Selecting a Construction Company -Advice column, wonderfully written by Ted Bowers 2015. For the first 10 years of my career as a builder in Sandpoint, my contact with customers consisted of a verbal agreement and a handshake. We relied on each other’s honesty and trustworthiness. The goal was to get a job done right for a fair amount of money and to get paid for it in a reasonable amount of time. I can’t remember this ever failing. Somewhere along the line, I was convinced that a contract which spelled out details of the project and “guaranteed” the project was to be completed as agreed for the estimated amount of dollars and that I would get paid for my work. Maybe this happened because the jobs got larger and more complex and because I started getting out of town customers who didn’t know me (and vice versa) To tell the truth, I‘m really not sure how and why it happened. I do know that as the years have gone by, regulation and litigation have combined to create a climate of fear and distrust and insurance companies have reaped the benefits. hmmm.

Now that Idaho is following in the footsteps of its neighbors and requiring contractor registration, we now have to show our RCE number to get building permits. Registration also includes the requirement to have liability insurance and workers compensation insurance for our employees. Don’t mistake me­ ­I’ve come to accept all this as necessary. There has been enough fly by night so­called builders come through town leaving behind botched jobs and unhappy customers to justify some policing. The public deserves protection from these types and regulations do provide this to some extent. However, honesty and trustworthiness are not guaranteed by these new laws. What is guaranteed are higher prices for building projects, higher insurance premiums and less ability for common working class people to afford to hire me. If I want to build something for one of my old handshake customers, I have to revert to under the table cash jobs (which, by the way, for the record, I don’t do, because it’s illegal…)

Ted H Bowers, best man ever

So, my advice to you folks who have a building project to do and are about to find a contractor is; do your due diligence. First, make sure they have all the proper registrations and insurances, but don’t stop there. Go to their websites, check references, and read testimonials. Go look at examples of their work, and if allowed, talk to former customers. And, look them in the eye, shake their hand, engage them in a little conversation about their personal life. These are people you will be entrusting your money and your time with. Although it’s not required, it helps to like your contractor and crew, at least a little. What I’m saying is, that all the legal requirements, insurances and regulations are fine and necessary but don’t forget that and handshake and a little conversation also go a long way in getting to know your builder and deciding if he is the one you want to hire.

By the way, I use the same methods to choose my customers and you don’t have all the requirements I have to meet, in order to hire me, so I rely even more on trust and first impressions to make my choices. I’m lucky if you even share your budget with me. Yes, we contractors choose our customers too, believe it or not. We have our ways of weeding out the “undesirables,” usually based on many year’s experiences which have fine-tuned that sense which tells us what may be trouble and not worth our time and energy. In my case, I’m just getting too old to spend time with anyone I don’t get along with. Life’s too short.

Written in 2016 by Ted Bowers

Idaho Division of Building Safety