The Million Dollar Red Flag When Hiring a Contractor

I, unfortunately field a lot of calls from homeowners who call me because things are not going well with the exterior painter they hired. I say it’s unfortunate because they are calling me usually after they have given the painter money and are often at some type of crossroads or high level of frustration in their project.

One common comment I hear over and over again is “but they said they work on million dollar homes all the time”.

I can’t help but laugh when I hear a contractor of any type puffing themselves up by going on about the value of the houses they are working on. In this city, $1 million dollars doesn’t exactly mean you are working on luxury mansions.

This house is currently listed for $1,088,888 CDN, located on one of the busiest streets in Vancouver.

My point is not that house prices in Vancouver are crazy. We all know that already.

My point is statements like “I work on million dollar houses” or “I work on houses in the West side of Vancouver, or in West Vancouver, or in Whistler, or for millionaires or for rock stars or for…” (you get my point) are irrelevant and do nothing to help you determine if the contractor or painter standing in front of you is the right guy to paint your house.

You want to hear:

“Mrs. Jones, we have lots of experience in working on homes like yours and I will provide you with some references of homeowners we have worked for where the scope of work was similar to what we would be doing for you.”


“Mrs. Jones, I appreciate that you are very concerned with the care and protection of your garden. Let me pass on the name of a customer we recently worked for who had an elaborate garden and was equally concerned with it being properly protected. I’m sure she will be able to provide you details on how we took care of her garden and how happy she was at the end.”


“Mrs. Jones, we work on lots of heritage houses and have extensive experience in this kind of work. Here is a list of heritage houses in Vancouver we have worked on and the homeowners contact numbers so you can call to discuss how their project went.”

Talking about the value of a house, the neighbourhood or the occupation of the owner of that house is puffery.

You want a contractor that can talk specifics and provide references to jobs with similar scope of work as yours. Make sure they have worked on houses that face similar challenges. Whether it be high peaks and difficult areas to access, extensive carpentry work, intricate colour palettes and placement or even the same type of exterior surface, the painter you hire should be talking to you about his experience with the type of house you have – not how rich his last customer was.

And check those references and ask the right questions.

The more due diligence you do beforehand, the less chance you will be calling me when it’s too late.



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