As a remodeling contractor, it’s also important for you to ask potential clients some questions before beginning work. Not everyone who reaches out to you for a project estimate is going to be a good fit for your company. They might have requests that are outside your scope of expertise or have a timeline that doesn’t work with your schedule.
Before beginning work, consider implementing an interview process to determine whether you and the client can get on the same page. By avoiding jobs that aren’t a match for your skills or style, you can build a stronger brand and prevent potential damage to your reputation from dissatisfied customers. When things go well, clients may be more inclined to make referrals or hire you for future projects, so it’s worth taking the time to ask these seven key questions.
1. What Kind of Work Are You Interested In?
The first (and arguably most important) question to ask prospective clients is what kind of work they are looking to have done. Is it a small job, like replacing windows and doors? Or a larger project, like a full kitchen overhaul? There may be times when leads reach out for estimates on projects that aren’t within your wheelhouse. If you specialize in cabinetry or finish work, for example, a large remodel that involves working with load-bearing walls may be better suited to a different contractor with more experience or who specializes in that type of work.
During the conversation about the client’s needs, ask about their goals for the project, and why they are making the changes. Sometimes, homeowners say things like, “I want a new kitchen,” but they aren’t really sure what that looks like. Asking detailed follow-up questions about their problems with the existing space, their vision for a new space, and any must-haves can help clarify their goals, as well as how you can help.
2. How Long Do You Plan to Stay in Your Home?
Part of understanding your clients’ goals for a remodeling project is knowing how long they plan to remain in the home after the work is done. As the contractor, knowing that this is your client’s “forever” home can help guide your suggestions for materials and how you approach the project. By the same token, if the clients are remodeling to increase the home’s value before putting it up for sale, you can put your knowledge to work guiding the clients toward the projects and materials that will give them the most return on their investment.
3. Does This Work Factor into Other Construction Projects?
Sometimes, remodeling projects require a team of professionals to complete, and you are only needed for a portion of the work. Ask the homeowner about their overall plans, and how you fit into them. Do they need you for the whole project, and expect that you’ll manage all aspects of it? Or do they already have other providers lined up, such as tile installers, drywallers, electricians, and plumbers to manage those parts of the project? Knowing where you fit in is vital to planning your work, as you’ll need to communicate with those other contractors for scheduling, and keep the project on schedule.
You should also ask the homeowners about whether they plan to complete any part of the project themselves. Some homeowners only want to hire a contractor for those parts of the remodel they can’t do themselves, and plan to DIY some aspects of the job. Knowing this in advance allows for more accurate estimates.
4. What Does Your Budget Look Like?
Almost as important as knowing what a customer is looking for is knowing how much they are able to spend. With a budget figure to work with, you can determine whether the project is even possible, and respectfully educate the client on what they can expect for their money.
Getting a sense of the client’s budget can help you estimate the project more accurately, and present different options that could meet their goals. At the same time, clients need to understand that estimates are just that, and that the final cost could end up being more or less depending on any changes that are made during the project, either by choice or necessity. Miscommunication and inaccuracies in this area can disrupt the entire project, and leave you with unhappy clients.
5. What Is The Time Frame for This Project?
Some homeowners may have unrealistic expectations about how long remodeling projects can take. As the contractor, it’s your job to temper those expectations, and present a realistic timeline in which the work will be completed.
During your initial consultation, then, ask the clients about their timeline and when they need the work completed so you can effectively plan the project and ensure that it stays on schedule. Be clear about your calendar and when you can schedule the work, and communicate any changes to the clients.
6. Will I Be Working Alone, or With Other Contractors?
Knowing how your work fits into the overall project is also key to planning, but it’s also important to know whether, and when, you’ll be working with other contractors. If you are serving as the general contractor of the project, you have more control over the scheduling, but if you are a subcontractor or working independently on one aspect of the project, working around others can create some challenges, especially in regards to insurance.
When you are working on a job, the hierarchy is very important should something go wrong and someone is injured or the property is damaged. Your general liability insurance and worker’s compensation coverage extend to you and any employees that work for you. However, if you subcontract any of the work to another professional such as an electrician, those contractors need their own insurance coverage. Otherwise, you could be held liable for any damages.
If there are other workers who don’t work for you, either directly or as a subcontractor, on-site, it needs to be very clear who works for who, and who is covered by which insurance policy.
7. Do You Have Any Questions for Me?
Finally, give prospective clients the opportunity to ask you questions as well. Be prepared to answer queries about your work habits (for example, what is your policy about cleaning up at the end of each day?) and schedule, as well as who works for you. Expect customers to ask about your license and insurance, the contracting process, and costs as well. Be honest and forthright in your answering, understanding that homeowners want a good working relationship with you. Don’t forget to clarify how the client would like you to follow up, and confirm any details of your conversation (including when they hope to make a decision) before moving on to the next stage of the project.