depth Proposal Reviews
Every property manager has heard a contractor say “apples to apples” when discussing price differences in proposals. While this is not the most useful answer, it drives home the importance of closely reviewing proposals. This is because they can be very different for the same project. A high quality contractor’s proposal will often include detailed information covering the following areas:
- Pricing and Payment Terms
- Exact Scope of Work
- Schedule and Logistics
- Company Background and Documentation
- Product Warranty Information
- Change Order Process
In addition to these key areas, the proposal should have an overall professional feel. For example, it will often include a cover page, contact information, references, and legal terms and conditions. While this is an important step for any proposal, it is especially relevant for major projects and long term agreements, such as a valet trash contract or laundry equipment lease.
6. Get Standard Paperwork
Last but not least, the final tactic to avoid low quality contractors is requesting the appropriate documentation. Typically, this covers a few basic business documents:
- Certificate of Insurance
- Required Contracting Licenses
- W9 Business Documents
While this information is not a major part of the decision making process, it should raise a major red flag if a contractor does not have it readily available. Requesting licensing information is especially important in highly regulated trades including the elevator and fire life safety industries. Click here for a list of state regulatory agencies compiled by the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.