How can I get a contractor to work on a house?

I inherited a rather large Victorian style house. It is in desperate need of maintenance such as roofing, trim repair and painting, asbestos remediation, wiring and plumbing. I’ve called just about every contractor in the phone book or in the local trades. Most of them don’t even return my calls, and the ones I am able to reach directly are either too busy, don’t service my area or don’t do residential work (I wish they would say that in their ads). I also tried Service Magic, but the few that did respond to my inquiries gave very high estimates – like one that wanted $18,000 to do one area of the roof. I think $1,800 would be a lot for one dormer! Like I sais, some things need immediate attention. What is a good way to get a reliable contractor?

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4 Responses to How can I get a contractor to work on a house?

  1. penny c says:

    where are you at.

  2. Yes I am here!! says:

    go to the local lumber yard and speak with the owner. he would be able to give you someone who is local / good and reasonable.

  3. Unknown.... says:

    My dad is a contractor and he hates working on really old homes. He’ll often bid too high to avoid working on it.
    Are you fairly sure the house is still decent enough to be rehabbed? There comes a point where if a house hasn’t been maintained it’s pretty much a total write-off.
    When you call, offer to pay one for walking through and telling you if it’s worth repairing. Like the inspection a contractor would do for the sale of the house. If he sees you’re reasonable in your expectations and feels it’s worth fixing, he may be able to do some of the work or at least recommend someone who can. Normally the contractors in the area all know everybody. They know which ones do decent work and which ones they have to go and redo work after.
    But, ask about an inspection. Explain that you need to know what needs to be done. He may be able to tell you who doesn’t mind rewiring an oldie, etc.. Contractors, even ones starving for work are afraid of those old homes. You never know what you’re going to find. Most of them were built before there were building codes and the repair work that was done was done by fly-by-night handymen. Sometimes you do get a pleasant surprise. The roof on the fixer upper we bought was decent underneath all the rotted out shingles, but our electrical system is downright scary. The handyman that did the rewire on it 20 years ago put every kitchen appliance on the same circuit. It’s a wonder the place didn’t burn down. We’re having a heck of a time finding an electrician not scared of touching it.

  4. Dave J says:

    Old homes like that, although beautiful, require regular maintenance. If let go, the damage caused can really add up $$$$ quickly. Sounds like you have quite a bit of water damage already. The suggestion to get an inspection with a good contractor is right on. He’ll be able to give you at least a ball park figure of how much it’s gonna take to get the place back into decent shape. Be prepared for a pretty hefty amount, and, as a WAG I’d say it could approach $200 sq ft to remodel. I know that sounds crazy when some brand new houses are going for $100 sq ft, but think of the work involved here. The house will likely need extensive demolition work for starters, then the mechanicals will probably all need ripped out, replaced, and brought up to code, and then the finishing work will begin. After remodeling many old homes I do know one thing – It’s usually a few steps back (wrecking stuff) before it can be built again to today’s standards and that is what costs the $$$ . Just be patient, the good contractors are all busy now and will get to you soon. Good luck. I love them old homes.

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