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Top 3 mistakes homeowners make when hiring a General Contractor

Rav: Hello everyone, and welcome to the BNI success link Podcast. Today, we will talk about the top three mistakes homeowners make when hiring a general contractor. The official podcast of BNI successfully, your link to success. 

Hello again, everyone. I’m your host, Rav Mendiratta from socio squares, where landing leads is where my business leads. Today, we will talk about the top three mistakes homeowners make when hiring a general contractor. And I have an expert general contractor with me today. Colin Zak has over 25 years of remodeling and general contracting work experience in the East Bay. Colin, Welcome, and thank you so much for doing this.

Colin: Oh, a pleasure to be here. Thank you for the invitation.

Rav: Can you share a little more about your background and Kodiak construction with our audience today?

Colin: Sure, sure, Kodiak construction focuses entirely on the residential market in the East Bay. Our projects range from whole kitchen remodels to whole-house remodels. We may add a second story, build an attached ADU or a detached ADU, or reconfigure the entire space within the envelope.

Rav: Wow. So you’ve seen the complete gamut. So what would you say are the top three things homeowners should ask every contractor before hiring anyone in, especially in 2022?

Colin: Well, one of the big mistakes is that people have several mistakes, but one of the big ones is that people will often look for a budget deal. I should say they are looking to save money. And they’re under the impression that a remodel project is like buying a car. You need to negotiate the price, and the product will always be the same. And it’s just not the case. There’s quality at the end. And there’s the whole process of getting to the end that people don’t truly understand. 

Some of the mistakes people will make are hiring someone are

1) Hiring someone unlicensed or, worse yet, uninsured: And suppose you, as the homeowner, hire an uninsured or unlicensed contractor. In that case, you, by default, become the employer and are liable for their health. If they have a job site accident. You could be liable for the worker’s comp claim and likely don’t have it. So I would strongly suggest any homeowner check with their insurance agent before doing that.

2) They don’t talk about the process with the general contractor:

How do they communicate? 

Do they have weekly meetings? 

Do they use email for their phone calls? 

Who’s on the job site? 

Who can they ask process questions to you know, essentially, who’s in charge today? And that is a source of a lot of friction between contractors and builders, just not knowing what the process is and what’s going on.

3) They don’t  check references: 

A contractor will give you the names of people they’ve worked with in the past. And unless the contractor is foolish, they’re not going to give the name of somebody they had a bad experience with. But the homeowner should be asking pointed questions like what went well, but more importantly, what didn’t go well? Or what would you have liked to have seen differently in the process? Really getting a feel for how a contractor runs a job is critical to alleviating some of the anxiety and frustration that can happen in a project.

Rav: Those are some great insights and especially the worker’s comp policy thing. I wasn’t aware of that. So thank you so much for sharing these insights. Another question that comes to my mind is about ADU. You did mention that at Kodiak, you all do  ADU as well. 

What are the new things which are happening within the ADU space in the California region in 2022 ?

Colin: ADU is fascinating. 

1) Introduction to ADU: ADU stands for  Accessory Dwelling Units. And the state of California, in the beginning of 2020, passed a law essentially with the idea of densifying urban areas. We have a stream housing shortage in California, mainly in urban areas. And this is an attempt to create more living, ideally, affordable housing. And reasonable, of course, can be defined in many different ways depending on what region you’re in. But ADU has been around for a long time. 

2) ADU’s Journey: The challenge was a lot of cities made it so onerous to get them permitted that people just didn’t. Essentially cities were not allowing them to happen. So the state stepped in and essentially mandated that if a homeowner follows a particular set of design rules, setbacks, heights, and a few other things, then the city can’t say no to build them. Now, there are some, some exceptions. But it’s opened up a lot of possibilities for homeowners to create new space. And the use of that space is, to me, really exciting. 

3) Popularity of ADU: They became trendy during the pandemic when people worked from home. So the ADU’s became home offices. They became flex space. They became a lifeline for people who had to work from home with teenagers at school or parents that had to work in a quiet space. 

4) ADU in multi-generational: The other part, which I find most exciting, has brought back the multi-generational family on one property. So it could be that you need to get mom or dad or both out of a nursing home or a place where they can live near the kids and the grandkids but have their own space. Or it could be the young adult child who’s trying to stay in the Bay Area that just can’t afford to live here. It’s just too expensive. So this is a way perhaps for mom and dad to ease that transition from college to first career and have a place nearby to stay. And I’ve also had homeowners where the main house owners have built an ADU. And they’re using it as an eventual retirement place where they will go and rent out the main house or let their adult children and family. So that’s been super exciting to me to see families kind of pulled together. And using this kind of space to have a larger family unit on one property.

Rav: I love the multi generational aspect of it. So thank you so much for sharing this. Now shifting gears a little bit. And let’s talk about you’ve been in this for 25 years. But what would you say are the top three things you wish you knew when you started as a general contractor?


1) Awareness of Business: Many people get into construction much like a chef might open a restaurant. They think they have something to offer. And that very well is the case. And that’s great. And you’re looking for job satisfaction. However, being a good builder is different than being a good business owner. There are lots of regulations that you should be aware of. So I strongly suggest that anybody who wants to enter the market as a contractor educate yourself. It could be getting a mentor or looking up all the regulations you will need to follow. I mentioned workers’ compensation, the insurance rules; you want to make sure you’re in compliance, all of that. So you don’t get yourself into hot water.

2) Your Intention to the Business: Also, be clear on why you’re getting into it as a business. Is it that you want more control? Or is it you want to have your own projects or you want to make more money? So understanding your why is also very important that’s going to drive because you’re going to come across some challenges. And if you don’t have a strong why, then it can be harder to overcome them. And that’s again, universal with all businesses.

3) Developing a marketing plan: And then also have a marketing plan. How are you going to draw people to you? Is it going to be electronically over the internet? Is it going to be word of mouth, you could have a lot to offer. But if people don’t know where to find you, that’s going to be a challenge in and of itself.

Rav: That’s some great advice. And that’s a good segue into my final question for you. And I got to ask this just because I’m a digital marketer. Can you share the top digital marketing strategy which might have worked for you?

Colin: Well, I am about to venture into this a little deeper in the past. 

  • Digital Marketing for me was essentially having a website and word of mouth and getting on platforms like Next Door, or Indeed or Yelp.
  •  But I’m developing the whole adu division of Kodiak construction. And I’m going to have to draw more web savvy people to me.
  •  So your kind of SEO generation and online advertising will be critical for me to attract these people because the people I’m looking for are the people who like to do their online research before reaching out to a contractor.

Rav:  That’s great to hear that even though you’re not doing too much online marketing, you did rely on your website providing information to the prospects you were already in conversation with and platforms like next door and Yelp, providing them insight into what other customers might have experienced. with you. So that’s great to hear. And yeah, ADU is, as a space, it’s growing very fast. We see a lot of people searching for ADU. And there are a lot of people providing different solutions. Different companies are providing package solutions to custom solutions. So we’d love to see how that works for you on the digital front. But thank you so much, Colin. Thanks for doing this. This was an excellent session. And I’m sure both homeowners, as well as new contractors, can find a lot of value in what you shared today. Thank you so much.

Colin:  Well, thank you for having me. It’s been truly a pleasure.

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