Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis: Restoring Homes to Their Former Glory

In the early 2000's, before all the popular house flipping shows, I told someone that I was self-employed buying and renovating run-down houses.  "You can make a living doing that?" the person asked surprisingly.  I didn't know how to answer back except to shrug and say, "I don't know, but I'm doing it."

Then, not too long after this I started hearing about the people on TV that bought, renovated, and quickly resold houses in a 30 minute episode.  Folks would learn a little about me and ask excitedly, "Oh, are you a house flipper?"  However, I'm really not a flipper.  To me that's always a quick turnaround kind of deal that takes a few weeks or months.  That's not what I do.  Taking on properties that no one else wants is my thing.  These are houses that need seriously reworked.  Realtors, other general contractors, investors, dreaming DIYers, or want-a-be house flippers pass on the properties I take on because their wrecks.  Houses that are really bad have been really good for me.

In the last year and a half, others have started to compare what I do to Nicole Curtis' projects and what she does on Rehab Addict.  For me, this fits better than the house flipper comparisons.  My wife was the first to make this link.  We'd have RA on, Nicole would start preaching her wisdom and my wife would say, "That's what you always say."  Or it would show the freelance renovator salvaging something that had been thrown out and it was like my wife started to get me a little differently as she said, "That's something you'd do."  Maybe it looks better on camera than the way I explain at home, covered in dust and dirt at the end of the day.  I don't know, but I appreciate the way Nicole Curtis has helped people understand what we do. 

Nicole Curtis in Action on
Rehab Addict (HGTV, DIY)
In the Rehab Addict intro, Nicole explains how she restores homes to their former glory. I've loved all of my projects, but I don't really think they've had much former glory.  So in that way I guess we're a little different.  My Pig's Ears have all pretty much been jacked up messes with nonconventional or unorthodox additions that have people shaking their heads and questioning my sanity.  When someone's really being nice they might say something like, "What are you gonna do with this thing?"  I recently tried to explain how the Rehab Addict and I differ like this: 'I don't restore homes to their former glory, but I do make them better than they've ever been before,'  However, to be clear, these houses are beyond fixer-uppers with no where to go but up.  (See my Projects.)

So when I get mentioned with Nicole in a blog like Mom and Her Drill or someone hears me describe what I do and says, "Hey, that sounds like what Nicole Curtis does,"  I like it.  We're saving houses that others don't want or can't save, showing people it can be done.  I'm proud of that.  It feels good and a lot more natural than being called a house flipper, that's for sure.

See Rehab Addict Nicole Curtis on DIY

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Quotes Shouldn't Change

I was running around on Tuesday, getting some last minute things crossed off my list before New Year's Eve when I saw a face that looked familiar.  You know how it goes; you see someone and you ask yourself, "How do I know that person?"  I was actually holding the door open for them when I realized how our paths had crossed.

Back in 1999, I was getting written proposals for a project.  I had my multiple prices and awarded the flooring scope to a local subcontractor.  All the estimates were in the same ballpark, all the bidders were equally qualified for the work, so the obvious choice was the lowest number.  An easy call.  I telephoned the low bidder and advised them that they had the job.  The next day, something unusual happened:  the prospective contractor called me to say they'd have to raise their price.  There was not a lot of hesitation or apprehension coming for the other end of the phone, it was just sort of matter-of-fact as if they were sharing some news I needed to be aware of.  Something like, "Just calling to let you know that we took another look at our price and we're going to need more money than we thought."  This is not normal.  No one does this.  I mean, this happens almost never.

Have you ever heard of the bate and switch sales strategy?   With the bait and switch, a business person or company advertises something for one price and then when they get a customer lured in to make a purchase, they adjust things in their own favor to make more money.  I guess it felt a little like that.  So anyway, I thanked the people for the news, but without much thought I let them know I wouldn't need them for the job and that was the end of that. 

Then I called Bidder #2 and gave them the job.  Maybe I spent a couple hundred dollars more, but I never thought too much about it... until Tuesday when I spotted the price changer from '99.  Another thing I'm remembering now is that I ended up going back to subcontractor #2 on at least a half dozen more projects in the years that followed and would  probably be using them even now if they hadn't have relocated their business to another town farther away.

So this is just another lesson in the need to get multiple prices.  Hiring someone for a job on a renovation is the beginning of a relationship.  It may last a few days, or in some cases, it may be ongoing for years.  On the same project I mentioned above, I hired a contactor I'm still using today 14 years later.  He's not just a tradesman on my job, he's a friend.  But like I said, these are relationships, business relationships and you don't want to head down a path with someone who's jerking you around at the start. 

Quotes shouldn't change unless you change something.  If you want more, you need to be ready to pay more.  If you need less than you can ask for a credit.  (But understand that even though this discount is customary it's not guaranteed.)  Also, get something down on paper if you and your contractor adjust the price.  You may not be saying the same thing and getting it in writing will eliminate the possibility of confusion when it's time for you to write a check. 

Finally, as I've said before, work hard to get multiple quotes.  Then, if someone tries to go up on their price, you can point to the signed agreement and/or be ready to go to the next person on your list.

See Push Hard to Get Quotes or A Business Lesson From Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson