Home Ownership (misc.consumers.house)

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Default need advice on contractors

I own a home in Northern Virginia and it's been discussed in the local
papers and among friends that it's really hard to get contractors to work on
residential projects lately. So I understand that. The contractors are having
booming business right now and they're swamped. I wonder if any contractors
here can advise me on how to get some quotes for work on my house.
I originally decided to have some driveway and sidewalk work done this
fall, and then to get a new roof in the spring. A few weeks ago I called all
the concrete/paving contractors in the yellow pages to try to schedule a
meeting to get a bid. (Not all together, obviously.) The contractors who
answered the phone took my name, number, and address and said someone would
call me back to schedule the time. Only one actually drove by the place to
look, but he called me like 5 minutes before he was there, without scheduling
it ahead of time, so I couldn't be there to show him what exactly I wanted.
None of the others called me back. I went through the book again and emailed
those that had email addresses or URL's, stating in my email exactly what work
I wanted done. Haven't heard from them either.
Now I'm thinking I should start calling the roofers also, since by the
time I get a roof bid or two, summer will be here.
Cynicism aside, how long should I wait before calling the pavers again
to re-request an appointment to get a bid? Given how busy they are, I'm
willing to keep trying, but I don't want to call them so often that I make a
pest out of myself.

Off on a tangent, I'm pretty surprised that the contractors I've called
have shown very little customer service ability. I think it's basic
politeness to tell a customer you're too busy right now but you might be able
to get to them at some future time, instead of just never calling back. Also
call the customer at least a few hours before you show up at their house,
instead of springing a surprise visit and then trying to guess what work the
customer wanted. Another example is that last spring I called lots of tree
contractors to have some tree trimming done. At least two different
contractors actually did schedule an appointment, and then failed to show up
and none of them called to tell me why they missed the appointment or to
re-schedule. If I ran a business I wouldn't use the excuse of booming workload
to treat potential customers like dirt. What's up with that?

- Sharon
"Gravity... is a harsh mistress!"
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On 11 Oct 2004 10:20:53 -0500, someone wrote:

I own a home in Northern Virginia and it's been discussed in the local
papers and among friends that it's really hard to get contractors to work on
residential projects lately. So I understand that. The contractors are having
booming business right now and they're swamped.

I'm seeing the same thing here in a second home area of New England.
It is especially hard to get repairs or small jobs done as there is so
much new work available - and on those (1) the jobs are bigger, (2) no
need to work around the homeowner's prized possessions, (3) can work
only with other professionals that they are used to and do not have to
related to possibly ignorant or demanding homeown ers.

The contractors I know regale me with "stupid homeowner tricks"
stories. Like the guy who started yelling and screaming that he was
being ripped off because he had put calipers on his "half inch"
sheathing and found it was only 7/16ths. On this one, which was
reported to me as it happened, the contractor actually asked me what I
though he should do - and I suggested he have the customer measure his
2x4s (which we all know are actually 1-1/2 by 3-1/2.

Supply and demand is what it is. My suggestion is to make it as
precise and easy for the contractor to understand what to do, WITHOUT
the need for personal "showing" or "telling" or explaining. Draw up
and specify the work so that you do not need to SAY it. This is
partly a gender thing - supposedly a study done by Home Depot about
tools & products showed that males preferred to read the specs and
study the product without anyone "bothering" them - while females
preferred to have a person describe and show them (even if the written
specs and directions were present), Not exactly the same, but I think
analogous.

As for customer service - well, a lot of guys go into the trades
because they are good with their hands, and not because they like
dealing with people. This leaves an opening for larger businesses
that stress the service side - and then sub out the work to the
others, with a big markup to the customer. If you see a business
opportunity here, go for it. Otherwise it is what it is.

I try to have stuff drawn up and written down and fax'd over, and then
they can come look at the site any time without taking up my time
either. Contractors have only their time to sell, and when they are
busy, behind, have people pushing them to get done on their existing
jobs, have the unexpected problems and delays that always come up,
then they are not keen on spending their time visiting with homeowners
who they fear will need lots of hand-holding and that they expect have
also called a dozen other contractors (so they have only a slim chance
of getting the job anyway).

Supply and dmeand is what it is. I arrange maintenance on 4 commercial
locations as well as my home, so I've been thru it too.

-v.
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In article , (v) writes:
On 11 Oct 2004 10:20:53 -0500, someone wrote:

I own a home in Northern Virginia and it's been discussed in the local
papers and among friends that it's really hard to get contractors to work on
residential projects lately. So I understand that. The contractors are having
booming business right now and they're swamped.


[snip]

The contractors I know regale me with "stupid homeowner tricks"
stories. Like the guy who started yelling and screaming that he was
being ripped off because he had put calipers on his "half inch"
sheathing and found it was only 7/16ths. On this one, which was
reported to me as it happened, the contractor actually asked me what I
though he should do - and I suggested he have the customer measure his
2x4s (which we all know are actually 1-1/2 by 3-1/2.


Heh, but if he did that, it would give the jerk another thing to beat
him up over. A homeowner like that would accuse the contractor of getting
crappy materials for everything.

Supply and demand is what it is. My suggestion is to make it as
precise and easy for the contractor to understand what to do, WITHOUT
the need for personal "showing" or "telling" or explaining. Draw up
and specify the work so that you do not need to SAY it. This is
partly a gender thing - supposedly a study done by Home Depot about
tools & products showed that males preferred to read the specs and
study the product without anyone "bothering" them - while females
preferred to have a person describe and show them (even if the written
specs and directions were present), Not exactly the same, but I think
analogous.


Ahh. I figured that was too formal for what I needed, but now I think
you're right. Even though I only want my driveway and sidewalk redone, which I
don't think is a big job, there are a couple details I want to specify. I'll
give that a try. I work in computers, so even though I'm female, I can draw it
up fairly analytically with measurements.

As for customer service - well, a lot of guys go into the trades
because they are good with their hands, and not because they like
dealing with people. This leaves an opening for larger businesses
that stress the service side - and then sub out the work to the
others, with a big markup to the customer. If you see a business
opportunity here, go for it. Otherwise it is what it is.


I understand that. I think that for those who have a receptionist or
secretary who answers the phone, they can certainly train her to help with
followup. But that's just my armchair quarterbacking. :-)

I try to have stuff drawn up and written down and fax'd over, and then
they can come look at the site any time without taking up my time
either. Contractors have only their time to sell, and when they are


That's excellent advice. Thank you very much!

--
- Sharon
"Gravity... is a harsh mistress!"
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