recently, i met my dream man. he was experienced, smart, nice, helpful…all the things you look for in a man.
did i say man? i meant contractor. recently, i met my dream contractor. his name was charlie, and he was experienced, smart, nice, and oh so freaking helpful. like, the MOST helpful, even though he legitimately owned me nothing and had no reason to be so.
that’s not him, above. that’s taylor kinney, who is ACTUALLY my dream man (and could easily be my dream contractor too, with those muscles).
let me back up a bit.
at the advertising agency where i work, we have a process called “triple bidding.” it refers to bidding a given job out to three different companies/people/production houses at once in order to a) find the best (wo)man for the job and b) get the best price.
my broker advised me to do the same thing for the grand apartment: do a walkthrough with three different contractors, get three different estimates, and go from there.
so that’s what i did. the first contractor, jan, came highly recommended from my broker himself. the second was manny, a recommendation from a family friend, a woman who swore (in her thick new york jewish mother tongue) that he’d “done some really nice stuff” at her place. the third was a man who i’d followed on instagram for a year, following his feature on design*sponge. his name was charlie.
let’s start with contractor 1.
contractor 1 (jan):
a soft-spoken, enterprising new yorker who comes from the czech republic, and boasts a lot of work experience on the lower east side.
estimate: around 65-70k
a kitchen done by contractor 1
above is an example of jan’s work. it’s not bad, not by any means. it’s simple. it’s not necessarily my taste. but it’s workable. after touring my soon to be space, jan walked me over to an apartment he was currently working on a few blocks away. when i entered, three workmen were chipping away at installing sheetrock and fixing plumbing. the space was clean, and the renovation appeared to be moving along smoothly.
jan and i had a slight language barrier, which was probably exacerbated by the fact that i don’t really speak dude, and i REALLY don’t speak construction dude. but all in all, he was lovely, albeit quiet.
now on to contractor 2.
contractor 2 (manny):
a fast-talking, native new yorker who mostly works in westchester but swore he and his guys could do a bang up job in manhattan proper.
despite the fact that the only other manny i’ve ever known was my 8th grade boyfriend, who i routinely drunkenly hooked up with in the backseat of cars throughout high school, i really, truly, wanted to like manny. i wanted him to be the one. my mother loved him, because her friend susan loved him. and my mother’s opinion means a lot to me.
when manny did his walkthrough, he brought his cousin, who walked around with a measuring tape and took very official-looking notes. i thought that manny and i spoke the same language, though he talked as fast as a born and bred cabbie from deep brooklyn. i had faith in manny. manny promised to send examples of his work, along with references.
he did neither. and then his estimate came in 20k more than jan’s.
so i did what any reasonable girl would do. between a rock and a hard place, i decided to reconsider charlie, who i’d essentially been online stalking for a better part of a year. okay, online stalking is extreme. what i’d been doing was following his work, and hoping that maybe, someday, i’d have a home like the ones he designs. see exhibit A below.
contractor 3 (charlie):
charlie (also known as dream contractor), whose company, cw property group, specializes in taking old, decrepit spaces and turning them into something fresh, pretty, and livable.
exhibit a: my dream kitchen, designed by charlie, executed by his company
in my heart, charlie was clearly the most qualified man for the job. so despite my gut feeling that he’d be waaaay out of budget, i emailed him, and asked him if he’d come and look at the space.
well, folks, turns out, my gut was right (guts and mothers: never wrong). after doing a walkthrough of the space last week, charlie called this morning, and told me his guys hadn’t even finished the full estimate, but they were already close to 100k.
estimate: OUT OF MY PRICE RANGE.
finding your dream man, and then finding out he’s too expensive…it sucks.* ain’t no two ways about it, hearing a number like that hurts. honestly, hearing ALL the numbers above hurt. this isn’t monopoly money, it’s real money. it’s money that belongs to my family. money that is the result of hard work. it’s hard to think of parting with such giant sums–and even harder to think that those giant sums don’t even cover it.
but, you know, buying a home is expensive, and so is renovating it. at least, that’s what i keep telling myself. that, and inhale. exhale. inhale. exhale.
so where does that leave me?
while i’ve been advised not to go with my cheapest option, because that’s a potential recipe for disaster, i will likely be awarding the job to jan. here’s why:
- he’s the only one i can afford. the truth hurts, people.
- he seems like he really WANTS the job. manny on the other hand…not so much.
- the in progress space he showed me a few weeks ago looked pretty damn good.
- one of the references on his list is “mr. jeremy piven” who i am obviously assuming is THE jeremy piven. that’s a reference i WILL be calling.
also, if i play devil’s advocate…
cost doesn’t always dictate quality. in fact, charlie (contractor 3) flat out told me his guys “were not the cheapest.” not going to lie, ripping off that bandaid hurt.
my (not at all educated) guess is that part of the difference in price will manifest as a) a little less “customer service” (aka, i’ll have to do lots of checking in and following up) and b) a little jerry-rigging in terms of finding my cabinets, appliances, lighting, etc. all on my own.
a note to self (and to anyone else who tries to do this after me):
i’ve learned that most contractors do NOT include any surface materials beyond sheetrock, paint, baseboards, doors, etc. in their estimates, so everything from countertops to tile is on me. likely, those will be the places where i’ll be hunting on my own, tracking things down, getting them shipped/delivered, and perhaps, most importantly, making sure they’re budget friendly. if anyone has any tips on budget friendly places for tile, fixtures, lighting, appliances, etc. HIT ME UP.
in the meantime, in the words of alessia cara, i’ll be over here, pining over my dream contractor, and hoping that someday, somehow, i’ll be able to afford his services.
*i recognize that this is a total champagne problem.