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Why You MUST Ask (Almost) Every Contractor This Question

My brother lives about three hours away in Yuma, Arizona.

Situated halfway between Phoenix and San Diego, this little desert town is known by most people as the point you stop to get gas on your way to the beach, or on your way home from it.

Growing up in Yuma, I appreciate it for more than just a restroom stop and place to grab a combo meal at the interstate McDonald’s.

What I love most about the city is all the homegrown, non-franchise businesses that not only exist, but also thrive there. It’s like a small haven for entrepreneurs. As Yuma has grown over the years more franchises have moved in (Starbucks, Best Buy, Pizza Hut, In and Out), but the people remain most loyal to the mom and pop operations.

Want a pizza? You go to Rocky’s.

In the mood for a burger? How about Lute’s Casino?

And if you need a Mexican food fix there’s the legendary Chili Pepper, where you can get a burrito and a dozen rolled tacos for under $10.

Dissecting the Contractor DNA

Yuma, like most cities, also has its share of small contractor businesses.

I can remember my dad hiring Bert the landscaper to maintain our yard. And I’ll never forget the two brothers he once found to paint our house. We jokingly referred to them as Darryl and Darryl because they were so goofy. My mom wondered if they’d sniffed too many paint fumes.

Yesterday, my brother called me about an estimate he received to install a new sliding glass door at his home. The bid came from a one-man, uninsured contractor whose only overhead was the vehicle he was driving.

This guy quoted my brother a price of $2,200, of which $1,200 was the door and materials, and $1,000 in labor.

So I asked my brother what I ask every contractor we work with…

How long will it take to finish the project?

Let’s say this door installation will take the contractor 8 hours to finish. That’s $125 an hour! If it takes him two days to complete it’s still $62.50 an hour.

The going rate for a skilled rough and finish carpenter is around $25 an hour, and most of the ones we do business with can finish a simple sliding glass door installation in about half a day. I explained to my brother that this job shouldn’t cost more than $250-$300 in labor.

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Always Ask This Question

Whether you’re fixing and flipping houses for a living, or doing a simple remodeling project at your house, always ask the contractor to separate their labor and material costs.

Then ask…

How long will it take to finish the project?

By doing this you can quickly figure out how much the tradesperson is making on an hourly basis.

Keep in mind, skilled trades like plumbers, HVAC techs and electricians will charge between $80-$100 per hour. They command these rates because they have to carry more insurance and usually have to be licensed.

But for the basic stuff (i.e. paint, carpentry, flooring, demo work) you need to know the hourly cost.

It will give you more negotiating leverage, and save you thousands.

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