How to pay your contractor, Finding your “forever home”


Dear David,

We have some renovation work to do around the house and plan to bring in a contractor. Do you think we should pay them by the hour, or by the job? – READY TO RENOVATE

DEAR READY: There is no right or wrong answer here — your decision will likely depend on the contractor’s preferences, your comfort level, and the nature of the job at hand. To ensure that everyone is on the same page, you’ll want get a written contract upfront that outlines the work to be done, the time frame and terms of payment. This will minimize the chance of “surprises” on both sides.

If you agree to hire by the hour, be clear on exactly what you expect to have done and how long the work should take. If paying by job, I would suggest breaking the job down into parts and establishing the milestones that will need to be reached before you release payment. When a deadline is met, the corresponding portion of the payment can be issued to the contractor. Of course, you’ll want to be sure that all work is completed before you release the final payment.

In order to protect both sides, you’ll also need to consider some “just in case” scenarios. What if the work isn’t done on time? What if you don’t pay on time? What happens if the completed work isn’t acceptable? These terms are as important as agreeing on a payment amount. By sharing a clear understanding of these important issues, you and your contractor can build trust, reduce stress, and pave the way for a positive outcome.


Dear David,

We are first time buyers and we want to buy our “forever home”. Any advice? – BIG DREAMS

DEAR BIG D: Everybody wants to find their perfect home the first time out, but as the saying goes, the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

While I often compare the home search process to dating, I wouldn’t necessarily expect your first house relationship to be a long-term marriage. You can fall in love with “the one” that suits you now and fully expect that there will be a second and third down the line. Even if you have an unlimited budget, you probably don’t have a crystal ball. Expecting to fulfill all of your needs right out of the gate puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the process – and on you!

I find that typical first-time buyers stay in their home for about four to seven years. I suggest you focus on this timeline for now, and re-evaluate your needs in the coming years.