i woke up at 8:00 this morning so i could speak with cleber when he arrived. though normally early, he didn't show up until noontime (he was doing some prep work for another client). by then steve has already left for work, but his partner paul came downstairs on his behalf, basically just to make sure i didn't agree to do anything without steve's consent. talking with cleber didn't help make me feel better about the situation of not having a contractor yet to do the house repairs. i felt more pressure when cleber said he wanted to finish painting the house this week. he wasn't entirely unsympathetic; we both had a laugh because it seems the more he paints, the more things he discovers that needs to be fixed.
just to make things worse, steve flew into a tantrum in his last e-mail response to a house repair update i sent him. "i can't deal with this right now!" he wrote (yeah, it must be hard for him to just sit around and complain while i'm out looking for and interviewing prospective contractors). "i just don't believe the repairs can be done for anything less than $5000!" this is in reference to roger, the brazilian contractor we saw yesterday, who sent me a proposal last night saying he could do the work for only $2700. i was perfectly fine with that amount, and wanted to hire him as soon as i heard the price, but steve obviously thought it was too cheap to be true, when our original contractor carlos budgeted $5600. so we waited for gerry to put in his bid, but i just had a feeling he'd be expensive.
i went to the cafe for a late lunch before arriving in belmont for monday night dinner. i thought about what steve said, that roger was too good to be true, and took another look at his proposal. originally i thought he said he could do the job in 3 days but it was actually 6 days (3 days by himself, 3 days with a helper). given what he told me how much he charges per day ($350/day, $200/day/helper), i calculated the total amount of labor to be exactly $2700, the amount he said it'd cost - but what about the price for the materials? maybe he was giving me some sort of labor discount, that was the only explanation. there was also the matter of "can he actually do the work?" it was hard to entirely understand him yesterday, and it seemed like he was promising too much, saying yes to everything. fortunately he had a list of references on the proposal he sent me. on a whim, i decided to call a few people, all the local area. the first person i called, it went to a fax machine. the next person, phone disconnected. next, an answering machine. the last number i actually got someone, but the person on the other end sounded strange, and when i asked about roger, he seemed to be reading lines: "roger is very reliable. he's very professional. he's a good worker." i was already suspicious, and kept asking questions to see if he would slip up. finally i got an address, so i could do a drive-by visit if i wanted to. i looked it up on google to make sure it was legit (it was), but the work was for a wooden fence and a brick wall, nothing actually done to the house itself.
my growing suspicion made me more depressed. as far as i was concerned, roger was our only option. out of the two prices, his was the lowest by more than half, and even then it was more than i originally budgeted for this whole home renovation work (repair + paint). if he wasn't entirely honest with his ability (or worse, a scam artist), then i was back to zero. gerry still hadn't put in his bid, but i was sure it'd be overpriced. carlos, at his new price of $4150, seemed like the safer option, despite the fact that it was more expensive and his new price doesn't include many smaller fixes (like shingle replacement or window molding). but something happened later: i got a call from carlos, just to see if we made a decision yet. i told him his bid was more than steve and i were willing to pay, and we'd been talking to other contractors to get new estimates. i was just being honest with him, but apparently that got him thinking, and an hour later i got an e-mail from carlos saying "after much consideration" he was willing to go even lower, down to just $3500. certainly better than before, but it still didn't include a bunch of other fixes. nevertheless, for $800 more than roger's bid, we could get somebody we know who can do the work (since cleber originally recommended him).
i returned to cambridge after dinner, hoping to chat with steve. still suffering from his earlier tantrum, steve asked if we could postpone our talk until tomorrow morning (he's more of a morning person, i'm more night, but it was only 8:30 - not like we'd be discussing anything important). in the meantime, i called up gerry asking him if he had a price for me yet. he actually came by the house in the late afternoon as promised to do some measurements, and even met cleber, who gave him a tour of the things that need to be fixed. he wasn't going to call me until tomorrow morning, but i told him i really needed a quote because steve and i would have to pick a contractor soon. so he hung up to crunch some numbers, then called me back 15 minutes later. he told me there's more repair work than what he saw from yesterday, and began to list all the things that need to be fixed. i could feel my stomach shrinking, afraid to even consider what gerry's asking price will be. at one point he even mentioned putting in tyvek insulation panels. so after his to-do list, he told me the price: $2250. i blinked. $2250? did i hear him correctly? maybe he said $22,500. so i repeated his price. "that's two thousand two hundred and fifty?" yeah, he said. i couldn't believe it! here i was thinking it'd be so outrageously expensive that there'd be no way i could pay for it, but in fact it was actually the cheapest bid out of the 3 contractors. my depression instantly left me. after hanging up, i wanted to ring steve's doorbell and tell him the good news, but decided i could wait until tomorrow morning.
so this is what i discovered: probably the actual cost for the list of house repairs is between $2000-3000. carlos' original bid of $5600 was in fact some kind of fleecing action. the fact that he kept on reducing his price is evidence that his number was high.