Ask companies to include all details in writing. Although that sounds simple enough, too many contractors submit offers such as "paint house for $5,000." A friendly contractor may offer a reassuring handshake and promise that the crew will take care of all the details — starting on time, working every day, cleaning up, etc. That's great, but why not include each point in the proposal? If it's a challenge to get a written description of labor, materials and other details, things will probably get worse when the work starts.
I am in northern Nevada and you have not yet gotten sufficient responses to provide a painting cost chart showing the averages.  I do have a quote from an outside (Not Homeadvisor referral) painter who is local for $2,750 for soffits, patio cover and posts, Garage facia (redwood clapboard above (~300 ? Sq. Ft.) on a 2046 Sq. Ft. home where the walls are 9 ft tall and it is fully stuccoed with plastic stucco surfaces, so not being painted.  
to be the devils advocate i have been a building contractor 20 of the last 30 yrs. i do know that if you go to a higher sheen of paint and or darker colors then any imperfections in the walls will show up much more dramatically…therefore the painter or a good drywall finisher is needed to prepare the walls extensively. this could cause more expenses…for it takes a lot of time to prep walls (smooth walls..not textured walls) and this cost has to be absorbed.
This article with comments was terrific - it was so informative. I found the advice useful. It addressed specifics like the condition of the dry wall surfaces, any additional repairs such. pin holes, chalking, smoothing of wall surfaces, absorption of paint and number of coats that may be needed. It should also include insurance coverage, and reflect the clean-up afterwards. Having a written contract with the company's letterhead is a must.
More recently, professional painters are responsible for all preparation prior to painting. All scraping, sanding, wallpaper removal, caulking, drywall or wood repair, patching, stain removal, filling nail holes or any defects with plaster or putty, cleaning, taping, preparation and priming are considered to be done by the professional contracted painter. 

"There's wisdom in a multitude of counsel" {Bible Book of Wisdom/Proverbs} I thank you all I learned so much here not only painting but contracting in general. After all this I realize how blessed my ignorance not taken advantage of by Greater Philadelphia area motivated young skilled pride-in-work honest hardworking + seasoned older employee of Scott Gribling Painting of Lansdale PA. I'm proud I had the idea that Tom Parkinson here taught me the phrase & affirmed paying daily "progress draws" & purchase receipts instead of advance deposit in case something happens to contractor, and as Tom teaches the natural effectiveness of receiving from the day's work :)

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Recently I had the outside of my home painted. The contractor wrote a good contract, but I failed to realize that some things were not in it. It reminds me of the car dealer who offered a good price on a new car but failed to mention that it did not include tires. My contractor failed to specify that lattice under a porch was included. So the painters did not paint it. To his credit, he did instruct them to paint it when I brought it to his attention. If I had the job to do over again I would look for an individual who came with referrals from happy customers rather than a franchise owner..
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You are right on with this - why do people leave switch plates on when it's just so easy to take them off? Another thing that happened to us - we had the popcorn ceiling taken off and the ceiling painted white. When the job was done and I later went to change out all the fixtures/fans, they had left every fixture in place, so there was a large patch of popcorn and unpainted ceiling left behind - it just didn't dawn on me to specify that they take those down before scraping and painting. It was kind of a mess.

Climate is another factor to consider. Sunlight, wind, rain and salty weather can all wear out exterior paint. Oil-based paint is durable against wind, rain and temperature changes, but sunlight tends to degrade it. Alkyd paint chalks and sheds very thin layers when it begins to wear. Latex paint is the more durable option for very sun-drenched and relatively dry climate areas. Latex paint with high vinyl content should be avoided, however. Acrylic resin is by far the more durable binder for outdoor latex paint.
Some contractors work on time and material others on a firm contract. I would never hire the former and am leary of the latter. A contractor may low-ball a bid to get the job planning to make a killing on change orders. If you say good morning to them, they charge you extra for that. If the contract is not very, very specific and extensively fleshed out or if they display their change order schedule prominently on top, show them the door.
When hiring a contractor it is always best to hire one who is personally referred to you by someone you trust. Hiring through ads or phone book is hit and miss. Check with your local paints stores, they know the good guys from the bottom feeders. Go to the stores that sell the high quality paints like Benjamin Moore(nonpareil), Pittsburg, Sherwin Williams or Glidden. Don't go the the big box stores for referrals, the people there don't know squat!
Some contractors work on time and material others on a firm contract. I would never hire the former and am leary of the latter. A contractor may low-ball a bid to get the job planning to make a killing on change orders. If you say good morning to them, they charge you extra for that. If the contract is not very, very specific and extensively fleshed out or if they display their change order schedule prominently on top, show them the door.

In general, glossier paints are more stain-resistant and scrubbable. But a higher sheen also highlights any imperfections in the wall or in the paint job. "Flat paints are fine for ceilings and formal rooms, but for most of my customers, I recommend an eggshell gloss. It's good for hallways, kids' rooms, even kitchens and baths," says Toto. It seems that latex paints have won over even the most finicky painters. "Though we still use oil-based paints for restor-ation work, latex paints are fine for interior walls and new trim," says Toto, "as long as you don't go cheap on the paint." All of our pros have their personal favorites, but they agree that good paint does not come cheap. "You'll spend $20 to $35 per gallon for a top-shelf paint," says Weeks. The pros also agreed that using two coats of paint will result in the best-looking job. Don't skimp on the coverage; if you're covering more than 400 square feet per gallon, you're spreading it too thin. Also, keep 1/4 to 1/2 gallon on hand for touch-ups.

Painters often tint primer close to the color of the top coat, but Wallis thinks that's a recipe for "holidays," or missed spots. Instead, he tints his primer a contrasting color. "If I can see the color coming through, I know I need to apply more paint," he says. On the cottage shown in this story, he chose a gray-blue primer to go under a peach top coat.
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