Hired Help

#1
We are moving to a rural area after purchasing some property. The property is wooded and has not been logged for some time. We needed a driveway installed and some land cleared. Unfortunately the sales process ran late, and we weren't able to sign until late spring. Due to the unknown of whether or not the property would be ours, we had to wait to schedule any work. After the sale we found it difficult to line things up in short order. Here are a few suggestions for hiring out work if you're new to an area, or have not done so in your own area:

1. Avoid craigslist! A lot of unscrupulous and poorworkmanship can be found on that site. Yes some good people advertise, but most good businesses go on word of mouth, or via yellow pages (still around), a solid website, or facebook/google reviews. Any joe or jane can pickup some equipment and try their hand at something. Not everyone is good at something, and anyone can list friends as "references".

2. If you're waiting (or stuck waiting) until spring to start scheduling things, you're already too late. In areas affected by winter, road bans hold up heavy equipment during the wet season. Once the sun is shining and things are drier, crews already are booked for a good portion of the season. For people down south, this can happen year round.

3. Try to schedule things well in advance. The more jobs you need done, the more important it is to schedule and stay on top of things. Something is always going to get delayed or go wrong, so it's important to stay on top of it.

4. Document everything. I have a running notepad file of all communication and events for our land purchase and construction tasks. It's very useful for going back and finding names and information and corrections. This is doubly-so for finding people to do work. I wrote down and called no less than 25 people in my area for construction work. Most of them were busy, but I kept their info anyway.

5. Keep your frustrations to yourself if people are busy. If they are wasting your time, then it's the time to say something. If you are soliciting work and they are not available, it's not their fault. This may sound odd, but most places I called thanked me for not yelling at them. Perhaps I live in a rude part of the country.

6. A lot of these workers are used to working for larger contractors, so you may have to give them details or act like a general contractor a bit yourself. Coordinate things, have plans, drawings, things laid out to help them. The more you can help them, the better end result you can get.

7. Get several estimates. Some people will bid high, some will try to soak you for money, others will do so because they don't want the job.

8. Find someone who wants to work with you and not against you. If you are arguing a lot about the design, time to move on.

9. Find someone who points out a lot of potential pitfalls and things that may need to be done. This person is thinking about the big picture. However, if they keep racking up the cost, then they may be looking for easy money.

10. Try to avoid anyone who rent equipment unless it's ancillary pieces. You don't want to pay $4,000 so Joe Builder can drive around a new excavator with a/c while you foot the bill. Good people should have their own equipment, or share/borrow from friends they trust. The more they have a solid network, the more reliable they should be.

11. Find local people. People who have to travel will do so at a cost. Sometimes you're stuck with this, but local people have more repuation at stake, and may want your repeat business if you like them and are happy with them.

12. Ask for insurance. Have their agent fax you a copy of insurance before work is done. If you are having work done that requires state-licensed people, make sure they are licensed!

13. Make sure the business has been around for a while. Anyone (I fought the urge) can purchase a piece of equipment and start digging holes. It takes expierence and a certain know-how to get construction projects done. Make sure they have some form of reference or examples, or solid facebook/google reviews that you can rely on to build a picture of what they've done.

14. Some people will ask for materials cost up front. Don't pay 100% or 80% up front. They should have enough reserve to do a good portion of the job first. This always varies, but you don't want to pay someone money who will cut and run.

15. Try researching their name or business online. Good local businesses will pop up all over the place. For example, a logger may show up in town records for handling logging for a local town job or task. This is good if the town can rely on them.

16. Research all permits first. As annoying as they are, the town hall can make your life hell if you don't follow their rules. A lot of them are good people, talking and making sure everyone is on the same page is a good idea.

17. If you're looking to move to an area and build, checkout the building codes and zoning requirements. If you're on this site, avoid HOA as they'll make new rules or have existing rules that will drive you mad. It's your land, you should be able to farm it as you wish.

18. It's wise to have someone write up what is or isn't done on a job. This is important to protect everyone's interest. Also get receipts for payments.

19. If you are very unhappy with the work being done, don't be afraid to fire the person. It's much easier to fix a small problem than a big problem. Don't be afraid to ask a friend or family member if you're unsure of the quality of work.

20. If you want to learn a task yourself, but are not sure that you could complete it all yourself, ask to hire someone out who's willing to help and teach you. If you're confident with most of it, you could hire them to come by once or twice a week to make sure things are being done right, and to assist on bigger tasks. If you require work done that requires someone licensed to finish it, ask what tasks you can do that they can sign off on while they finish the licesned parts. This is great too for cutting trees. If you don't want to hurt yourself, hiring someone to help train you to cut trees will go a long way towards being safe and effective.
 

Kevin

Administrator
Staff member
#2
Thank you very much for the tips. You never know what kind of people you are goign to find on craigslist.

Using local workers is probably the best bet. Someone you can see and say hello to at the local store is always nice.