Contractors receive a lot of phone calls a year. These calls can range from adding extra space in your basement to redesigning a dated kitchen into a chef’s dream. We suggest for you to start with a 10 to 20 minute conversation. During this initial conversation we ask 5 key questions of our clients: where, what, when, why & how much. From there we end up setting up in home consultations with 200 to 250 qualified clients. Approximately 70% of the people that call us, are not the right fit for our project niche. So what makes a client “qualified” or a project “not the right fit”? These are great questions and things you should be focused on when interviewing contractors. The days when any contractor was good at doing any type of remodeling to your home are gone. The jack of all trades tends to be the master of none. Meeting with contractors can be a significant time commitment for both you and all involved. So before you set up an appointment it’s best for you to ask a few key questions over the phone to help ensure that an in-person meeting will be time well spent.
1. Am I Located in Your Service Area?
Not every contractor will travel long distances. Most have restrictions based on travel time. I have found by keeping projects to a limited geographical area, typically means a faster response time, which you should consider a plus. Being close to your house means better customer service. If you are located outside a remodeling contractor’s service area, you may consider asking them for a recommendation of another company that is closer.
2. Is My Project Something You Specialize In?
Many contractors restrict the type of projects they perform, keep in mind this is a good thing! Before you call any contractors, write down on paper a short description of your project. For example “I want to remodel our small kitchen and it will involve removing some structural walls.” Not every home remodeling contractor has experience dealing with relocating of load bearing walls. So ask the question and make sure your project is something they are interested in working on and that they are set up to handle as well.
3. Can You Complete My Project by My Deadline?
This can be a difficult question for a contractor to answer because it involves how quickly you can make decisions. Some homeowners are really good at making selection and design decisions quickly. Some homeowners need time to think about these things. If you are just beginning this process, it may be many months before the plans and permits are ready. Remember two things: 1) a good home remodeling contractor should be in demand and typically carry a backlog of work and 2) rushing through the design process can ruin a project. So take your time.
4. Why are You a Home Remodeling Contractor?
This may sound like a weird question, but the more you get to know “their why” the more you will connect with the company you hire. I tell our clients all the time, in the beginning treat the meetings and phone calls with contractors like a first date. Would you want to see this person and their staff everyday for 2-6 months? Find out why they love doing what they do, find out their mission statement, their beliefs. Make sure their beliefs line up with your core beliefs. Because when you sign that agreement, you enter into a short term marriage. This marriage can be a long term trusting relationship or it can end in a nasty divorce. And the only ones that are happy in a divorce are the lawyers.
5. My Budget Range for this Project is in a Range of $X to $Y. Is this Realistic?
I use budget ranges to help our customers down a path of less frustration. Almost like a restrictor plate on a race car. Good designers have a lot of great ideas, but if you can’t afford these exotic materials or designs, why waste your time. Talking about money can be uncomfortable, but it’s important, particularly if you have a specific amount you want to spend. So do your research on approximate remodeling pricing so you feel more confident in your discussions. Be honest with your contractor! If you don’t trust the contractor with this important information, you shouldn’t move forward with them.
One last tip: Make sure to have a phone conversation, not email. You really need to get an idea if your personalities will fit, email doesn’t give you an idea of how they will be in person. So make sure to have a frank honest conversation. By the end of the call you should be able to answer these two questions: Is this contractor Qualified to do my project and will the company be the Right Fit?