The home you build or buy may be the single biggest purchase you'll ever make. That's why choosing the right builder is such a consequential decision. But since we'll only ever need to do this once or twice in our lives it's very easy to be taken advantage of or miss red flags before we plunk our life savings on a tiny home. My guests this week, Paul Dashevsky and Jon Grishpul, started the company GreatBuildz to connect homeowners with reliable, pre-vetted contractors. In this interview, I'll ask them the tough questions about what to look for in a contractor and they share so many gems. Also, Paul and Jon created a downloadable checklist “How To Choose A Contractor” and they're making it available to listeners of the show. You'll be able to download that below.
In This Episode:
- You have homework: the steps you should take before you call a contractor
- The basic things your contractor must have and why
- Can licensed contractors legally build you a tiny house?
- How to determine whether a contractor is right for you
- Types of contracts and what to look for when comparing bids
- Why you should read the contract or have an attorney help you out
- Should your builder provide a warranty?
- Payment schedules and reasonable expectations
- You hired an out-of-state builder. How do you check in?
Links and Resources:
- How To Spot a Bad Contractor Before it's Too Late
- 10 Key Points to a Construction Contract
Paul Dashevsky and Jon Grishpul
Paul Dashevsky and Jon Grishpul have decades of home construction and renovation experience between them, and after seeing the not-so-glamorous side of the industry, they decided to create GreatBuildz, a completely free service that simplifies the contractor search by directly connecting homeowners with reliable, thoroughly-vetted contractors and providing ongoing project support from the initial call to the finished remodel.
This Week's Sponsor:
Tiny House Engage
Is this the year that you're finally going to embark on your dream of living tiny? If you're serious about building or buying a tiny house, then I'd like to personally invite you to my online community where you can connect with other tiny housers, get your questions specific questions answered, and get support on your journey. If you need some encouragement or just need to know how someone else solved a problem, you’ll get those answers in Tiny House Engage. I’m also very active in the community, answering questions and keeping an eye on things, so if you want to interact with me, this is a great way to do it.
ADU kitchen and dining room
ADU kitchen and living room
ADU under construction
Cute little backyard ADU
Paul Dashevsky 0:00
Contractors aren't attorneys, and most people aren't attorneys. So you're creating a legally binding contract between two people that are not attorneys. Somebody pulled up a two page, you know, contract online, and others use a 10 or 20 page contract that they, you know, created with their attorney.
Ethan Waldman 0:19
Welcome to the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast, the show where you learn how to plan, build and live the tiny lifestyle. I'm your host, Ethan Waldman, and this is episode 153 with Paul Dashevsky and John Grishpul. The home you build or buy may be the single biggest purchase you'll ever make. That's why choosing the right builder is such a consequential decision. But since we'll only ever need to do this once or twice in our lives, it's very easy to be taken advantage of or miss red flags before we plunk down our life savings on a tiny home. My guests this week, Paul Dashevsky and Jon Grishpul, started the company GreatBuildz to connect homeowners with reliable, pre-vetted contractors. In the interview, I'll ask them the tough questions about what to look for in a contractor and they share so many gems. Don't miss it. Also, Paul and Jon created a downloadable checklist, How To Choose A Contractor, and they're making it available to listeners of the show. So make sure to head over to the show notes page for this episode, thetinyhouse.net/153 to download that free How To Choose A Contractor checklist. Again, that's thetinyhouse.net/153 for the checklist.
Is this the year that you're finally going to embark on your dream of living tiny? If you're serious about building or buying a tiny house in 2021 then I'd like to personally invite you to my online community where you can connect with other tiny housers, get your specific questions answered, and get support on your journey. Tiny House Engage brings together tiny house hopefuls and DIYers to share plans and resources, learn from each other's challenges and mistakes and celebrate our successes so that we can feel less alone while we build faster, safer, smarter, cheaper homes, embrace the tiny house lifestyle. Whether you're a tiny house dreamer, who is still figuring out all the systems plans and everything you need to go into your tiny house. Or if you're actively building, Tiny House Engage has the resources for you. There are professional contractors in the community here to answer your questions about plumbing, electricity, ventilation, carpentry, and there's also plenty of interaction between members. If you need some encouragement or just need to know how someone else solved a particular problem, You'll get those answers in tiny house engage. I'm also very active in the community answering questions and keeping an eye on things. If you want to interact with me on a daily basis. This is a great place to do it. To learn more and register for tiny house engage, go to thetinyhouse.net/engage. Registration is open Tuesday, March 16 through the following Tuesday, or when we get 20 new members whichever comes first. I can't wait to meet you in Tiny House Engage. And I know you'll love your new tiny house community.
Right. I am here with Paul Dashevsky and Jon Grishpul. Between the two they have decades of home construction and renovation experience and after seeing the not-so-glamorous side of the industry, they decided to create GreatBuildz, a completely free service that simplifies the contractor search by directly connecting homeowners with reliable, thoroughly vetted contractors and providing ongoing project support from the initial call to the finished remodel. Paul and Jon, welcome to the show.
Paul Dashevsky 3:55
Hey, Ethan, good to be with you.
Jon Grishpul 3:58
Hey, thanks for having us.
Ethan Waldman 3:59
Yeah, yeah, I'm glad to have you on the show. So, you know, tiny home building is a bit of like the Wild West right now. There's explosive demand. A lot of people who want to build or buy tiny houses and regulations are starting to catch up with with the tiny house building process but you know, all in all, there are a lot of great builders out there but also them some bad ones. And so a question that I see all the time from people in my online community, Tiny House Engage, and elsewhere is you know, what, what should I look for when I'm talking to a builder when I'm when I'm hiring a builder? And I was curious if we could just start like at the very beginning, maybe what are your tips like before you even pick up the phone or write an email to a contractor or builder? You know Is there anything that that you know what What should that person have? Like ready before they even contact anyone?
Paul Dashevsky 5:04
Let me back you up a little bit further than that. And then Jon will walk you through, you know, kind of the tips. But if you sort of think about it, here's the reason we started GreatBuildz, you sort of think about the process to find a contractoe, very different than the search to find anything, let's say online, a laptop or airsoft, whatever, obviously, very different. And so we started GreatBuildz, realize that there is no great way to do this. Really, the way that people have been doing this, since the stone age's is a ask a friend, you know, what kind of contractor do you recommend who, you know, who did you use that you like? Who built your cave, right? So now, that same person, so that's, that's been working forever. But then, option number two kind of sucks, option number two is you get online through all the review sites, all the Yelps and all the various sites and hope that the reviews are true, which you know, these days, you know, and look at pretty pictures and all the contractors rated four or five stars. And that process is not great. That's what the Yellow Pages was, like, 20-30 years ago, I'm probably dating myself here, right? And, and so there's no really good way. Option number one is great. Option number two kind of sucks. But we thought like, how do you really figure out a way to find a great contractor if you if you don't know someone personally, or if you don't have a friend that knows somebody? Because the problem is that, you know, here where we work in Southern California in LA County alone, one county that we have 20,000 licensed general contractors. Okay, so again, tons to choose from, right. And the other statistic we found that is amazing. And I bet you'd be surprised by this is that 50% of people who work with a contractor who hire a contractor, there was a survey done about this, have a bad experience with it. So of those 20,000, you pick 10,000, you could have a good experience, you pick the other 10,000, you have a terrible experience. So we said there's got to be a better way. And that's why we started GreatBuildz. And I'll let Jon kind of continue the conversation about what it means to then find a good contractor and how we seek out good contractors.
Jon Grishpul 7:20
Sure, so as as Paul said, We Oh, we agree with it, the number one best way to find a good contractor is from referral, someone you know, either in the industry or with relevant experience that has done a project like this before, if my neighbor just finished the kitchen remodel, I talked to them, they came in at a good price, and they were happy with the experience, my search is over, I've probably already found a good fit. But if I'm not fortunate enough to have just the right neighbor next door, or a co worker, or a real estate agent who can refer me to a good contractor, I'm left with the many, many options on all the other sites and Yellow Pages and otherwise. So what we do to kind of screen for a good contractor are all the same things that anyone can be doing. It just takes time and it takes effort and attention. And so it's not so much finding a good contractor. But more so screening out the bad contractor. So the easy things like verifying they have an active license, ensuring that they have workers compensation and general liability insurance. And then, like Paul mentioned, you can't always trust the reviews you read online. But if you read enough of them on a number of different sites, you can usually get a good enough idea of: Are these guys full of it or Is there a potential here? Those are kind of a few of the first few high level things that we look for, just from the very getgo of is this contractor worth having a meeting with? Are they licensed? Are they insured? Is their public reputation good enough? And do they seem good enough from face value to spend time for me?
Ethan Waldman 9:09
And I would just add to that, you know, that it can be hard to find honest reviews? Because you know, the people who write reviews online are either the ones that are super, super happy. And maybe it's like, you know, Joe Schmoe's cousin, or they're the people who are like, super duper pissed. And there's there's not often much in the middle of like, "Yeah, they were fine. You know, I wish they had answered my emails a little faster, but it was fine."
Paul Dashevsky 9:47
Right? So that's why those three first cursory steps are part one part A. So we take a 10 step process, we think everybody should try to do as many things as possible. So then Next steps are, you meet with them personally. And oftentimes, sometimes the contractor sends a salesperson to meet with you and give you an estimate. That's not who you want to know. You want to meet, interview, speak to the owner, because that's who you're going to deal with if you have problems. So that's, that's item number two is, is a management interview, you got to call references. That's where a lot of people fall down is Oh, it's such a headache. But if you can have conversations with at least three, four or five prior customers, who aren't contractors, cousins, or friends from, you know, temple or whatever, and they literally, they specifically had a really good experience. And they could say, unequivocally, "I never knew this guy. Had a great experience with this person, or him or her. And I would definitely recommend them." And then you got to ask him pointed questions like, "That's great. You loved him. If there was one thing they could do better?" People will answer that question. "Well, it was great, but it was a little delayed." That's that's another item. Another item then is we always run a background check. Not everybody can do that. But we always run a background check on that person. Then you - what am I missing? We we make them sign a code of conduct, you know, you can check their contract with an attorney, you can just keep going and going and going. And the idea is, if after all those steps, there are no red flags. It's a good sign they've gotten through your gauntlet. And they're probably one of the good guys. Oh, and the whole time that you're working with them, have they been responsive? Right, you know that they respond to you to take them a week to get you a bid? So all these things, usually, the good ones sort of come out the bottom of the funnel, if you do your homework.
Jon Grishpul 11:46
Sorry to interrput - it's funny, because when it comes to this whole contractor world, we kind of call ourselves sometimes a matchmaker for contractors. And that first meeting with a contractor is really a first date. So while they may have their best foot forward on that first meeting, as Paul mentioned, I think it's really important to note that, from that very first phone call or form you fill out on their website, all the way through getting your estimate, it's evermore important to pay attention to how the communication is how they treat you as a human being, and ensure that their communication style and format, fits your style, as well.
Ethan Waldman 12:25
Yeah. So this is probably a really basic question. But, Jon, I think you mentioned, just making sure that the contractor has a license, and that they have liability insurance. And I wonder if you could speak to what the benefits, why you want, why do you want your contractor to have a license? Because, you know, they could probably build it a lot cheaper if they didn't have a license? And what about the liability insurance? Why does that affect me the customer?
Jon Grishpul 12:56
Sure, so let me touch on the license first. In order to get a contractor's license, the process is a little bit different between state to state, but at least here in California, and I figured similar across every other state, you have to take a test, you have to pass a series, a course, and credibility, just prove that you know, the regulations, you know, what needs be done, and how to take on these different types of projects, how to do these large construction projects. And just from a credibility perspective, it's really, really important that especially when taking on a large scale construction project, like building a tiny home, you want to work with someone who's experienced, who has enough strong enough backgrounds, that they're credible and capable of doing a significant project like this something that can jeopardize other parts of your home or cause very significant repercussions. You want to make sure you're working with someone who has the credibility and the license behind them that says, Yes, I am experienced, I know what I'm doing. Here's my paper to prove. And then kind of on the back end, having a license. And this goes along with having insurance is if anything goes wrong. General liability insurance, workers compensation insurance, and also to some degree having a license essentially says if anything goes wrong, you have these options. So if someone gets hurt or if there's property damage during any construction project that workers compensation insurance and or that general liability insurance will cover that. And let's say you're working with a contractor and they're trying to rip you off, or they disappear from your project, or God forbid anything else even worse happens if they don't have a license, and you paid them some significant amount of money. You're out of luck. There's there's very few options you have because for all you know, you don't have this guy's real name market is real context information, he could have fleet. But if he has a license, if he has insurance, then there are these higher powers that you can reach out to that can take action that you do have recourse with. And if they're not licensed, and if they don't have insurance, you typically don't have these same recourse options.
Paul Dashevsky 15:17
And not to mention, Ethan, that it's illegal for these guys to do big projects without a license a year, you're outside of the law, if you're hiring someone, you know, to build your tiny house or ADU without a license, you're taking a big risk.
Ethan Waldman 15:29
Right. And it's interesting, because I don't know. You know, we, in the tiny house world, a lot of the tiny houses themselves don't always meet residential code. And they're not necessarily always legal to live in, especially the houses on on wheels, the movable tiny houses. But, my assumption is if you work with a contractor that has a license, they still have to uphold their license when they build your tiny house, they still have to follow certain things. I mean, is that a correct assumption?
Paul Dashevsky 16:05
Like the ones on wheels, I can't speak to, right. But if you want to build something permanent, let's say in your backyard, you know, like accessory dwelling unit is what we see a lot of right? You need a licensed contractor to pull a permit, you know, unless you want to do all this construction illegally, which is a huge risk. Because if your neighbor then calls the city, they'll read tag you they'll make you knock down. But if you want to do it legally, you need a real contractor to follow permit, you need a real set of plans, you're going to have inspectors come through many, many times during the project. And at the end of it, you want to get a COO, Certificate Of Occupancy, which tells the world that you built this thing and it's legal to live in, and it's added value to your property. And it's legal for you to rent out all these numbers of reasons, you want to have it totally legitimate you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars or tens of thousands of dollars, you want to legitimate so that if you sell your when you sell your property, you want to rent it all these reasons you want it to, you know, be legit.
Jon Grishpul 17:04
It I can I can answer it a little bit differently. I will avoid using specifics as to not throw anyone under the bus. But to answer your question, yes. If you choose to go under the law, and take the likely faster and cheaper way out, it's still advisable to work with a licensed contractor. And while they may not positive about this, maybe they take a pledge when they get their license that they will only do legal work. I do know contractors who if it's the clients wishes, who are willing to hurt the system, avoid permits, and do it for cheaper and faster. But I do say it's still advisable to work with a licensed contractor, or at very least someone who does have that right experience. Because at the end of the day, it comes down to safety. You want to make sure you're working with someone who can create a space that will be safe for you and your family and your loved ones. And not that not having a license means that that contractors not good. But they don't necessarily have the credibility behind them to show that yes, they are capable of doing this safely and doing it properly. And even if we choose to do it without permits, a licensed contractor knows how to do it right. So that it's a safe, comfortable. So
Ethan Waldman 18:31
I love that you shared that tip how when you interview reference, you know what, what's one thing they could have done better? That's an awesome question. I was curious, what what are your tips for what's your advice for when when you actually do pick up the phone and start interviewing the contractors specifically rather than the referrals? You know? How can you avoid kind of getting a sales pitch or getting sold to and kind of actually suss out whether this is a person that you want to work?
Paul Dashevsky 19:07
Yeah, I'll back up and sort of tell you that we've sort of witnessed and I think people should be aware, because if you're not in the industry, I don't I don't think it's obvious that there's probably three types of general contractors, which is what we're talking about out there. There's, I call them small, medium sized, and large. And it's important to suss out who you're dealing with. You know, the guy with the ads on TV and the big rap trucks and all the marketing and radio ads. That's a big contractor. Clearly, there's no question about it. The guy that's a one man shop that works out out of the back of his truck, that's a small time guy. And then sort of all the other folks in the middle kind of Middle America, if you will, the hard work in general contractors, they may work out of their home, their wives might help them they have a crew of 5, 10, 15 whatever it is, that's everybody else. So what will happen oftentimes is, is they're priced accordingly. There's a big guys are going to be expensive, they have to pay for their marketing budget, small guys are going to be cheap, but they're sort of a one man operation. And that can be an issue, right? You know, for the obvious reason that, you know, one man can't do a job nearly as fast as, you know, a crew. So we're always trying to steer people to that to that middle tranche, you know, they may not be the cheapest, that can be the most expensive, but they're also, you know, salt of the earth, kind of, a nice size crew, and so on and so forth. And so, I think, you know, you want to be asking them things like, you know, obviously get on the phone, and what's the budget? I want to build a ADU or tiny house that's this size? Have you done that before? Oh, you have just finished one last week? Great. And what was the budget for that? How much? How much did that cost? How big is your crew? Yeah, they're not gonna lie gonna lie, they'll say one or two, or they'll say I have 50. Or they'll say I have, you know, I have ten guys. And so that's important to figure out, because that'll tell you what kind of contractor you're dealing with. You know, you could ask them if they prefer, sort of being involved with all the hands on stuff, like selecting materials, or they want you to do that. And that will tell you, you know, are they kind of a hands on person? Do they have someone to help with with design? Does he wanna, they want to join you when you go to the material stores? And they want you to handle all that and just kind of give them a list? You know, did that how you want to ask them about their management? Meaning: are you going to assign a specific project manager to my project is the in a medium sized contract, usually the owner, that will be there once, twice, three times a week? Is that what you want? Well, then you should ask. On the other hand, a larger company will say, well, we'll assign a project manager to your site, you're never going to meet the owner of the company. So that's, that's important. You know, and then we can talk about the proposals specifically, to your point is a time and materials is it? Is it a max bid? Are you going to include any of the material costs in the bid? So make a list of your questions, I think we maybe even have a blog or some resources that people can find on our website, but just make this laundry list of things that are important to you. And in essence, it almost doesn't matter what you ask, I mean, those things are important for you to suss out to your point. But after you have a half an hour conversation with someone, you just get a feel for them, right, you'll just get a sense of, of who they are. And if you're just talking to a salesperson or some one of their reps, then you're not talking to the right person, because that's not going to be helpful, you're not going to get a sense of the personality of the company, they're just trying to sell you, and then they're going to move on, you're never going to see him again, they're off the soul the next person. So that's important to know, who is it that you're speaking with?
Ethan Waldman 22:55
Yeah, you know, it's, I'm hearing what you're saying and kind of reflecting and thinking, yeah, there are like, the bigger tiny house companies. And then there are the medium sized ones. And then there are the small ones, where it's just, you know, one guy building building one house at a time. And I was I was also thinking, just that, you know, when it comes to budget and cost. I feel like if if your biggest priority as a customer is the lowest cost, then you've kind of already lost, or you're setting yourself up for potential disappointment and heartache. And you know, what happens in the tiny house world, particularly for houses on wheels? You know, people come into it with an idea, you know, maybe they've seen a kind of click-bate article about, you know, "Couple Builds Amazing Dream Tiny Home for $20,000" or something. And, and they say, okay, like, my budget is $30,000. And then they're going to tiny house builders, and, you know, the lowest they're hearing for a professionally built tiny house is 60. And then someone comes in and says, Yeah, I can do it for 40. And they're like, great, you're the person, but you know, that then then you've lost if everybody else is coming in at one price,
Paul Dashevsky 24:20
That's very, very true there's an issue that we warn people about, which is you know, you always want to get multiple bids to your point. But if it's if it's 60, 65 and 40, you know, you got to think twice because, look, I don't want to disparage contractors. It's who we work with every single day of the year. But there is a breed of contractors out there that will bid you the low bid, right, give you the low bid your point to get the job with the with knowing full well. They're there. They're not making a lot of money with the full intention of making up for it with change orders. Right making and asking you for extras along the way and finding issues and then you're going to find that you're going to end up paying $10,000 more or whatever and you're just going to, you're going to do it, you're going to be disheartened and and frustrated. Because you could have chosen a different contractor spent a little bit more without all the heartache.
Ethan Waldman 25:22
I'd like to tell you a little more about Tiny House Engage. Tiny House Engage members are also able to listen live, as I record these podcasts and interviews, ask questions of our guests. So if you're a big fan of the show, any house engage is a great way to get an inside look at the tiny house lifestyle podcast, get access to episodes, weeks or even months before they go live on the feed, learn more and register for Tiny House Engage, go to thetinyhouse.net/engage. Registration is open Tuesday, March 16, through the following Tuesday, or when we get 20 new members, whichever comes first. I can't wait to meet you in Tiny House Engage. And I know you'll love your new tiny house community.
Maybe you kind of breeze through them there. And I want to make sure to try to break them down a little bit like could you go through some of the different types of contracts? You know, time and materials or you said max bid and orr cost plus?Yeah, what are the what are some different common types of contracts that people work with?
Paul Dashevsky 26:27
Well, they're mostly at least around here, you know, you have time and material and cost plus. But to be frank, the average, most of the contractors we see work off of a fixed cost contract, which is just purely a laundry list of the things they're going to do. And in theory, in a perfect world, all the materials that they're going to provide, and a fixed cost at the bottom of it. And that's really best I think, for the average consumer, the average consumer can't know time and materials, like that's not their expertise, like how long does it take and what are the materials costs. So what I recommend is, you know, fixed price, which is sort of a max, you know, sort of contract, which writes out the scope, the problem, the problem comes in that every contractor knows, I think the average homeowner should know this, when they start working with people that rough materials are included. Lumber is included, nails are included, drywall is included, right? There's things that are obvious the contractor, they're included. But then finish materials may or may not be included. And so that's when you start looking at bids and start thinking, determining that they're not apples to apples, because one will say, Oh, the flooring, well, yeah, I'll give you a included my bid is flooring materials up to $3 per square foot, right? So you choose that's an allowance, but I'll give you up to three to another contract may have no flooring material included. So you have to now compare the two and say, well wait a minute, this one has more in it. So if it's more expensive, that makes sense because they're actually including flooring. And the same goes for tile, faucets, showerheads light switch, it, just the list goes sort of on and on. So you have to, you sort of have to, that's, that's where the the lack of clarity comes in is apples to apples in terms of what they do. And then apples to apples in terms of what they what they include.
Ethan Waldman 26:34
Yeah, that's, that's a really great point. And just, you know, all of what you're saying, in my opinion, can be applied to working with a professional tiny house builder as well. So, you know, for anyone listening saying well, they're talking about somebody building, you know, a brand new single family home or something like that. And this is all you know, this all applies to tiny houses. Sometimes the language might be a little bit different. But you know, this is great, great stuff.
Paul Dashevsky 29:13
Yeah, I mean, we always tell our customers like whether it's a tiny house or a full sized house. It's a house this is no joke. I'm pretty sure your tiny house you need electricity. I'm pretty sure you need sewer and water I'm pretty sure you need you know, whether it's heating or air conditioning, you need drywall, you need insulation, you need to you know, if it's not on wheels, you need a foundation, if you're going to live in it needs all the comforts of home. So you're really talking about all the same things that go into a regular house for the most part.
Ethan Waldman 29:44
Yeah, so a lot of people don't like to read through the fine print and don't like to read through the contract. So you know, any tips on you know, unless You know, of course, if they're going to work with with GreatBuildz, maybe they don't have to worry about this quite as much. But, you know, tips for reading through the contract and just understanding it.
Paul Dashevsky 30:11
This is, this is a hard one, I'll be completely frank with you, you asked some really good questions. And this is this is a good one, too. Contractors aren't attorneys, and most people aren't attorneys. So you're creating a legally binding contract between two people that are not attorneys. And from our experience, no two contractors have the same contract. Somebody pulled off a two page, you know, contract online, and others use a 10 or 20 page contract that they, you know, created with their attorney. And it's really hard for homeowners, this is really, really hard. You know, the obvious thing to do if you're spending a lot of money is have an attorney review it. I mean, that's obvious, short of that, you don't want to spend the money, you kind of just have to do your best to make sure it passes the smell test, we actually do have a an article on our blog called 10 Key Points to a Construction Contract that we had written by some attorney friends of ours. So if people want to really kind of hone in and look for things that they want to that should be in a contract, I'd suggest looking at that blog, but you know, insurance, performance bonds and payment schedules, and indemnities and warranties, then arbitration clauses. I mean, it's kind of beyond Yeah, the average person, but but that article, and we could we could give you a link to that is a start. But to be frank, this is hard, there is no really easy answer to that one.
Ethan Waldman 31:46
And I'll throw a link to that. And the other blog that you mentioned, though, they'll both be linked on the show notes page, which will be at thetinyhouse.net/153. This is this will be Episode 153. But yeah, that's that's, I mean, it's good advice. And it is hard in reading contracts is hard. And you know, your eyes can easily glaze over, that's for sure. I was curious. If you can speak to like warranties at all, and being like, how long a contractor kind of guarantees, their workmanship, the success of that building, you know, what's common in the industry?
Paul Dashevsky 32:36
What's common is a one year warranty. Because, you know, it's expected that the average part the average labor that it takes to put something in, should last a year. Really good contractors will come back way after that. Yeah, order from the goodness of their own hearts, but you should expect to see one year. And, you know, where we educate homeowners are that are building anything, essentially, is nothing's gonna last forever. You sort of can't expect that five years down the road, that faucets going to work, you know, things break, houses move, things change you shower, in your shower, so that tile is going to crack. It wasn't the contractors fault. All of that five years hence, because there's movement, there's earthquakes, there's water damage, whatever, but a one year warranty, you should expect them to come back. Okay.
Ethan Waldman 33:41
This is actually a question from from the chat, which is a great question. Are there contracts that have a schedule of payment linked to specific work done along the way?
Jon Grishpul 33:53
Yeah, there is. And I would say in almost any case, there should be. That's typically how any contractor should be paid. At here in California, at least, it's illegal the paid more than 10%, or the lesser of 10%, or $1,000. As an initial down payment, if it's illegal to charge any more than that. The rest of the work is aid when work is completed. Sometimes payment is necessary to source materials, things like that just to make the lead time more efficient. But yes, every contract should have a payment schedule. And there should be payment milestones based on when work is completed. Payment relief upon demolition, payment relief, on framing, and so on and so forth.
Ethan Waldman 34:40
Got it. Yeah, so hopefully nobody's in the situation where their contractor is hitting them up for money to buy lumber. But if you are in that situation, you might consider running away before you get too much further.
Jon Grishpul 34:55
Right. And it's actually to harp on that a little bit further ads, though. What I was discussing earlier about the contract, that is one part of the contract that is very important to look through and make sure you're comfortable with. And if necessary, clarify any details about it with the contractor. For example, if too much is loaded, at the front end is the beginning of a project, some clients of ours are can be concerned about there not being enough stake in the game later on in the project for the contractor to continue working, which I'll say is not not a common concern for a good contractor. But certainly for someone who's been burned by a bad contractor before I of course, gets hesitation. So just making sure that it's even in there dispersals throughout the project, and that even with punch list, at the very end of the project, there is some portion, maybe 5, at most 10 percent, typically, depending on the size of the project is withheld until you can walk through with your contractor and confirm and verify that everything is exactly where you want it the way that it's supposed to be. And then you hand over that final check.
Ethan Waldman 36:13
Nice. Yeah, that's, that's great advice. And I said it before, I'll say it again, all this applies to tiny house builds. I'm curious, and this might not be something that that many of your clients or you have to deal with. But it is somewhat common in in the movable tiny house world, which is that you might end up picking a builder that is not in your location. That is, you know, maybe even in a different state, you know, you're working with a specific tiny house builder that you really like. Any tips for how to manage that process, when you're not able to be there physically and like see the progress and actually inspect what's happening on your biuld?
Paul Dashevsky 37:04
That's a, that's a tough one,Ethan, I mean, you know, it's you want to try to be there, you want someone to try to be there, you know, the worst case scenario is, we always tell people that they need to inspect along the way, right? Because once everything's done, it's so much harder to fix anything and everything. So if you you know, if you're a good client, and you're walking the job, whether it's a tiny house or a bigger build, weekly, and you're telling the contractor like, you know, I noticed this, or I noticed that, you know, let's talk about it. I'm not saying, you know, maybe maybe it's okay that it's imperfect. Maybe I'm a perfectionist, but but a good contractor might say no problem, let's let's, let's tweak it, that's reasonable. But if if you tell them that at the end of the project, that's just not fair to anybody, they may have done a poor job, but you should have you should have noticed that you got to be looking at it's just, you know, no different than buying a pair of shoes or, or anything else. You got to be there. Somebody's got to be there.
Jon Grishpul 38:10
Right. Yeah. So let me just add to that, I guess there's a few different scenarios with this can be the case. Let's say I live in California, but I hired a tiny home builder in Oregon to build me a tiny home for a property down in Oregon. In that scenario, even though I can't be there, do these COVID times I can't fly to Portland every week, find find a way around it. It's it is the 21st century video chat on a weekly basis, right? Have the contractors send you photos of work progress, do whatever you can to at least have a regular cadence with whomever you hire, that you can evaluate their quality of work, ensure that everything is in line with what you were looking to do. And so that you're not caught by surprise at the end of it, and end up making a big mistake. And then another scenario, I don't know if this is what you're referring to, but I'll touch on it. Let's say you're working with a tiny home builder based in Arizona, and they're fabricating in the factory and they're going to ship it to my property here in California. If that's the case, those folks in Arizona certainly know exactly what they're doing while building their unit. They're good at that. That's what they do. They may or may not know all the rules and regulations in your state in your county, your city. So if you are working with someone who will be making a unit, sometimes a tiny home or an ADU and bringing it to your local city, find someone local that can manage that process for you. Typically an architect or a contractor. Typically a contractor will need to do finish work nonetheless, or site prep work to set up utilities. So Make sure that you find someone local who is familiar with the rules with the regulations, so that hopefully it's being fabricated correctly. But more importantly, that once it's done with fabrication, you have someone who can do it according to the rules and the laws here in California, wherever the property is located, just to avoid any mishaps or headaches down the road.
Ethan Waldman 40:25
Got it. I was curious, just to talk briefly about about the company GreatBuildz, you know, how did you get the idea for it? And how's it been going so far?
Paul Dashevsky 40:40
Yeah, I mean, it's sort of where we started, Ethan, it was the thought, you know, I, my background, I was, I was flipping homes for about 10 years here in Southern California. And the worst part about flipping homes was finding contractors. So that's why we're spending so much time on, you know, the discussion of choosing contractors. And I thought, Man, I'm a professional, or in theory, I'm a professional, it still sucks to find good contractors. How does the average person do it? Now I started talking to john about that. And what we came up with is what we were talking about the fact that there's one good way to do it, and other ways, you know, they're terrible. So we started kind of interviewing people, and people would want to tell us, friends and colleagues want to tell us about their nightmare remodel. Or if not that, they would say, Yeah, I need a good contractor, you tell me where to find a good one. And so we thought, can we create a company that was like, getting a contractor recommendation from a trusted friend? Like, can we do that, we said that that's sort of the basis we started with is we can find a way to do that and get people one of those 50% good contractors, and they're just much more likely to have a positive renovation experience. So that was the goal. Don't just be a website, where we list thousands and thousands of contractors, that's not helpful that already exists. But if, if a homeowner can call us and say, here's what I want, here's my budget, here's what I need, here's my questions. And we could spend 20 minutes, half an hour with them on the phone, say, "Great, let me let me tell you what I know. And let me tell you my experience, let me tell you, what you should budget," so on and so forth. And then at the end of the app, match them up with three contractors in our network that are the best fit for them in all those various facets, and then set them up to meet with them and give them the opportunity to pick one if they like, then we thought that was sort of a full service offering that was much more hands on and much more like, like maybe a friend or a family member might do.
Ethan Waldman 42:46
Nice. I like it. We need this in the tiny house world. Was there anything that I didn't ask you about that you that you feel like the tiny house, or ADU, audience should know or learn about?
Paul Dashevsky 43:04
I mean, you asked some really, you know, great questions. The only thing in my notes that we kind of thought was interesting is, you know, we get a lot of requests for folks that want to build an ADU, or tiny houses. And so we've been tracking what people are, why people are building them out here, specifically in Southern California. So what I thought was interesting, was the statistics we have out here, at least, about 50% of those folks that are calling us are wanting to build them as rentals that they want to build on their property as an investment to rent out. So that's kind of interesting. And then the other 50% are sort of broken down into 10% projects, Ethan so another 10% about 10% are they wanting to work from home, make that especially these days, another 10% are retirees who are actually going to move out of their home once they build the ADU and move into the backyard, right to rent, rent their, their big home about another 10% are doing it for family. So maybe they're moving a mom or dad or, or college student, you know, into their ADU. About 10 are using it for sort of a guesthouse, their own use, and then another 10 are sort of for their own use uses like a gym or a man cave or she shed kind of their own entertainment type of use. I thought that was sort of interesting, anecdotally what we're seeing.
Ethan Waldman 44:42
Yeah, nice. Thanks for thanks for sharing that. Yeah, I would have I would have guessed about that, you know that. About half are interested in a rental income and then you know, kind of a smattering of other ones. So thanks. Thanks for sharing and thanks for tracking that.
Jon Grishpul 45:00
Thanks. Yeah, I've got I've got one more for you. Paul's already discussed. So we've already beat his death. But we started this company, because there's a lot of bad contractors out there. And there's too many nightmare renovations and horror stories. And, like Paul mentioned are this because there's just bad contractors that don't have the ethics and are willing to take advantage of homeowners, steal their money, whatever. But another major piece of it is the knowledge about these contractors that we're interviewing that we're considering, that we're working with, that we're deciding to hire. They've been in business for 5, 10, 20 years, they know the industry in and out. And, for better and worse, because of it, they know how to play the game. Whereas the average homeowner who only takes on a major project like this, once every three to five years, like everything we've talked about today may not know the right questions to ask, may not even know where to start in evaluating these contractors. And I say that because we started this business, primarily with general contractors, because while it's ever more important to find a great plumber, because my sink is leaking, worst case scenarios, a couple $100 down the drain, and they'll be out of your house in a day. Whereas with a major project like this, this weeks, if not months on end, that's where it's evermore important to find the right fit. We found beyond what we do with matching clients with the right contractors, we've realized that a lot more of the service than it is ever more important than that is answering the questions and kind of bridging the gap between the average homeowner with minimal renovation experience, and the contractor who knows way too much and they're powerful because of it. So I say that because I hope it doesn't bite me in the butt. Currently, we only have the resources to serve Southern California, we only have a network of contractors here in Southern California. But our vision, our mission as an organization is really to ensure that homeowners make confident decisions, finding contractors. Our entire screening process is not top secret. It's public on our website. folks call us all the time with general questions and ideas. And they've already hired a contractor but they're not sure about this or that. And just as much as I enjoy helping clients find good contractors, I love helping people get out of sticky situations and ensuring that they're confident with their hiring decisions. So for any of your listeners, or if there's anyone that does have a general question about construction, or what to look for in a contractor, please check out our website. Give us a call. Our phone number is plastered all over our website. It's hard to miss. I would love to chat and point you in the right direction give you general guidance. And if there's anything specific that we can do to help that's really what we're here for.
Ethan Waldman 48:06
Awesome. Well, Jon Grishpul and Paul Dashevsky, thank you so much for for being guests on the show today. This was great.
Paul Dashevsky 48:13
Thank you, Ethan.
Jon Grishpul 48:15
Thanks for having us.
Ethan Waldman 48:18
Thank you so much to Paul Dashevsky and Jon Grishpul of GreatBuildz for being guests on the show today. Also, don't forget to head over to thetinyhouse.net/153 for the show notes where you can download the free checklist, How To Choose A Contractor, that Paul and Jon have created just for listeners of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast. So again, that's thetinyhouse.net/153. Also, don't forget to get on the waitlist for Tiny House Engage. Doors are opening this coming Tuesday, March 16th, and will stay open until we get 20 new members or just the week, whichever comes first. You can learn more about that at thetinyhouse.net/engage. Alright, I have been your host I am still your host Ethan Waldman and I'll be back next week with another episode of the Tiny House Lifestyle Podcast.
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