There’s quite a bit of information out there advising new home-owners how to find a good builder but not much available as to how a builder can find a good client. Good, in the main, meaning one that appreciates the work enough to pay all the bills when due. Sounds simple enough, but sometimes not so. In my experience, it seems there is sometimes, not often mind you, someone who has a mind to get you from the get go. A taker, who knows how to manipulate and fool the people who are working for him. How and when does the contractor discover his clients real intentions and if a sense of fair play is even in the cards? By the carefully drawn contract? Supposedly. But they cannot contain the true character of either participant can they? A client may be much more savvy in contractual affairs than the contractor and perhaps even a lawyer himself. At some point a contractor may have to take the hit. Of course he didn’t see it coming. His mind is on producing a clean, well-crafted job and keeping his crew organized and finishing their part of the job to the high standard they worked the best part of their lives to achieve.
I’ve been lucky. During my fifty years as a custom home contractor I’ve only met a few unscrupulous clients but they were significantly so. I remember one in particular. We were building a reproduction period stone house for his family in the rouge hills. Things proceeded naturally enough for many months when the time arrived to deliver all of the custom windows and doors. It was not unusual for me to ask him if he had the large cheque available before we off-loaded the two truckloads, was it? He smiled and waved the envelope at me. So of course I told the crew to put everything in his large garage as he instructed. It took many hours to fit everything inside. He seemed quite pleased as he pulled the overhead doors down. And locked them. He turned around and told me to get lost. A euphemism for something more rude of course. What could I do but call the cops? They arrived immediately and spoke to his wife on the front porch. They came back to me to tell me it was now a civil suit since it was all on his property. After some research I learned he was connected, which might explain his fearlessness. I put a lien on the house but my lawyer never informed me that it had to be renewed every five years. I never did get paid. His house is probably worth millions today. Another of our jobs involved the design and building of three period log homes north of King City. Everything went so splendidly. We became friends. I was even starting a watercolour of their very young child, not to mention I had even offered my own house for them to live in while the new build commenced. Then one day, very near the end of the job, we were all fired. My crew, the mechanical trades, everyone, was to vacate the premises. We were all owned a great percentage of the job. All he had to say to me when I confronted him was “So sue me. But get in line. I’m being sued for nine million dollars.” Turns out he’d been caught in the GreyMac scandal.
So there you are. You never know quite who you are working for and consequently you could be caught holding an empty bag. I won’t bore you with a few other less costly disappointments, especially in the people you trusted. In most instances I’ve never even asked the client his or her profession or attempted to qualify them in any way. Perhaps in retrospect, it was a mistake to take them at face value. It has usually worked. Fortunately, I have many more friends I’ve made in this business of mine than I can count and relish the visits to their homes, sometimes many years after we built them.