It happens more often than you would think. You have a job that needs to get done, and you’re willing to pay for it. You get the info for some contractors, call them, and they don’t call you back. What’s the problem? It could just be bad timing. Maybe they are busy when you call and they figure you’ll find someone else by the time they are available.
But there may be another factor. The reality is, a lot of potential customers actually turn out to be a waste of time. You could be one of them. Here’s what contractors are looking to avoid:
People who are just using them to get a bid. Perhaps you have found a contractor you really like, but you want double-check the price he gave you. Always get at least 3 estimates, right? Well a detailed estimate is time consuming to put together. Contractors don’t want to spend the time just to have their work used as a negotiating tool with someone else. Don’t be surprised if some contractors want to charge you for a proposal.
People who are not willing to spend the necessary amount to get what they desire. You have a wish list and a limited budget, and you want the two to meet. It seems like the cost of a job can vary greatly and you want the best quality for the lowest price. The cost includes hourly labor, overhead costs, materials, a markup on materials, and of course some money left over to make a reasonable profit on the job. Contractors have seen clients that look to cut costs at every corner, with unrealistic expectations of what you can get for your money.
Keep in mind that the contractor should carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance, which is expensive. If you see one contractor stand out with a lower price make sure they have this insurance, because not all contractors carry it.
Customers who demand to know the itemized costs for every detail. Contractors rarely want to give detailed, itemized proposals. One reason is that they are combining estimates that they have gotten from their sub-contractors, which are seldom broken out in detail. But they also know that if we see all of the numbers, we will then question every cost, and it will require more of their time in explanation and comparison-shopping than the contract is worth. You may think a price is negotiable, but it’s not.
Clients that don’t actually know what they want, because there will be no way to please them.
Clients who think they know more about construction than they do. Many people take on DIY home projects and do a great job. Some hire contractors not because they think they can’t do it but because they don’t have the time to do it themselves. How hard can it be? But contractors that do the work have had years of training. They take pride in their skill and they probably do know more than you do. When a client criticizes their work they take it personally. They are looking to work with clients that respect their knowledge and their trade and will trust them to do it well.
Customers who shop around and want to supply their own materials. Contractors buy materials from trusted suppliers they have worked with before. As with most items, local retail suppliers might have higher prices than some online shops. It’s hard to swallow for a homeowner looking to save on cost. You might be tempted to say that you want to get the materials yourself. This is a problem for a few reasons:
- Contractors know the materials they buy are high quality, and if you find cheaper materials they could be defective. It’s not uncommon for items to be damaged, with parts missing or with poor instructions. Selecting your own materials could void their warranty. They may also charge you for troubleshooting issues on products/materials you selected and purchased yourself.
- They markup the materials – for good reason. Markup is a charge added as a percentage of the cost of the materials, which is part of the revenue for the job. That may seem like an extra cost you don’t want to pay, but it goes towards the time they will spend selecting, purchasing and picking up or scheduling delivery. If you buy your own materials they will likely just work that markup into another cost, as they will still need to offer guidance on materials you select and they will still need to manage the process, delivery times, etc. Products bought by homeowners can also cause a delay.
- The contractor’s work is a package deal. They want to control the labor and materials involved. If you take away their control of the materials it makes them less effective. The same is true if you decide you want to hire one of your own sub-contractors because you know someone that charges a good rate for a specific job. Your general contractor will want to use the people that he trusts.
An exception to this is with some finish materials such as light fixtures, appliances, tile and sink and shower/bath faucets and fixtures. Talk to your contractor about which of these materials you should pick up on your own.
I know it’s hard to avoid being the kind of customer contractors are looking to avoid. I’ve been there. It’s your home, your money, and you will have to live with the outcome.
Your best bet in getting a call back is to get the name from a referral, and leave the message saying “so and so told me you did a great job for them and I’d like to talk to you about my….” Referred clients usually get the hightest priority. Also let them know your time frame and if there is flexibility. The more you know and can share about your budget, design, and style preferences, the more likely they are to call you back.
Do your due diligence with the screening process and then try to keep these things in mind to be the kind of customer contractors are looking to find.