So I called the ONE contractor who actually showed up when he was supposed to, stayed in touch with me, and gave me an estimate.
He was here for....I dunno....about two weeks. Every day, my wife came home from work, and pointed out little things that she thought were being done wrong, mistakes, stuff not up to snuff. I really took this as my wife being nitpicky...."they're not done yet, just give 'em time." I pointed out most of these things to the contractor...his reply was always, "oh, yeah, I know....keep in mind, we're not done yet. you'll be happy when we're done."
Sounds good to me! He seems like a good guy, and came with lots of good references.
Not so much.
Final day of work, he's done. I write him a check for the balance. His words - "I tell all of my customers this - you are going to find stuff, stuff you're not happy with, after living in it for a few days. I want you to live in the kitchen for a few days. Get comfortable in it. A few bumps and bruises are gonna show themselves after you've been in it for a few days. Call me in one week, give me the list, and I'll come by and tidy up." WOW!!!!! Sounds super, right?!?
I think you know what comes next.
Made an appointment for him to come back a week later. He didn't show up.
A couple more phone calls from the mortgage company in the interim.
me: "no, I'm not done yet. Still gotta paint outside and do the floors."
them: "NO PROBLEM!!!! No rush at all! We just want to do an inspection when you're done. Let us know when you're done!"