Bartering or "Trading Work"

Many owner builders are skilled tradesmen. Bartering or "trading work" is a popular method to save money. "You do my concrete work AND I'll do your electrical work ", handshake agreements are common.

This has proven to be an effective means of reducing your out-of-pocket expense when building your dream home. However, there are risks involved.

Issues to Consider

1) Put a value on the work to be done.

For example, it would not be equitable to trade an $8,000.00 plumbing job for a $5,000.00 electrical job. Cash can always be used to make up the difference, in either direction.

2) Be sure the party doing your work is licensed and insured.

Accidents do happen! Most lenders insist on licensed contractors.

3)Get whatever agreement you have in writing.

This helps prevent misunderstandings that can impact business or personal relationships. Don't assume everybody understands a verbal discussion and handshake.

4) Often, trading work may result in slowing down your project.

Most contractors will give priority to cash paying customers over trade deals. Your written agreement should address this issue specifically.

5)Bartering services with relatives or family members should be handled with EXTREME caution.

Even here, a written agreement is advisable.

If a family member or relative wants to assist you without any expectation of payment, take time to consider the possible ramifications. Only you can judge the possible consequences.

6) Make sure any bartered services or work include customary warranties.

Have this in your written agreement.

7) If you are not familiar with the quality of work which is normally done by an individual you plan to trade with, visit some jobsites to ensure it is to expectations.

Trading for mediocre work is not what you have bargained for.


Get an agreement in writing. Make sure the trade is fair, dollar for dollar. Verify licenses and insurances. Inspect jobs for quality work.

Any trading involves an amount of risk, tread carefully.


Bartering should only be done after careful consideration, Compare the risk of trading with the cost of bids already obtained.