How to Negotiate with Contractors: 4 Things to Always Ask

Your bathroom reno Pinterest boards have you crying tears of excitement. But estimates from your contractor have you crying tears of agony (RIP, hard-earned savings). Good news: Those estimates are rarely the final word. We checked in with Cheryl Reed, external communications director for Angie’s List, for her advice on how to negotiate with contractors. Here, four things you should always ask about when hiring your contractors.

5 Things You (Probably) Shouldn’t Do When You Buy An Old Home


1. Negotiate On Purchasing Your Own Supplies

Most contractors offer to buy the supplies needed for a project and include that cost in their estimate—or bill you for them later. Additionally, contractors typically get their materials from one single supplier, meaning they’re not necessarily shopping around for the best price. To save yourself a few bucks, get scrappy and offer to search and buy your lumber, tiles and flooring on your own. (Just be sure to triple-check the quantities needed.)


2. Negotiate On Down Payment Terms

Of course contractors need up-front money in order to invest in materials and pull permits. But that doesn’t mean you have to immediately hand over the full down payment they request. A good rule of thumb? Don’t write a giant check until the contractor arrives with the materials and is ready to do the job. (P.S. You can also totally hold back the final payment until you’ve inspected—and are satisfied with—the finished project.)


3. Negotiate On Paying Subcontractors Directly

If you and your GC are comfortable with the prospect, consider paying out subcontractors (like the plumber or electrician) directly, instead of going through your contractor, who’s likely to add a service charge for having to handle the conversations and paperwork. You may also be able to negotiate reduced costs with these subcontractors if you go it alone.


4. Negotiate Based On Seasonality

If your project isn’t urgent, negotiate the timing to take advantage of “off-season” rates. Some contractors, for instance, may be willing to give you a deal on wintertime work, when business can be slower. In other words, consider getting bids for that new patio when it isn’t almost alfresco season.


Home Editor

From 2014-2019 Grace Beuley Hunt held the role of Home Editor covering interior design, styling, trends and more.