Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hiring Rural Contractors

This will come as a surprise to some, but I have not purchased any power equipment since we bought our land in Carmine.  I did borrow my friend's chainsaw, and I quickly learned that chainsaws are for small jobs. Like a tree falling on your fence or cutting up a tree for firewood. A little over a year ago, I reported that we hired a dozer guy to start clearing the land.

That's been done, and then it started to rain. No drought no more. That took our land project to a muddy stop. Heavy equipment operators can't work when it's muddy, and we've been waiting ever since. 

This is my first bit of advice to share...

You have to be patient when hiring rural contractors

Things move at a slower pace in the country.  There are plenty of people making a living with a dozer or a backhoe, but they don't rush around like us city folk. And they like a short commute. Therefore, you need to be patient.  Here are a few tips for hiring a rural contractor.

  1. Ask a trusted neighbor or the rural banker who he/she recommends. The bank is going to point you towards the person that pays his bills. Your neighbor is going to point you towards the guy with a good reputation. Often it's the same guy. Often that guy has a lot of friends. In the country, a well connected guy is the right guy.
  2. Be prepared to never have a phone call returned. Most of these small contractors feel like they have enough work.  They don't think too far into the future, and they don't think you'll be a regular customer since you only own that one piece of property. Keep asking for recommendations, keep calling, and the right guy will answer your call.
  3. When I talk about local contractors, I mean local. Like 5 miles down the road and no further. I mean just around the corner and no further. Here's why. It is very expensive to trailer up a bull dozer and transport it to a job site. The shorter the distance, the more likely you'll land a contractor. Therefore, when your neighbor makes a recommendation, he's probably going to refer you to a neighbor.
  4. Be patient.  In our case, the rain created such a muddy mess, no one could work even if he wanted to. Just be patient.  It takes time to get everyone serviced; especially if you're a small job. Think about it. If someone loads up some heavy equipment for a $500 job, that's some pretty crappy margins. If the job pays thousands, you move up the schedule.
  5. Since you're being patient, try to have a big enough job to make the work worthwhile. Our first land clearing job was smallish. I think the next clearing job will be about double in size.  We've hired another contractor to tear down and rebuild our front fence, put in a new entrance, move an existing culvert, and build a road that leads to a small building pad that he will build, too.  That's worth it.
  6. Pay your bill. Not in 6 months. Not when you get around to it. And definitely not when you have the money. Have the money in advance. Put it away. Don't touch it. Be patient.

Be the nicest new person in the area

Always be nice to everyone you meet. I know I said this in an earlier post, but don't be arrogant. Don't act like your city life is superior. Try a little small talk.

Tammy is a master of small town friendliness

When I moved to the country in 2000, I was agitated by the slowness of the people.  I wanted it done yesterday. I don't know if I learned my lesson or if I slowly assimilated.  Although I am squarely back to my surly urban self, when I head for Carmine, I try to be the mellow country me. This is the best advice I can give you.

Buy local

Tammy and I will likely put a prefabricated cabin on our land to begin with.  We'll buy it from a local dealer. As we build, we'll buy our building supplies from the local lumber company. We buy our beer at the local grocery store. 

The Village Market, Carmine Texas

Support the local economy.  The contractor we hired to do the road and fence work casually mentioned that his sister owned the local grocery store.  I was happy to inform him that we go there all the time, and that we love that place. In a community of 240 people that good word will get around.  It signals that we want to be part of the community. Leave the Wholefoods gluten-free, organic, fair trade snacks in the city. Buy some locally baked good, locally sourced beef jerky, and a bag of Doritos when you're in the country.

Build that solid reputation. It will take awhile, but once you do, you won't have to be as patient when hiring a contractor because you've slowly moved yourself up the schedule.

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