How Contractors Can Communicate Effectively With Homeowners
Contractors and home remodel professionals generally understand the importance of managing client expectations. Yet, in the interest of closing a deal or out of a desire to please clients, it’s easy to get caught up in the homeowner’s enthusiasm. But that’s where tensions begin. It’s up to the contractor to offer realistic timelines and ensure that clients understand them. The same goes for accurate and complete budgets, as well as how materials perform and what they cost. Ultimately, the contractor is the professional in the relationship, and the homeowner is counting on you for the full picture.
Before you sit down for your next meeting with homeowners to discuss their project, here are some tips to help homeowners bridge the gap between what they want and what they can afford, as well as when they’d like it all done…and how long it may actually take to complete their dream remodel.
1. Ask for inspiration photos.
Before undertaking a home remodel, most homeowners have some photos tucked away of their dream space. Asking for inspiration photos is a great way to connect with your client and shows initiative that you genuinely care about their style and the end result. This also presents an opportunity to manage expectations at the outset. If a homeowner envisions an expensive design but has a small budget, this is an opportunity to discuss realistic options (and set expectations) before diving into the project.
2. Discuss the purpose of the space.
Does the whole family typically eat at the kitchen counter? Are they looking to host Thanksgiving dinner? Understand how your client plans to use the space. As you get a sense of the layout and purpose of the room, you can make more informed recommendations and demonstrate your expertise.
3. Provide homeowners with a detailed scope of work.
Agree on a scope before starting any demolition work. An itemized scope of work protects both you and your client. Homeowners want to make sure they can point to a list of items included in the remodel and this protects you from last minute requests and/or additions to the design! Nearing the end of a project, but your homeowner at the last-minute decides that she wants to add managing space for an eat-in kitchen? Point to the scope and offer to have a conversation about adding the feature and what the extra budget would be.
4. Communicate the process.
First time homeowner? Or maybe this is your client’s first remodel? It’s your job to make sure they understand the renovation process. Create a calendar to share schedules and timelines and share a selection list (list of materials your client must choose) at the outset of your relationship. A selection list will give your homeowner time to ruminate over tiles while ensuring they stay on task. Also, consider creating a shareable expense log and folder for project files (floorplans, spec sheets, renderings, etc.). This is a great way for your client to check in on these items whenever they want and will help streamline communication.
5. Talk about the “what ifs” upfront.
What if the custom cabinets don’t arrive on time? What if there’s a crack in the foundation? Will the big storm affect the timing? Address concerns that may arise upfront! While many “what if’s” are outside of your control, acknowledging them with homeowners will put their minds at ease and help mitigate disappoint if external forces delay the project.
6. Identify a method of communication
It’s important to set boundaries for yourself! Schedule regular status calls or meetings and discuss your preferred method of communication so you’re not receiving texts about paneling at 2 a.m. Also ask your client how and when they want to be contacted, so neither party is inadvertently over- or under-communicating.
Establishing guidelines with your client upfront will alleviate concerns and manage the expectations of the project and your relationship. Recommend platforms to your client, like Emprove, to help them stay organized, informed and on budget from their smallest to their largest remodels.