My wife and I moved to Bucerias several months ago, and I’ve already had it with the so-called contractors I’ve hired to work on upgrading the kitchen in my house. Our realtor recommended the first man I hired. After I gave him enough money to buy materials, he simply disappeared. No phone number, no email, just gone! It turns out that our realtor never used him personally, but had heard that he was a good worker.
So next I went to a nearby construction site and asked in my broken Spanish if there was someone who could upgrade our kitchen. The guy I asked told me that he knew everything about how to do the job, from plumbing to electrical to tiling. After a week of watching him work, it was clear to me that he didn’t know what he was doing, so I fired him.
So now I’ve spent a lot of money for nothing. Is there anyone out there who I can trust to do this job?
Hola Fed Up
Sadly, your story is not unusual. During my first years here, I felt victimized more than once by workers who took my money for very poor service. I see two reasons for this. The first is that, as foreigners, we are seen as the “haves.” Even if we really don’t have much money, we are wealthy in the eyes of construction workers, and they understandably want what we have. The second reason is that, in needing money, many construction workers will tell you they can do anything. They are not about to say, “Oh, this is something that I can’t do.” So, unfortunately, even if we like a worker, we can’t just take his word that he’ll do a good job for us.
Fed Up, you now have to do the necessary research to find the right person for your job. As I suggested in my last Hola Brus letter to “Searching,” you could begin your search by logging on to the Amigos de Bucerias website, and clicking the word “Referrals” in the red box at the top of the page. Listed along with other professionals are building contractors, recommended by foreigners who have been satisfied with their services. When you contact a contractor, make sure he presents acceptable references that you can call.
When you settle on a contractor, it is important to establish a time frame for the completion of the job. As far as financial payment, be sure that both the cost of materials and the contractor’s salary, or “Mano de Obra,” is agreeable to you, along with a payment schedule. Both time and money need to be spelled out, literally written down in both English and Spanish, with both parties signing and dating the agreement. If you can, get a third party to sign as a witness and, if necessary, use an interpreter so everything is clearly understood.
Keep in mind the adage, “you get what you pay for.” The best contractors usually charge more money because they use excellent subcontractors (it is almost unheard of that a contractor can do plumbing, electrical and tiling equally well,) and they actually insure their workers against on-the-job accidents.
Many contractors will want initial payment for materials. Be sure you get valid receipts with the name and contact information of the stores. Then, if you have doubts as to the cost of items, you can check directly with the store itself.
As the work progresses, check in regularly with the contractor and make changes as needed. It’s not unusual for initial time and money estimates to need amending.
Fed Up, hopefully these guidelines will help you find the right contractor for your needs. Let me know how everything goes.