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Is Your Dream Contractor Actually a Nightmare? 7 Red Flags to Watch Out For

When building your own custom home, selecting the right contractors is crucial for a smooth and successful project. A reliable contractor can bring your vision to life, while a bad one can turn your dream home into a stressful nightmare. This blog post unveils 7 key red flags to watch out for when evaluating potential contractors, empowering you to make informed decisions and avoid costly pitfalls.

Red Flag #1: Unprofessional

First impressions matter. Here are some signs a contractor might not be as professional as they seem:

  • Unreliable Communication: Does the contractor return your calls and emails promptly? Do they schedule meetings and then reschedule repeatedly? Unreliable communication is a red flag for potential unreliability throughout the project.
  • Sloppy Appearance: While a contractor doesn’t need to be dressed in a suit and tie every day, their overall demeanor and presentation can be telling. Do they appear professional and take pride in their work?


  • Set Communication Expectations: Before hiring a contractor, establish clear communication expectations. Discuss preferred methods of contact and response times.
  • Check Online Reviews: Read online reviews from past clients to get a sense of the contractor’s professionalism and communication style.

Red Flag #2: Shady Pricing

A contractor’s pricing should be transparent and fair. Beware of these pricing red flags:

  • Estimates that Seem Too Good to Be True: An excessively low bid can be tempting, but it often comes at a cost. Cutting corners on materials or labor can lead to problems down the road.
  • Vague or Incomplete Estimates: A good estimate should be detailed and comprehensive, outlining all materials, labor costs, and potential contingencies. Vague estimates can lead to hidden fees and budget overruns.


  • Get Multiple Quotes: Don’t settle for the first offer. Get quotes from several qualified contractors to compare pricing and services offered.
  • Ask Questions: Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the estimate breakdown. Understanding the details will help you make an informed decision. Built Green will provide a list of questions to ask each contractor. This will go a long way in helping you make decisions.

Red Flag #3: Licensing and Insurance

Proper licensing and insurance are essential to protect yourself and your project. Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Unlicensed or Uninsured Contractors: Hiring an unlicensed or uninsured contractor is a recipe for disaster. In the event of accidents, injuries, or poor workmanship, you’ll be left financially responsible.
  • Expired Licenses or Insurance: Ensure the contractor’s licenses (plumbing, electrical, and HVAC contractors are licensed) and insurance are current and valid. Ask to see copies of these documents for your records.


  • Verify Licensing and Insurance: Before signing a contract, verify the contractor’s license and insurance status with the state licensing board (again, plumbing, electric, and HVAC are the only contractors who must be licensed) and their insurance company.
  • Request Certificates of Insurance: Ask the contractor to provide certificates of insurance naming you as an additional insured party.

Red Flag #4: Disappearing References

A reputable contractor should be happy to provide references from past clients. Be wary if they’re hesitant:

  • No References Offered: A contractor who’s unwilling to provide references might be hiding something.
  • Negative Reviews or References: If you do get references, follow up and ask detailed questions about their experience with the contractor. Negative reviews or references should be a cause for concern.


  • Request a List of References: Ask the contractor for a list of references from projects similar to yours in scope and size.
  • Contact References Directly: Don’t just rely on the contractor-provided list. Search online for reviews and try to find additional references independently.
  • The Built Green Way: At Built Green Custom Homes, we will vet contractors for you. If you give us the information you have, our staff will be happy to research the contractor and follow up on references on your behalf.

Red Flag #5: Contract

A well-written contract protects both you and the contractor. Watch out for these contractual red flags:

  • Not Signing the Built Green Contract: Built Green provides an attorney-drafted contract for you to use with every subcontractor. This is for your protection. Never sign the contractor’s proposal and expect to be protected.
  • Unclear or Vague Contract Terms: The contract you use should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Don’t sign anything you don’t fully comprehend.
  • Unfavorable Payment Schedule: A good payment schedule will outline a reasonable payment schedule tied to project milestones. Be wary of contracts demanding a large upfront payment.


  • Have the Contract Reviewed by an Attorney: Before signing any contract, have it reviewed by a lawyer specializing in construction contracts. This can help identify any potential problems and protect your interests. With Built Green, our attorney has already reviewed the contract, so we could save you this step.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate: Don’t be afraid to negotiate terms like payment schedules and change order procedures.

Red Flag #6: Subcontractors

A contractor’s network of subcontractors can significantly impact the quality and efficiency of your project. Here’s what to consider:

  • Unqualified Subcontractors: A contractor who relies on unqualified or inexperienced subcontractors can lead to poor workmanship and delays.
  • Unfamiliar with Subcontractors: Ask the contractor about their subcontractors and their experience working together. It’s a good sign if they have a reliable team they work with consistently.


  • Request Information on Subcontractors: Ask the contractor for a list of subcontractors they plan to use and their qualifications. You can also check their licensing and insurance status.

Red Flag #7: Scheduling

Unexpected delays are a part of any construction project. However, a contractor who consistently misses deadlines is a major red flag.

  • Unrealistic Timelines: Beware of contractors who promise unrealistic completion dates. A good contractor will provide a realistic timeline based on the project’s scope and complexity.
  • History of Missed Deadlines: Check online reviews and references to see if the contractor has a history of missing deadlines on past projects.


  • Establish Clear Deadlines: Outline clear deadlines in the contract and hold the contractor accountable for meeting them.
  • Include Penalty Clauses (Consult with an Attorney): Consider including clauses in the contract that outline penalties for missed deadlines, with the help of a construction attorney.

Building Your Dream Home with Confidence: Built Green Custom Homes

Choosing the right contractors is a crucial step in building your dream home. By recognizing these red flags, you can effectively weed out unqualified or unreliable contractors, ensuring a smooth and successful building experience.

At Built Green Custom Homes, we understand the importance of trust and transparency. We are a team of experienced professionals dedicated to delivering exceptional education and service to our clients. We take pride in clear communication, detailed estimates, and a proven track record of meeting deadlines.

Contact Built Green Custom Homes today to discuss your owner-builder custom home project and learn how we can partner with you to bring your dream home to life – the right way, from the very beginning.

author avatar
Dennis Celsor