March 9, 2009
The Good News: Contractors Are Actually Calling Their Clients Back...
"About 25 percent of the San Francisco region's approximately 16,000 building trades workers are out of work, compared with nearly full employment last year, said Michael Theriault, secretary and treasurer of the San Francisco Building and Construction Trades Council." (S.F. construction slows to a crawl)
First Published: March 9, 2009 7:30 AM
Comments from "Plugged In" Readers
Guess I'm one of the few starting a project- a 3 unit + office to the studs remodel. But I'm keeping mine as a rental and financially it will cash flow. I'm also getting rock bottom pricing from my contractor, who owns the bldg next door (we partnered on the buy-2 bldgs on a single lot and are wrapping up a lot split - fun! Fun! In this city to obtain).
My project will turn out ok, but anedotally I know of several tic developers who are overextended and are in serious trouble. I already saw two listings for gutted bldgs for sale. And sure enough, by the same agent. Prop shark confirmed they are both from the same owner.
Anyone else heard/knows about specific small development projects that are in duress? I wonder how many of these we have so far in SF.
Posted by: 45yo hipster at March 9, 2009 10:57 AM
When we moved into our home 6 months ago I called several "recommended" contractors to get quotes on some remodeling work that needed doing. Admittedly not major down-to-the-studs stuff, just typical bathroom/kitchen updating. The majority (3/5) couldn't be bothered to even call me back. Regardless of the quality of their work, that's a lousy way to run a business. Needless to say I won't shed any tears to hear of their troubles now.
Posted by: Average Joe at March 9, 2009 1:10 PM
Let us hope that the current malaise motivates contractors and subcontractors to join the rest of America in doing what they say at the price they promise, telling the truth, not "discovering" more and more to do, arriving on time, working a full day, not feeling sorry for themselves nor having easily wounded feelings. We went through all of that and much more, as have many of our friends and neighbors. Perhaps a little financial pressure will bring these people up to the minimal standard of responsibility expected of all other professions and trades.
Posted by: Conifer at March 9, 2009 1:12 PM
I have to agree with Conifer and Average Joe here. Where is the business sense? How about a follow up call after a meeting? Isn't that normal? What about a can do attitude and the desire to want to do a job? I you are good, referrals will continue to flow from all jobs whether big or small. Where is sparky on this? I like his input. We are looking for a contractor on a small place but we have a limited budget. It seems to me that people would want to work with you on what is possible not just spout off a large price per square foot. Maybe that is just an indicator of laziness that I should heed as a warning.
Posted by: SJM at March 9, 2009 2:30 PM
A common Noe Valley sight in 2005: Double parked
Toyota Tundras w/ chrome diamond grid tool boxes
w/ "kevin, Ian or Josh" talking on one of their
several cell phones. Talking to their clients
as they were 12 year olds and billing them $150
an hour (attitude included)Where are they today?
Swilling Guiness on Geary Blvd and angry that
homeowners in this town are too cheap to pay what
they are worth.
Posted by: simoleonn at March 9, 2009 3:49 PM
Two years ago I called a contractor to ask about getting a quote on a legal redo of an illegal in-law space on the home I just bought. His reply was that it would cost me $1,500 just for the bid and he could assure me that his lowest price would be $200 to $250 per sq. foot, regardless of the work required. Needless to say, I didn't use him or pay for his bid.
Posted by: Homeowner at March 9, 2009 4:38 PM
I hope and pray that 98% of SF contractors go under. We need to start with a new cohort of honest, hard-working folks. These sound like harsh words, but the only "profession" worse then realtors are contractors. Generally lazy, unskilled, entitled, slow, rude, shady, dishonest...these words only begin to describe many SF contractors.
The contractor's happiest day? The first day of demolition. Then they hold your balls in a vise-grip, until your checking account runs bone-dry.
I hope your Tundras get repossessed.
Posted by: Joshua at March 9, 2009 5:06 PM
Guess I'm lucky my guy is half normal. He only pisses me off on a bi-weekly basis, which is better than what's described above. But I also gave him several good sized projects, and fought him tooth and nail on prices. (and yep, he has the pre requisite frickin silver tundra truck to boot!)
Posted by: 45yo hipster at March 9, 2009 6:16 PM
Boy it sounds like you all should have checked some references or something. I honestly feel like you are all making that up. But whatever, sorry to not get in a post until now. I was meeting with a client on their schedule (after they got off work) and I had 2 follow up meetings earlier. One which was set mid-day and I adjusted my schedule. But, maybe that is why we have plenty of work through 2010.
On a serious note you really should get references, see some past jobs, and get a few bids. I ask my clients to do this so we don't have to haggle over pricing.
Posted by: sparky-c at March 9, 2009 8:34 PM
"Where are they today? Swilling Guiness on Geary Blvd and angry that homeowners in this town are too cheap to pay what they are worth"
Wow, sounds a lot many RE "professionals" I know.
Posted by: Embarcadero at March 10, 2009 8:36 AM
Sparky-c: If the contractor charges you $1,500 to give you a bid, how can one afford to get several bids?
Posted by: Homeowner at March 10, 2009 10:56 AM
I think that is illegal, go to someone else and call the state board. I have never charged for a bid, nor does anyone else I know. You can't charge more than $1000 for a deposit to start a job, either.
Posted by: sparky-c at March 10, 2009 11:00 AM
It's quaint that you consider meeting a client at a convenient time to be an accomplishment.
In another occupation it would be called customer service.
Posted by: Joshua at March 10, 2009 11:07 AM
Who said or thought "accomplishment" besides you, Joshua? Indeed, it was customer service. Customer service, fairness, and ability are precisely what have gotten Sparky-C highly elusive 2009-2010 work lined up. But by all means go back to your unreasoned slagging, which was something like this: See contractor you know nothing about = say something snide. Typical Socketsite no-account tripe.
Posted by: anonn at March 10, 2009 11:24 AM
in all fairness to joshua, it did sound like sparky was patting himself on the back for making it to an appointment time set by his clients. big deal. everyone who serves the client sector does this.
Posted by: and the point is... at March 10, 2009 12:09 PM
Yeah well you show your bias here too. Read it again. The language was plainly in response to a query as to sparky's whereabouts by SJM at March 9, 2009 2:30 PM
Posted by: anonn at March 10, 2009 12:56 PM
Didn't pat myself on the back at all. Described my day, didn't think it was anything special and I mentioned it so the reasonable readers would see that is what they should expect. I am so tired of the axes to grind on this site. I wouldn't have responded at all except for SJM asking what I thought, because I knew this thread would be contractor bashing. Bash 'em if they're good bash 'em if they're bad. Bash 'em for being on the phone, bash 'em for not returning calls.
Posted by: sparky-c at March 10, 2009 1:50 PM
Well put, sparky.
If people have been made by unscrupulous contractors that's often due to lack of due diligence on their part. Like one of my renters last week who called the plumber for a leak at one of my places and got scammed out of 300 Euros for a new 3/8 ball valve that didn't need replacing (1 - just the seal needed replacing, and 2 that type of ball valve cost less than 20 Euros).
Now the renter is pi$$ed at all plumbers!!!
Posted by: San FronziScheme at March 10, 2009 2:20 PM
I appreciate sparky-c's comments, and -- without knowing him -- am glad that a presumably decent contractor is finding it possible to survive. I think what everyone is expressing is the hope that a crummy economy will drive the worst offenders into another profession. The article mentions that the slowdown has already eliminated a lot of positions at DBI, which may affect virtually everyone on this board. However, being a new homeowner, I'm also becoming keenly aware of just how much work most people do "off the books" -- which certainly has some causation on the very problems we rant about.
As a thought bubble (knowing it could never truly be answered): if everyone did all work completely legit (permits and all) -- even ridiculously simple stuff -- what would happen to the construction trades in SF?
Posted by: Average Joe at March 10, 2009 2:31 PM
I'll throw in here and note that the not-so-subtle bashing of the Irish is unfair and unappreciated.
Posted by: derrysf at March 10, 2009 4:09 PM
Look, by nature the relationship between contractor and client is a difficult one. 1- It's all about setting expectations. 2- because the biz is so cyclical, it's harder to get good prices/service during boom times. (the irish chaps I recently got bids from have been extremely nice and showing up on time too. 2 years ago they wouldn't have been interested in my project).
Since I do RE development full time as a living, I have a GC I know well and trust (he still pisses me off on a reg basis, but I know he will come through when it's crucial). I tend to use the same guys and not f*ck around with them too much so they trust me too- and they will appreciate me even more as the economy grinds to a hault. It's all about giving Bali (both ways) and building trust. Trust but verify!
For homeowners doing 1 time jobs. I recommend: 1- try to use contractors during down times (like now) = lower prices and better service.
Also, if you're doing a high end finicy remodel expect to pay more money for more attention to details, better finishing work, etc. Alternatively, if you want to cut costs, go with a less expensive contractor (but still screen/reference check them!). Just be prepared to select your own finishing materials, and that they will spend less time/details with you.
Look, no contractor can do the job fully right (like you would personally do it perhaps) without charging you a ton of money. Contracting is the art of compromise snd the art of the pretty good- unless you're paying north of $400 per sq foot, and then by all means be picky.
Posted by: 45yo hipster at March 10, 2009 6:30 PM