I think a bunch of confusion comes from the homeowners when the contractors speak in trade talk jargon. I've had a couple homeowners have no idea what I was talking about, even though I specifically asked if they knew what I meant. Turns out they were just embarrassed or whatever to admit they didn't know or ask any questions. I try to speak to them in layman's terms unless I know for sure they have a clue what I am trying to say in more technical terms.
It can get frustrating when a client interferes in your work or think they know more than you and starts to address issues or problems on the site. I welcome suggestions and love to work to meet client and customer requirements but sometime it becomes a ego battle especially when they see a woman on the job site. I listen carefully and attentively and try my best to make things work.
First thing I always want to clear up is the distinction between an estimate and a bid. I can't count how many times a potential client has asked for an estimate, and then wants to treat it as a bid. The two terms are about as interchangeable as LPN and Brain Surgeon, or shade tree mechanic and rocket scientist
I think most of us could write a book on this subject...well, at least a chapter.
One of the most enjoyable yet potentially frustrating tours in my 26 years as a navy pilot was my 3 years in the Pensacola area as a helicopter flight instructor. It was easy to get frustrated with a new student when they made a mistake that as an instructor, I had seen over and over and over again. With experience, my fellow instructors and I would learn to recognize our frustration and remind ourselves that this is the first time this student has made the error.
I have to watch myself in a similiar manner working with remodeling customers. Sometimes it feels like I am answering the same questions over and over again....because I am...but it is with a new client each time.
It is easy to get frustrated and lazy.
Most of us spend considerable time with prospective customers in an effort to convince them to ask us to the "prom". Once we get asked to the dance, the key is to continue to nurture the relationship leading up to, during and even after the dance. It may be our 100th kitchen remodel...but chances are, it is the client's first. Don't lose sight of that...
Great points here! The question reminded me of a post we included on our website: "Things You May Be Afraid To Tell Your Remodeler" - http://bit.ly/gT4ZVj
Above all I think both remodelers and clients need to remember that honesty is truly the best policy. Trying to play games does not benefit anyone. We know our company will be the perfect choice for many people and not be the right fit for others. With open and honest communication we can recognize that up front and get a client what they truly want!
Adding to AK's point about honesty, we find that homeowners can often be very shy about sharing their budget from the outset of a potential project. We understand why, they think we will quote according to the budget and possibly over charge. Professional companies don't do that and in reality what happens is that the homeowner tell us what they want, we do initial design and budgeting around the "wish list" but in almost 100% of cases we come in above their budget. It's much better for a homeowner to be upfront, then we can tell them what is realistic and design a project they can actually afford. Of course it saves our professional time, but more importantly it saves the customers inevitable disappointment at not being able to have something they could actually never afford. We have blogged on this issue too http://rule4remodelingcontractor.com/home-remodeling/?p=257
Thanks for posting the question Leah!
Wow, I could write a book about this, but one trend that seems to repeat despite all best efforts is this - I receive a lead and meet a prospective client at their home, discuss concepts and maybe even begin to hone in on specific aspects of their project. I take meticulous notes, bring that back to my office and send out, based on a ton of historical data, is a feasible CONCEPTUAL budget. Conceptual being the key word, as we have not yet signed a design agreement, measured, done the proper due-diligence with regard to the homes existing infrastructure, developed designs, etc. Often the scope of the projects evolve as we get further along in the process. Amazingly, and despite numerous references to the fact that the initial range was, in fact, conceptual, 75% of clients want to hold me accountable to that first range. I mean, it's absolutely mind-boggling! I don't like to make every discussion about dollars and cents, but it is important to document increases (finish selections vs. initial allowances, for example) and creep in the scope along the way and ensure that clients have an understanding of where they are relative to budget, at every phase of the process. Even then there will be sticker-shock, but following that process lessens the blow.
I ask folks what their budget is and fully understand their reluctance to disclose. Many think I will "make" the job push the top end of the range. The reality is, I'm trying to design TO the budget, and get the absolute most bang for their buck. What good does it do me to spend 2 months designing a project 20k above someone's top end? Now I'm reducing scope and clients feel like they're sacrificing. It's just not a good way to begin a relationship.
Hi y'all. I'm a homeowner that decides I want a job done. Somehow I decide what it should cost (not knowing anything about real cost).
My latest project was redoing my Koi pond - I called the company that did the original pond/deck about 7 years ago. Of course I thought it would be cheaper but I wanted to expand the deck, redo one waterfall, remove a 2nd waterfall, etc. Despite the cost I knew their work was beautiful the last time & decided to do it. I didn't bother with a second bid.
Excellent decision & well worth the cost. The job is better than I imagined.
I want a chapter in Mike's book. Many people do not realize that what I do with paint is not the same as what a painting contractor does. . . that is the cost difference. But, once they see what actually goes in to one of my projects, they are amazed at how labor intensive it is and how much difference years of experience can make.
From a customers standpoint, some design/build firms will not let you use another's design.
And most painting jobs look the same on the surface but our best work is invisible (think prep).
I recently hired my own firm to do some work at a new (to me) 1929 Bungalow that my family bought. My mom also hired my firm recently for an extensive HVAC and insulation upgrade. On both projects, I learned things that I THOUGHT my company did well....very eye opening to "be" the client for a few projects. It has made our firm better, and our folks more conscientious. If you have a project, "hire" yourself, and see what you learn!
@ Yamini, you know the old contractor saying on pricing right - "This is how much the job will cost you. If you want to watch, the cost doubles, it triples if you want to help." :)
Sherrie brings up a good one too. Many homeowners have no idea what a project should cost. They figure "I could do that myself for $500" and are shocked when the Estimate (@ Nichter - there you go! ) comes in closer to $5,000.
TriVista - I have heard similar comments from Doctors who became patients
COMMUNICATION on both ends is key.sometimes hard to do though. as a consumer i always thought the estimate was the bid unless something was specified.
Wonderful responses. Thanks a bunch, everyone. I've been the client on many remodeling projects, and I'm inclined to agree with the general consensus that better and clearer communication -- mainly on the part of the remodeling companies -- would make most projects go much more smoothly.
And even when things do go wrong (because they will!), open and honest communication will make homeowners far more understanding and forgiving.
An estimate is a ball park figure contingent upon final specifications and selections. Once these are made a final bid can be submitted.
Another thought: I don't know about everyone else but when I've dealt with a great contractor/vendor I don't question the cost on the next job. I know when the job is done I will feel that it is worth more to me than he/she charged. I'll find out if I'm right because I have a pretty big job starting tomorrow. I will be posting before/after photos. Repeat customers are the best thing a vendor can have.
Good point Sherrie. It is not a problem with existing customers, normally only with first time customers and especially if there are other bidders.