Building on last week’s installment, we went over a few things that make contractors cringe and a few things that make contractors want to work for you. This week I’d like to go over another challenge contractors encounter and how you as a real estate professional can work with them to make the project a success, making yourself a top client for your contractor. Remember all of these posts are meant to make you MORE MONEY! To review Part 1 of 4 click here.

As an attorney operating a real property and construction defect legal practice, a real estate broker handling real property matters, a California contractor operating a construction business, and teaching Construction Law, Construction Accounting and other Construction Management Courses, I see the problems from many overlapping angles.

Lots of people think contractors or tradespeople ended up in construction rather than purposefully entering the field.

If you’re looking to turn a contractor away and drive a wedge between the two of you, be sure to act like the profession is not respected or respectable. I know I touched on this in the last installment, but it is vitally important. One story that stands out in my mind as what not to do: I went and did an estimates for a psychologist who works at one of the Central Coast’s major institutional facilities. Acting in my capacity as a contractor I drove my work truck to look at a concrete and brick project he needed done as a portion of a larger project.

As soon as I waked up to greet him it was apparent that this fellow truly believed he was important. Having worked as an attorney I know about the tactics people use to try and establish control of a conversation. I introduced myself as Dan and he referred to me as Daniel and Daniel Knight when talking to me among other stale dominance tricks. When I explained to him the way we would need to slope the concrete to drain rain and other water, he pointed out how that was not true and that I must do it his way. The conversation went on like this for some time. I finally had to stop him and ask if he thought that gravity is a constant force on planet earth. He forcefully agreed. I told him water was very unlikely to flow uphill unless there was some sort of mechanical system in place to pump it. He again very forcefully told me that is a given and it was foolish of me to say that.

After I let him treat me like a fool for some time, approximately 10 minutes, I asked him why if he is so confident that gravity is a constant force he would want design a concrete patio that would slope towards his house. The design would flood the house, trapping water in ponds that would be created as a result of his method of sloping the concrete. I thought surly this chap was going to be able to see he’d made a mistake and back out of the conversation and still save face. Instead he let me know “conversation over”, apparently the rules of physics had changed in this particular property and therefore drainage by gravity did not apply making his design the superior one. He thanked me for my time and asked me to leave.

As you can imagine I decided earlier in the conversation I was going to decline to bid this job. He was very sheepish and uncomfortable as he walked with me to my truck. It was clear he was feeling embarrassed. I thought a simple farewell was appropriate to keep him from feeling worse. Talk about an attitude killing a deal

What was confirmed that day and has been reconfirmed and proven to me time and again, is that often times professionals don’t view construction personnel and contractors as professionals within their class. The above situation is not uncommon in my experience with engineers, architects, and other design professionals within the construction industry. Most contractors don’t have letters after their name and it is seen as inferior.

Contractors are highly trained professionals in their fields. I am a proponent of the idea that college by itself is not enough to truly make someone a professional, if you’d like read more on why I think that click here [College Isn’t Enough]. After working in the construction industry my whole life, either as a contractor or attorney or real property professional, contractors are one of the most underestimated and underutilized professional groups in the construction and real property industry.

With the pressure in high schools that everyone must go to college to be a professional, it often casts a negative light on those in the trades. Some of the highest earners I know are those that never went to college or those that learned a trade then later went back to college. Being a competent professional is just as valuable if not more than any degree.


Take away from this story?

1) A contractor is just like us as real estate professionals. We want to be respected and treated as equals. Just because a contractor’s equally extensive education didn’t come from an institution of higher learning doesn’t make it less valuable.

2) When dealing with a contractor you are probably going to face some “chest beating” when you first start to talk about the project and the contractor may or may not try to prove how much they know on a topic. Remember, it is as a result, many times, of them being talked to as if they are inferior and less intelligent than other professions. Know that this reaction isn’t necessarily your fault. As you talk to them like colleagues and equals in the industry, and not second class professionals they will warm up to you and come around.

3) Remember that your contractor’s opinion is one of the best tools you have when developing your negotiating position in a real property transaction. Asking them for advice and counsel relating to their areas of expertise can pay dividends.

Lastly, remember contractors and the construction industry thrives on relationships. Developing a relationship with you contractor is a way to save money. Always remember contractors bid more into their projects when there is more risk. Be predictable and consistent to get your client the best deal with a contractor.

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DISCLAIMER: Let me stop here to give you the boilerplate disclaimer. Every situation in law and building is different. Do not rely on this article to make decisions on your specific situation. Every matter is different and requires that you talk to a professional. If you want to talk to me see my contact below. Nothing in this article shall be construed to create an attorney client relationship or partnership.


Dan Knight is a San Luis Obispo resident, Attorney, Real Estate Broker, Building Contractor, Cal Poly Lecturer, and Lead Instructor at Cuesta Community College.

He is principal of The Law Offices of Daniel J. Knight and Dan Knight Construction & Plumbing.


Twitter: @Nerd_Contractor