Tuesday, April 3, 2012
The Top 5 Questions to Ask a Past Client in the residential construction industry
A professional remodeling contractor just left your living room after an impressive presentation, one among the few you're considering for your home improvement project.
In addition to a brochure about his business and highlights of his recent work, he left behind a list of recent remodeling clients for you to call or email to ask about his work ethic, skill, and professionalism.
Now the ball's in your court to actually reach out to those references and gain some valuable inside knowledge about your remodeler before you consider negotiating and signing a contract for your project.
But what to ask? For many prospective clients, we suggest a few questions to solicit the kind of information that will help them make an informed and confident decision. Of course, you may have your own agenda and priorities, which we encourage; if you need them, these questions just may help get the conversation going.
1. Did the workers show up? Few things get under a homeowner's skin faster and worse than a remodeler who doesn't arrive and leave the job at the same time every day. Not doing so shows a lack of respect for the client and poor communication skills, two death-knells for any contractor. A remodeler should be reliable and reasonably available and never be late, leave early, or skip a day without the homeowner knowing beforehand.
2. Was the jobsite clean? The best remodeling contractors leave the job site clean at the end of each day. They sweep and haul their trash away, store or take their tools, and stack their materials. Not only does the jobsite look good (as good as anything can under construction), but also is one that's safer should the owners want to check out the progress of the job on their own after work. Cleanliness also extends to how construction dust and debris are kept away from areas of the house that are still occupied and unaffected, a show of respect for the owners during a tumultuous time.
3. Did they finish on time ... or at all? Chances are, a remodeler who skips out on a job isn't going to provide those homeowners as a referral. But asking if a job was completed on time is a valid question that reveals the contractor's commitment and organizational skills. If the answer is "no," dig a little deeper into why; it may be that the owner made changes that caused some delays, or that bad weather was an unavoidable factor.
4. Did they finish on budget? Like finishing on time (or within the owner's expectations), finishing on budget indicates a remodeler's organizational and business acumen, specifically his cost-estimating skills. If the answer is "no," ask why and look for clues about change or special orders by the owner that may have been outside the scope of the original budget, or if the remodeler neglected to calculate a cost and tried to make the owners pay for it later.
5. Did they do a good Job? Probably the most important question. Some of the other negatives may be forgiven if the overall finish was exactly what the clients specified. If the answer is no, then this should eliminate this contractor from your list .
This handful of questions probably does not satisfy all of your needs, but it's a start and often will inspire more questions that further reveal whether the remodeler you're considering is one you can trust and rely on to do the job right.
This is an article that was published in the Village Builders newsletter that is sent out to all past and future Village Builders Inc clients. The article was written by the President of Village Builders Doug Abbott. If you would like to be put on the mailing list for this, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on the mailing list.