Homeowners all have expectations when their job begins. The problems in remodeling begin when we don’t meet those expectations. We all get into trouble when we don’t meet these expectations. That said, here is a simple fact for every professional remodeler: we are in the business of managing homeowner expectations. Understanding this very simple fact is the basis for being successful in your remodeling business.
Let me explain what I mean. When you listen to most homeowner complaints, you’ll notice that most are not about the actual construction. In almost 90% of the complaints I’ve heard, the complaints were centered not on what happened in the house, but on what didn’t happen, of promises that weren’t kept, on expectations that weren’t met. Homeowners did not get what they thought they were going to get and it upset them. What every successful remodeler learns is that we are the ones that set these expectations.
Remodeling someone’s home is a very challenging process. Homeowners need to understand not only the financial side of the process, but they need to fully comprehend the emotional demands that will be placed on them throughout their project. In my very first meeting with prospective homeowners who are considering some kind of renovation or addition, I always ask this question:
Wouldn’t it be easier to move?
Most homeowners have already addressed this, and they usually say they thought about it, but they like the schools, or they like some other key feature in the area, and they’ve decided to stay. Then I always ask this question:
Have you ever done a big job like this before?
If they have, I want to talk about the process. If they haven’t, I ask the following question:
Do you know anyone who has done a large project?
If they haven’t been through this process, they all know someone who has. This is what I want to review with them. I want them to repeat the stories they have heard. I want to talk with them about a difficult and challenging a remodeling project can be. There will be strangers in their house every day, doing a variety of tasks, making a lot of noise. We will deconstruct their house before we can reconstruct it. If it’s summer they’re going to get hot, and if it’s winter, they’re going to feel cold. There will be building materials coming in, and a lot of trash coming out. Even though we clean up at the end of every day, their house will still get dirty. They may be without a kitchen or bath for weeks, or longer. We may interrupt virtually every routine they follow when we’re here. I want them to understand the challenges I face in dealing with 8 or 10 independent subcontractors and the inevitable delays that are part of the remodeling process. I spend whatever time is necessary helping homeowners understand that in any good sized remodeling project, we are managing a process as well as a project, and there is an emotional component that comes with the remodeling experience. I want to talk about the emotional roller coaster that homeowners ride throughout the remodeling process. In all honesty I don’t cover all this in the first meeting, because that might be a little overwhelming. But I do review all of this with prospective clients before a project begins. There is a very specific reason I do this:
As an experienced remodeler I know how hard this can be. One of my jobs with homeowners is to prepare them physically and emotionally. I will guide them through the process, but the best way I know to get them prepared is to be very honest about the process itself. Here’s the outcome: when their project actually begins, there are few, if any surprises. They are ready to roll with the punches. They understand that the schedule will have some fluidity to it. And when the process itself is actually easier than I described, I come out of the job with clients for life because I have exceeded their expectations.
Most homeowners are very trusting when a job first begins. They wouldn’t hire us if they didn’t trust us. If we violate that trust by not meeting their expectations, we have not done our job. We may have done part of the job, but how many times will homeowners pay top dollar for “part of a job well done?” Help create their expectations and then manage the process as well as the project. It’s money in the bank.