working with professional

How can homeowners make a professional’s job easier?

Sponsored Question by Kelly Fallis of Remote Stylist: There is the laid back type, the nervous type, and the hovering type. What type of homeowner are you when working with remodeling professionals?

You might think it doesn’t matter, but your behavior and willingness to cooperate significantly affects the experience you will have when working with a professional, whether it be an interior designer, contractor, or supplier. So what can homeowners do to make a professional’s job easier and ensure a smooth working relationship? We ask our panel of experts.

Why We’re Asking:

Kelly Fallis of Remote Stylist, suggested our question. Remote Stylist is an affordable online platform for interior design that prides itself in saving homeowners time, money and frustration when decorating a space. After the homeowner uploads pictures of his/her home and a floor plan, Remote Stylist will create a design plan within a week. Once the homeowner receives the design plan, he/she is off to shop in Remote Stylist’s online store and put their new design into action.

We asked Kelly what inspired the question. She explained that is is a lot easier to help someone when he/she is in the mind frame of wanting to be helped. One way she suggested homeowners can make a professional’s life easier is by letting her know right off the bat what they need so as not to waste time and money.

“If all we do is the info drip as to what the problem is upon first meeting, we’ve wasted fifteen minutes and there is a 50/50 chance I don’t have the information I need to do the job,” Kelly explained. “If the owner had given me all the facts upfront, I could have been prepared when we first met. What should be entirely obvious isn’t to 90% of homeowners.”

If a working relationship goes sour, most people are quick to blame the other party, reflecting on what the other person could have done better. However, just like any relationship, the shared experience of a homeowner and professional is affected by how both sides carry themselves.

What can homeowners do to make a professional’s job easier and ensure a smooth working relationship?

Is there a certain personality type or set of characteristics that ensure a great relationship?
Is there a specific level of preparation a homeowner should bring to the table?
Why should homeowners care how they affect the relationship?
Aren’t they paying for the service, and thus, deserving of an accommodating professional?
Can it be said that a happier professional will equal a better quality job?

Experts, post your answers in the comment field below!



  • Greg Chick @ DIY Plumbing Advice 03/28/11

    Customers need to realize that if they want to be treated like a good customer, they need to treat the “Vendor” as a Professional. Statements like “I could do it myself”, suggest the Vendor or Professional is only a laborer. This suggests that less is involved than really is, so they are not expecting to pay much money for the service. Assuming the Professional is a Salesperson and making a killing on mark up instead of skill or assuming a full warranty is going to be present, w/o paying for it is not realistic.

    Customers need to ask themselves: ‘do I trust this Professional?’, if so, then let them do the job they were hired to do. Giving the Designer (I am referring to function here) what is desired in the end is what is needed. Insisting on justification of things that when explained are over the customer’s head anyway is a waste of valuable effort. If a consumer is hell bent on taking the guarded consumer position, then isn’t the consumer asking for a similar response from the professional? Professional courtesy is a two way street. The better the customer knows what he/she wants, the better the Professional can deliver, so communication is needed and confirmation is paramount to clarity and success.
    -Greg Chick

  • Eric Bramlett, Realtor 03/28/11

    Homeowners should be completely honest & honestly complete. By laying out exactly what the problem is and/or expectations are at the beginning of the transaction, they help the vendor easily understand the problem so he/she can more quickly solve it. This ultimately saves the homeowner time, and because most vendors charge by the hour, money.

    • Jennifer Dusina @ freedomRail 04/01/11

      I totally agree with you Eric. It’s best that home-owners are completely honest with professionals about what they’re expectations are up front.

      In our business, we provide homeowners with storage systems and really spend most of our time getting to know their “storage personality.” For example, do they hang everything? Do they fold everything? Or are they shoe fanatics? We need to know these things before we get started. It’s one of the most critical part of the sales process.

      By spending time with homeowners, we are able to determine their storage needs so we are confident that we can provide solutions that fit their design and storage personalities best. It’s a win-win situation.

  • Kia @ TheContractress 03/28/11

    When soliciting bids from contractors, homeowners need to provide a concise and comprehensive scope of work (building plans and written specifications.) These documents should be developed by professionals like licensed architects, engineers, and interior designers. Once a shortlist of contractor candidates is created, the homeowner needs to meet the contractors on site to review potential hidden conditions and also determine the source of electricity, water, as well as reviewing working hours, storage areas, and dumpster location. Once the contractor is selected and the contract is signed, the homeowner should be an active partner in the building process but he or she should not be disruptive unless the contractor is in breech of contract. In a nutshell, if you get the contracting portion of the project done correctly, the construction should go smoothly.

  • Stuart@ToolGuyd 03/28/11

    I think that a smooth professional-client relationship heavily depends on having everyone on the same page. This of course also serves to make the professional’s job a lot easier. I don’t think that it’s enough just to discuss ‘what’ needs to be done – the ‘how’ and ‘why’ are also important, and should be conveyed as early as possible. These details are important.

    A professional that is well informed about their client’s wants and needs, and the reasoning behind them, is in a better position to make recommendations should a client’s request prove to less than optimal.

    I sometimes work on projects (non-remodeling). Every so often I come across someone who insists on telling me only what needs to be done and nothing more. They are absolutely convinced that they know better than anyone else what they need and want. It is often the case that time, money and efforts are wasted, sometimes in considerable amounts, because the person refuses to benefit from my experience.

    As a client, I make it a point to convey what I want, and share the reasoning behind it. On occasion this can save me money on unnecessary costs or even lead to better results than anticipated. I also find it important to ask the right questions. An informed homeowner is a happy homeowner. I also like to know as much as possible upfront, knowing that fewer surprises will hep keep the working relationship as smooth as possible.

    With everyone on the same page knowing how, why, and especially when, there is a greater chance of everything flowing smoothly.

  • Terry Peterman @ Electrical Online 03/28/11

    When involved in the design process of a custom home, I always made an effort to involve the homeowner in a “walk-through” prior to the rough-in stage of the electrical installation. This is a perfect opportunity to develop a trust relationship between the customer and the professional. Here is where you can discuss your individual needs with the professional. You can ask questions, and the professional can suggest conveniences to design the system to meet your individual needs. Make sure you communicate information like where you will be placing furniture, what kind of appliances you have, where will you have computers, televisions, entertainment centers, etc. Having these discussions up front and prior to starting the job will save you money as well. Making changes after the boxes are in and the wire is pulled will cost at least twice as much as getting it right the first time.
    As far as trying to trouble-shoot a problem for a client, the best thing they can provide is information. What is the problem, when did it start, what were you doing at the time the problem occurred, have you noticed anything unusual prior to, after, or when the problem started. Any information is helpful to the process even if it may seem irrelevant to you.
    Then after providing all the information possible, back off and let the professional work. Nothing is more irritating for most people than having someone looking over your shoulder while trying to think and perform diagnostic checks.

  • Kelly Fallis @ Remote Stylist 03/28/11

    Great answers thus far. Add on questions:

    A. Does everyone providing home related services take photos of the project in the beginning? I’ve found having the visual on file later solves so many headaches with clients later…simply a great point of reference when discussing matters if you’re not onsite and you can whip out a pic of the space, area, yard, whatever.

    B. Are you finding that online communication with clients is helping you do your job more efficiently? Does anyone have useful tips on configuring client communication thats made the process more efficient for both parties?

    • Greg Chick @ DIY Plumbing Advice 03/30/11

      I am now having most customers E mail me, even when they are just wanting a service call to replace a faucet. One reason is they see what an extensive site I have and my qualifications, but I get the address right and everything in print. I use the e mail to respond with and make/confirm appt. My Quotes are usually on the e mail. I most often Quote w/o seeing job. Confirm when I arrive. Yes I take pix. this helps for Insurance reasons.

    • DeAnna Radaj @ Bante Design LC 03/31/11

      Hi Kelly-
      a) I take pictures AND video. Both are for client file & for use on my website/youtube channel & presentations. All w/client permission of course. This also helps for documentation purposes as project progresses.
      b) I always communicate by email, & if a phone call takes place, send a “summary” email for documentation purposes & to make sure everyone “heard” the same things the same way (!). I’ve also itnegrated Skype & web-conferencing into my client consultations. This helps me be more efficient w/my time, help more clients & increase geographic availability, as well as lowering expenses (no travel time) for my clients.

    • Nancy Keenholts Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton, Inc. 03/31/11

      I always take pictures, not only to have before shots, but as I do a measure and get back to my office I can review the photos to double check details. We just completed a steam shower for a client and took photos every day to demonstrate the process; tear out, framing, plumbing and electrical, waterproofing…on and on. This project took a month and we had people working at the site every day. I made it into a movie and posted it on our web site. Some people have never done a remodel and just can’t get their arms around the fact that labor is a large percentage of the cost of a project. This used to bother me but I realize some people don’t understand the steps, man hours, skills and tools necessary to complete a project.

      I don’t know how I lived without e-mail. I can communicate immediately, scan drawings and send pictures to both clients and sub contractors working for me. We send almost all of our invoices electronically and we get paid faster than a mailed invoice.

  • Pablo Solomon, Green Designer 03/29/11

    The early designers get to make the good suggestions. My colleagues are right on.

    I suggest to home owners that they keep detailed records of what has been done in the past. I live in an 1856 historic home that my wife and I have basically rebuilt over 20 plus years. It has stone walls 2 feet thick and thus all sorts of odd construction challenges. I have photos of everything done and how it was done. We also keep records of paint–the brand, color, etc. Any records on anything and everything helps. Some things are especially tricky to locate when hidden–pipes, wiring, etc. On my home, it would be almost impossible for someone to do any work without my detailed records of where things have been run and done over the past 155 years. If you are building a home, photo each stage from foundation up.

    • Nancy Keenholts Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton, Inc. 03/30/11

      Pablo,

      You’ve saved yourself money by being able to show these pictures to trades people. Save all of this and turn over copies to a new buyer when you sell. This is valuable and could make the difference between two houses a buyer may be considering.

      This also shows quality and that you didn’t cut corners.

      Great job.

  • Roone Unger @ EXOVATIONS 03/29/11

    I believe, as experts in our field, it is not up to the client to make our job easier. In fact, it is more difficult than ever to win contracts due to the fact that many of the smaller companies have more time, due to less jobs, to invest with prospective clients to make it that much easier for client to do less. That means we have to be that much better at what we do throughout the selling process than our competitors.

    We always prefer it when our potential customers have done their own research. This process gives us the opportunity to enhance the information they already have. Then we can lead them to focus on exactly what they want to accomplish with their project. If we don’t know what they want to accomplish, then their version of the project may not get them to the end result they desire.

    • DeAnna Radaj @ Bante Design LC 03/31/11

      Agree w/Roone on this one! I have a general check-list that I go through during the pre-consultation interview. This is done with EVERY client, whether they are a “repeat” or a “newbie”. It’s all about YOUR processes & a great way to keep documentation & your client files in order.

  • Steve Crossland @ Crossland Team Realty 03/30/11

    It’s really a question of fit and trust. The difficult dynamic is that customers and contractors should rightfully view each other, initially, with skepticism and distrust. Sorry, but we all know why that’s the way it has to be. But once trust and confidence have been established through rapport and consultation, things will go much better if each party trusts the other fully.

    For the customer, this means communicating clearly, at appropriate times, about appropriate matters, and not being a flake. Stay out of the way and let the job get done. For the contractor it means communicating clearly, keeping promises, adhering to agreed timelines, acting with integrity, and taking ownership and responsibility when invariably something doesn’t go exactly as planned.

    But the most important thing a customer can do for themselves and the contractor, is to be aware of how you use your “complaint capital”. Pestering a contractor with a never-ending stream of daily questions and petty gripes destroys the relationship and slows down the work. Have a predetermined meeting time, whether it’s 8AM every morning or 3PM on Thursdays, to sit down and evaluate how things are going. Discuss issues of concern at that time, in that setting, in a professional way.

  • Tanya Stock @ Vida Verde Build 03/30/11

    Customers need to recognize that when you contact a professional be willing and prepared to pay simple fees or costs involved when doing so. I do not consult for free and no professional be they Contractor, Designer or Trade Professional should either. I do believe the era of getting “free estimates” or just having “a question” is an unjust way of gleaning information that exploits the professionals knowledge or expertise and is a disservice to them by thinking that it should be free.

    There needs to be a clear expectation that in many fields Architects, Accountants and even some Speciality Trades you are billed for time. Somewhere along the way many fields felt that to get jobs they could provide detailed estimates and plans without compensation. And in the end no guarantee of employment. These are proprietary documents for that client which they then can do with whatever -be pass onto a competitor or even DIY. This practice needs to stop. Requiring a simple fee that can be later taken off the Invoice later if hired is a way of establishing a truly professional relationship and also financial security for your business in the long run.

    Remember all professionals are just that and to be treated as one you must present yourself as one and customers should expect that and compensate them accordingly for their time.

  • David Sturm@Attention to Detail Home Remodeling 03/30/11

    Two things come to mind;

    1. Having all selections (i.e. faucets, appliances,paint colors) and ordered to arrive before the job begins
    As with all projects, I try and form a relationship with the homeowner and my company. Budget is a big item today and one of the ways we deal with this is doing a Budget Development so every selection out of our allowances the homeowner knows there are going over budget without the price shock at the end.
    2.. Communication in a on site log book and emails. This is up front with design and then production.

    I find that homeowners have certain expectations that are not explained to the remodeler. I have found that we as remodelers need to ask a ton of questions to make sure both parties are on the same page in expectations of craftsmanship, timelines and budget. The better the relationship between homeowner and remodeler, the better the project will turn out with smiles on both parties faces.

  • Kelly Fallis @ Remote Stylist 03/30/11

    Oh i like that complaint capital phrase! Time blocking with clients and having them stay out of way is key. And photos always help as Pablo says.

    The real challenge in all of this is homeowners apparently know what they want, but then so don’t … particularly in design. Biggest issue at the beginning of the design process is that clients think their a certain style, ie modern, and then you show them something and their reaction tells you nope contemporary or whatever! Same goes for roofs, and bathrooms and all the green stuff and what have you … they need a professional to help them make the right decision for them!

    • Jennifer Dusina @ freedomRail 04/01/11

      I agree. Many people come to us with storage dilemmas and think they know what they want. But once they are involved in the decision process, get completly overwhelmed.

      They need that extra push from us – as professionals, to help guide them through through the process.

  • Katie Miller @ Roomations 03/30/11

    I don’t believe there is a whole lot that a homeowner needs to do to make my job easier other than adopt the common courtesies of any professional relationship. These include being fully focused on matters at hand during meetings, being responsive to questions and providing feedback in a timely manner. As I design professional, I believe it is my responsibility to confirm that I have correctly understood the homeowner’s personal needs, aspirations, preferences and limitations. The homeowner needs to listen and respond to that understanding. I can also help guide the homeowner to make informed and thorough decisions that will hopefully have a positive impact on the homeowner’s relationship with their contractor.

  • Nancy Keenholts Dalton @ Baywolf Dalton, Inc. 03/30/11

    This can be the start of a good professional relationship with open communication; a clearly defined scope, a list of criteria that we all understand and honesty about your budget. Be honest about your budget, even if you don’t know what it will cost. Provide a range and be willing to learn about your options. Pictures are great if you have some to share. I always bring many photos of my projects as a spring board for conversations and to demonstrate cost differences. If the relationship is professional, based on trust, and open communication from all parties you will have a successful project.

    You should know something about company you’re working with; providing you with the confidence from the beginning that you can be honest or you may find it hard to have the openness I outline above.
    For real professionals in the design and home improvement field, this isn’t about a quick sale. Nothing’s that quick and most of my projects are complicated. It’s about getting it right, doing a great job that may be published and a client that refers you to everyone they know. We want great clients, repeat business and referrals.
    Know something about the professional you are working with; enough to communicate honestly and to trust them. For all the reasons I list above, we have huge incentives to provide you and your family with a very good project.
    What to do:

    – Understand your finances and your budget for this project.
    – If you have a spouse, determine the scope and criteria before I meet with you. It’s more embarrassing for you than it is for me to find out you haven’t talked, or one of you doesn’t want to do this at all.
    – Outline the scope, the must have’s on your list.
    – Know your likes and dislikes. Sometimes I learn more when I understand your dislikes.
    – Tell me the things you already know are seriously wrong with your home.
    – Make arrangements for your children to be occupied in another room so you can focus on our conversation. Treat this as you would if you were meeting with your accountant or lawyer.
    – Be willing to listen, learn and then share your feelings about new ideas.
    – If I don’t think I understand some part of what you are trying to tell me, tell me that.

    What not to do:
    – Meet with me without your partner if their input matters or if they are the final decision maker.
    – Tell me you don’t have a budget yet, or and be unwilling to discuss what you could spend.- Hide problems with your home; tell me things that aren’t accurate.
    – Make are appointment for a time you are tired, your kids need you or your partner can’t be there too.

  • Leah Thayer @ Daily 5 Remodel 03/31/11

    These are all helpful responses, but I think the onus is really on the professional — the designer or contractor — to set and manage our expectations.

    Educate us. Tell us what we can do to help you, or what we must do (e.g., meet with you every Tuesday at 7 a.m.; keep the dog and kids from the work area; relocate our prized azaleas so you don’t kill them; provide you with the last 12 months of our utility bills).

    Put requirements and expectations in writing and go over them in person. For instance, tell us that unforeseeable surprises may lurk behind our walls, and that’s why your contract has a clause regarding such circumstances. Tell us what kinds of “surprises” you’ve found in other homes of this vintage, and the steps you’ve taken to mitigate further delays and change orders.

    Professionals: Help us (as homeowners) help you manage the expected and the unexpected alike. We’ll thank you for it and be better clients the next time.

  • Bill Riggs @ Riggs Construction 03/31/11

    When working with a professional remodeler, one of the most important things a homeowner can do is have a clear budget in mind. And just as important, make sure all parties involved know what that budget is and agree on it. This helps to guide all decisions that are made, especially when it comes to selecting finishes and the various components that will go in to the project. We’ve found that product selection is where budgets can get really out of control. That’s why Riggs Construction developed a system many years ago to help clients through the selection process, pointing them not only to the right vendors, but communicating with the vendors on the front end so that budget, design and style issues narrow down the vast number of selections a client can be faced with. This makes the process quicker, and helps keep the project on budget.

  • Kevin Costenaro @ The Augusta Group 03/31/11

    We’ve found over the years that by putting forth a positive, friendly and sunny approach to every conversation, email, or phone call tends to solicit the same response in return. And it’s this positive, understanding attitude from our clients that is probably most important to us. We manage the construction of high end custom homes and due to the sheer size and scope of these projects, our relationships with clients tend to last for several years or more. A lot can happen during this time and someone who is positive and can roll with the punches makes things much easier and less stressful for us.

    I agree with a previous post’s comments about petty gripes and being careful in the use of complaints. Many clients do not realize that every construction project, no matter its size, has an ugly side – the side where a subcontractor does not show when scheduled, the wrong material is delivered, a crew installs something incorrectly or a worker accidentally damages a finished product. Regardless of advance preparation, these things unfortunately happen in our industry and as professional construction managers we have processes in place to help mitigate these sorts of things. However, when they do occur, we appreciate the client who understands that this ugly side of the industry is not uncommon and lets us deal with the issues in our own way. We put enough stress and pressure on ourselves to manage a perfectly smooth process and a client who does not add additional pressure is always appreciated. We like the clients who gauge our success not on whether the ‘ugly’ side rears its head, but rather how we respond and handle the ‘ugliness.’

  • Laryssa Wirstiuk @ Halliburton Homes 03/31/11

    As a real estate services firm, one of our biggest responsibilities to our sellers is showing them the value of great curb appeal, which is comprised of three factors: the front entrance, the façade, and the landscaping.

    Because we don’t hold any emotional attachment to the seller’s home, we can best evaluate what needs to be done or changed. We can also see the home through a prospective buyer’s eyes. Sellers don’t always want to hear that they need to spend some time cleaning, improving, or investing money into their homes.

    However, sellers can make the real estate agent’s job easier by working on the curb appeal before they even decide to put their home on the market. Here are some things to take into consideration so that your agent doesn’t have to break the news that you need to work on your curb appeal:

    – Do you need to paint the front door? Do you need to polish your hardware? Are the house numbers visible? Does the porch or front door area have enough light? Are the railings in good condition? Would the entrance look nicer with some potted plants?
    – Is the siding clean? Do you need to apply a fresh coat of paint to the exterior of your house? Are the shutters in good condition? Is the brick in good condition? Are the gutters clean and hanging securely?
    – Is your lawn in shape? Would you consider hiring a landscaper to take care of shrubs and other plants? Are your garden beds well defined and freshly mulched? Is your front walkway in good shape?

    The real estate agent is going to be asking him or herself these same questions, and it might be hard to hear the agent’s honest opinion. Make the agent’s job easier by taking care of these things yourself! Not only will you feel proud to show off your home to potential buyers but you’ll also be attracting higher offers.

  • Dan Fritschen @ Remodel or Move 03/31/11

    There are a number of ways for homeowners to have a positive interaction with remodeling contractors.

    1. Screen and select the best for you and your project. You need to be comfortable working with the contractor and confident they will give you the results you want. Do a carefull evaluation of several contractors before hiring and rely on your homework and your gut feel. Do not blindly trust referrals – just because a contractor did a great job on a project a year ago for your neighbor doesnt mean they will be right for you and your project.

    2. Be super organized – the contractor you hire may manage details well or may not. It is in your best interest to stay on top of the details. make sure the quote is thorough. Sign a contract with the contractor and make sure the contractor details everything the contractor will do, what materials they will provide and how they are to be paid. If you or the contractor make any changes along the way to the plan – document it in writing and both parties should initial it. Take brief notes about conversations and spend time regularly reviewing with the contractor what work will be done when and any issues, etc. Make sure you dont do this in a “pushy” way but more in “how can i help things go smoothly” attitude. The right attitude makes all the difference.

    There are a lot more tips in finding, hiring and working with a contractor in our book Contractor Selection Workbook http://www.remodelormove.com/shopping/view_product.cfm?pID=40

  • Charlene Storozuk @ Dezigner Digz 03/31/11

    I don’t think that any one particular personality type or set of characteristics is going to ensure that the working relationship is going to be a successful one. There are too many variables in the mix. A great working relationship comes from mutual trust and respect and this is earned over time on both sides regardless of the personalities involved.

    As service providers, we come across many different behaviour styles/mannerisms and have to be able to adapt ourselves accordingly if we want to have a successful working relationship. The onus shouldn’t be on the homeowner. That being said, there may be a time when we as the service provider cannot adapt to a particular individual’s characteristics and in that case, it would be best that both parties part ways early on. Fortunately, I’ve never had to deal with that issue yet and hopefully, I’ll never have to.

    As far as preparation, when a homeowner books an appointment for a home staging consultation, it’s very helpful if they can take care of certain things in advance of the appointment such as cleaning, de-cluttering and de-personalizing. The Home Stager will recommend this anyway, so if it can be taken care of in advance, it will allow the Home Stager more time to address other issues with respect to the property.

    When staging, I always take photos at my first visit to assist me in selecting the appropriate accessories, furniture etc. from my inventory for that specific property. After the transformation has been completed, I also take after photos for my portfolio. This is never done without the homeowner’s written consent though.

  • Jane Frederick, AIA, LEED AP @ Frederick + Frederick Architects 03/31/11

    I am an architect with 25 years experience and specialize in residential architecture. The most important part of the relationship between the professional and homeowner/client is communication. The client needs to convey their wishes and then trust their architect to create the house that they want. It is also important to be realistic about your budget and listen to how the architects suggests to meet your budget. Making decisions in a timely manner is also important. If you love a tile or a light fixture; you don’t need to look at every other tile in the world to see if there is one your LOVE more!

  • Jody Costello @ Contractors from Hell 03/31/11

    When it comes to construction or home renovations , homeowners are for the most part, clueless as to the risks and realities that are part of the building process. One of the greatest challenges for regulatory and consumer protection agencies is getting folks educated on what they need to do to better protect themselves and choose their contractor wisely.

    Having said this, industry professionals would benefit by taking the approach of educating their prospects about what lies ahead and what the homeowner can do to prepare themselves for the project. For example, creating a section on their website that describes their business practices, how they handle communicating with the homeowner and problems that arise ( and they will) what homeowners can expect from them and visa versa, sets the stage for a good working relationship.

    Being honest and transparent about the industry professionals’ business ethics and how they prefer to work with clients is a great vetting tool for them as well. After all, you don’t want to work with a homeowner who may prove to me difficult or doesn’t understand your business.

    Conversely, you’re showing the clients that you understand their needs to get informed about the “unknowns” and how you can work together to get the project done to everyone’s satisfaction. That’s a win-win all around and the foundation for a good match.

  • Steve Robinson @ Axios Architecture 03/31/11

    Some quick thoughts on what homeowners can do to make working with an architect better:

    1) Define what you need in performance rather than prescriptive terms. A performance requirement is “I need to manage briefcases, cell phones, wet shoes and dog leashes near the back door” vs. a prescriptive requirement of “I need a shelf and two outlets at the back door”. The performance requirement creates more of a dialogue between homeowner and architect so the architect can find a better solution. Prescriptive requirements limit the range of solutions an architect can provide.

    2) Develop a working relationship of trust with your architect. This is tied to the suggestion above. Architect’s don’t work in a vacuum. A working dialog allows the architect and client to engage with one another so needs are better understood, making for more effective and helpful design solutions. Engaging in a dialogue like this with one of my clients led to an understanding of their love of the backyard garden and hatred of the mosquitos. This led to me suggesting a screen porch they had not even asked for.which is now their favorite place in the house.

  • Chris Rose @ Chris Rose Architects 03/31/11

    The key to keeping things working smoothly is the ability to make decisions and if the homeowner is unwilling to a find an architect who they trust will be able to get to know them well enough to make the proper decision for them. Also to have an architect who able to give them decision deadlines so the clients don’t hold up the process by taking too long with decisions.

    The owner/architect relationship is similar to a marriage, depending on the size and complexity of the project, the experience will last from several months to several years. Selecting an architect who you are comfortable. Some architects have big egos and don’t work well with their clients. I should know I have inherited many projects from dissatisfied client. Selecting the right architect will insure that you will have someone that gets beyond the basics and will customize the site and your home to fit your personality.

    The couple should sit down and decide who will work more closely with the professional. It is not always the wife. In many projects the husband takes the lead. Some clients one spouse will decide a certain aspect of the project they will be the person on that element. Such as, we had one client who the husband did everything in the house and the wife worked with the exterior and landscape. Or the husband works on the media room. Also, create idea book out of clippings from magazines or photocopies from books of the “feel” or some aspect of the design they like. Both spouses need to be able to devote time out there busy lives to discuss things and make decisions.

    Get to know the professional. Interviews are very important. See how willing the architect is to be open to their ideas. Some architects want to force their vision of the design on the client which usually does not end well.

    First, you are spending a good deal of money (this is usually for most is the largest investment). Yes. A client may be a shark in the business world but if on every aspect of the project he wants to beat people up and over negotiate if any changes or compromises come up, which they always do the professional and the sub contractor working on the job is less willing to make changes. We have clients who during the construction process bring cookies to site, LEARNS the names of the sub contractors and greets them by name, making them feel special that they are assisting in them to fulfill their vision.

    Sure homeowners are paying for a professional and they should have an architect who will be able to negotiate for them and be their advocate on all aspects. Or to be able to act as intermediary with difficult clients so the project doesn’t suffer. A good architect is one who will inform his client that he (the client is becoming a problem on a project) being diplomatic of course. Also a good architect can save the job from a bad client. When money is involved there is always tension regardless of how wealthy you are. You need an architect who can smooth all ruffled feathers and keep things on track and compensate for which aspect of the team is not holding up their part of the process.

    No one wants to be around unprofessional or mean people and if the project team is unhappy the quality suffers. It is the same as in any business, people who are happy about going to work perform better. If the architect and owners make everyone feel they are doing a good job, everyone will give it their all.

  • Lori Gilder @ Interior Makeovers Inc. 03/31/11

    If homeowners really want to start their project off on the right foot and set the tone for the next several months of their life then they first need to take a good look at themselves and acknowledge the type of client they “truly” are.

    I’ve designed homes for singles, couples and families and I’ve learned that when it comes to men – they typically fall into 3 categories:

    1. The Enforcer:
    He is the boss, chief or micro-manager who insists on controlling every aspect of the project, from beginning to end. By nature he tends to distrust the very professionals he’s hired for the job.

    2. The Endorser:
    Has minimal interest in the design process, supports his wife’s/mate’s decisions and trusts her implicitly to work hand in hand with their design professional.

    3. The Contributor:
    Provides thoughts and opinions when necessary, but speaks out loudly when specific details are important to him. Overall he really enjoys participating in the decision making process.

    Once you honestly identify the type of client/homeowner you are – implement some of these strategies to make your project a great one.

    1. Be Prepared!
    -Do your homework and know the scope of your project, large or small.
    -Show up prepared for meetings so you don’t waste valuable time. Time = Money.
    -Have an agenda and follow it – checking off each item as you accomplish it.

    2. Be Focused!
    -Keep yourself focused during meetings and stay on the issues at hand.
    -Move the meeting along and DON”T revisit the same issue more than twice.
    -Turn your cell phone to vibrate or completely off during meetings.

    3. Be Decisive!
    -Put the appropriate amount of time into the decision making process at the beginning of your project. The more research you do in advance, the more confident you’ll feel about the choices you’ve made.
    -DO NOT second-guess yourself. Confidence is the key.
    -Trust the guidance that your professionals provide you with. After all, you hired them for their expertise.

    4. Be Diligent!
    -Take the best notes possible at each meeting and document the final decision made, or it will absolutely get lost in translation.
    -Immediately after the meeting – email everyone who attended and summarize what was discussed avoiding any confusion later.

    5. Be Resilient!
    -When surprises arise and unexpected site conditions dictate a slight deviation from the original plan……just go with it! Unforeseen problems WILL arise so be flexible….discuss it and then let the professionals work their magic. DO NOT micro-manage!

    6. Be Punctual!
    -If for any reason you’re running late or need to reschedule a meeting, give everyone ample notice when possible.
    -Keep in mind that your job isn’t the only project your professional is working on. Extend them the same courtesy as you’d expect.

    7. Be Courteous!
    -Make sure to inform your design team of all change orders along the way.
    -If you and your contractor make any changes without your designer or architect present, email them to keep them informed.
    -Keeping everyone on the same page will save on future frustration.

    8. Be Complimentary!
    -If at any time you’re over the moon thrilled with something, don’t be shy—let the people know!
    -Share your feelings be generous with compliments. Your designer/architect and contractor will be thrilled knowing that they’re pleasing you, and will work that much harder to keep you happy. We LOVE hearing you’re elated!

    9. Be Gracious!
    -If it’s a larger home reno project, show your appreciation to your professional team by hosting a little get-together for them at the end. Invite a few close friends and neighbors to show off your home and their work.

    Sigh…..I think that’s enough said for now!

  • Natalya Price @ NJ Staged 2 Sell 03/31/11

    I am a Professional Home Stager and Redesigner and I do believe that as long as the homeowner has an open mind, everyone will be pleased with the outcome of the project. If a lot of time is spent convincing them to try something out then there is less time on actually complete the job. I believe the homeowners should do their homework and research the professionals they hire to make sure they are qualified. Once they are hired, the homeowners should actually allow them to do the job. For example, if someone hires me to help them redesign a guest bedroom that they had been trying to complete on their own unsuccessfully for 3 years and then every step of the way they try to tell me what to do… it is not productive whatsoever. If I have to spend a lot of time convincing them to allow me to make certain changes or pick out a piece of furniture or a wall color that they wouldn’t pick otherwise, my excitement for the project is disappearing slowly as all of my creativity channelled in the direction of explaining homeowners the process time after time, vs implementing it. So, in my opinion the most important qualities in homeowners are an open mind and communication.

  • Chad Sheets @ CMS Construction 03/31/11

    Q: What can homeowners do to make a professional’s job easier and ensure a
    smooth working relationship?

    A: Explain what they want and what their expectations are up front. Make sure it is included or excluded in the final bid.

    Q: Is there a certain personality type or set of characteristics that ensure a great relationship?

    A: Not always. There all different types of people. Both parties need to be open minded and except different ideas from one another. We can always learn more in this world. It’s obviously a benefit if you have the same personality type, but since we’re not all the same, it’s good to see what each person’s personality type is before beginning.

    Q: Is there a specific level of preparation a homeowner should bring to the table?

    A: Yes, they should do a little research on what project they are doing. Figure out what they like and dislike so they can explain this to the contractor.

    Q: Experts, tell us what qualities are key for a successful homeowner/professional experience! Also, Why is this important? Why should homeowners care how they affect the relationship? Aren’t they paying for the service, and thus, deserving of an accommodating professional? Can it be said that a happier professional will equal a better quality job?

    A: Absolutely! Everyone does a better job when they are happy to come to work and it makes them proud of the job they do….which in turns makes both parties happy.

  • David Fjelstad @ OAC Management Inc. 03/31/11

    1. What can homeowners do to make a professionals job easier and ensure a smooth working relationship?

    a. Consistency is huge. If you want to be heavily involved in the project and involved in all communication that’s great, if you want us to take care of everything and not be involved at all that is fine also. The problems begin when owners state up front that they do not want to be involved in communication, and then mid way through a project get upset when they were not included on specific decisions that they encouraged us to make using our professional experience. Consistency is key.

    2. Is there a certain personality type or set of characteristics that ensure a great relationship?

    a. We are able to work with anyone but I think trust is huge. The owner should trust our judgment and not second guess the decisions we make. Obviously we want to be held accountable for our choices and encourage questions about them, but questions built on trust are much different than “well I have a friend that is a builder and they said blah.” If you value their opinion so highly why did you hire us?

    3. Is there a specific level of preparation a homeowner should bring to the table?

    a. No. They don’t need any experience, but we do appreciate that when they have no experience and state that up front, but desire to be involved in the process to learn how things are done. If the owner has no experience it can be extremely beneficial to utilize the services of an owner’s rep to guide them through each aspect of the construction project, while involving them along the way.

    4. Qualities that are important for a successful homeowner/professional relationship?

    a. Open communication, trust, confidence, similar qualities to those which you desire in most interpersonal relationships. Projects can have long schedules and regular meetings so being comfortable with all parties involved and being able to openly communicate and interact in a positive way is important.

    5. Why should they care, aren’t they paying for the service regardless?

    a. Yes they are paying for the services regardless, but the project can be more enjoyable for both parties if a healthy relationship is formed rather than one of condescension, hate, or annoyance. If we are working on a project for 8 months with weekly meetings, leaving the office knowing we get to go interact with an enjoyable upbeat person is much more enjoyable than meeting weekly with a mean client who doesn’t trust our expertise.

    6. Can it be said that a happier professional will equal a better quality job?

    a. Probably. Just like anything else if you work at a job you hate, there is less pride taken in your work. Contrast that with your dream job that you want for the rest of your life. There is a tendency to work hard and give your best knowing that it will be appreciated and that you want that job forever. Also, small issues like rescheduling meetings, working that extra half hour in the office, and calling the architect one more time to pester them for specifics on materials will most likely be done with a smile and minimal extra fees on projects with respectful relationships. While I don’t want to say the happier we are the better quality product we will help to produce, there is some truth in the statement.

  • Jeanine Hays, AphroChic 03/31/11

    I think it’s very important to have clear communication from the start of any job. Many times the designer and the client think they are speaking the same language, but they are not. Supplying a designer with visuals can be helpful. Letting them know clearly what you would like and what you would not like is imperative. You and your designer are building a relationship and like any relationship things must be clearly conveyed. Finally, it’s important to let the designer know if you don’t like something. You want to be happy, and they want to do the best job they can for you. If there is something that does not meet your level of satisfaction definitely don’t be afraid to let the designer know.

  • Doug Drube @ Electrical FAQ 03/31/11

    From my point of view as a troubleshooting and repair electrician, I say communication is key. Homeowners can’t really give TMI for me to get a gist of what’s going on and that info helps me get to the real problem and how best to solve it. Over the years, I’ve developed the skill of filtering out what’s useful and what isn’t so it’s best to tell it all and let the contractor decide if it’s important to solving the problem.

    When a homeowner gives me a “punch list” of items to be done it’s always helpful. Email is great as it does give me something in writing. And it’s good to know the “why” of a request so I can help ensure that the homeowner is getting the best results to solve the issue. I may be able to give them a better option than the one they requested. The bottom line is communication.

  • Ed the Plumber, LEED Green Associate @ KOHLER 04/01/11

    As a professional plumber and contractor, I have had a lot of interesting experiences – good and bad – with my jobs, and here are my top tips for homeowners to help make a pro’s job easier:

    – Pay your bills on time. This may sound nit-picky, but this can have a huge impact on a professional. By paying your pro on-time, you allow him/her to pay his/her bills on-time and keep credit lines open. Credit lines are the life lines for a professional – without good credit, a professional can’t purchase the equipment needed for the next job or even for a follow-up on your project.

    – Clean the workspace. Remove your personal belongings and clutter to give the pro room to work. If your pro has to do your cleaning work plus his/her contract work, it will be twice as hard, potentially twice as long and will almost certainly increase your bill because he/she has to spend more time on the jobsite. A clean and comfortable workspace makes the job easier.

    – Secure your pets. Please, use the “mailman rule” – don’t assume your pet and pro will get along. Keep your furry friends locked away in a safe place where they won’t intimidate or interfere. In my experience, the unfriendly pets are not the only ones to watch out for. Overly friendly or under-house trained can cause issues for a professional too. Generally speaking, even the best of pets are “put-off” by a visiting pro.

    – Be honest. Explaining your problem to your pro upfront in a clear and honest way will only help him/her get the job done. Even if it may seem embarrassing or inconsequential, the details can make a huge difference. Keeping info to yourself only makes everyone’s job harder, including yours!

    – Be hospitable. An offer for a cup of coffee can go a long way. Don’t be afraid to make your pro feel comfortable – it makes the job easier and he/she will be more efficient if he/she feels that you are approachable and friendly. Faster in and out for a pro equals money savings for you.

  • Patricia Davis Brown, ASID, CKD, CBD @ Dig This Design 04/01/11

    I recommend that the homeowner do their homework before going to the professional. Depending on what the project is, a pool patio, a kitchen or bath, be sure to gather magazines, books, etc. on the latest in design and materials for that remodel. Peruse the pages and everytime you come to something you like bookmark it. After going through at least five books on the subject go back over each bookmark and find the common denominator. You will start to learn what you like. You will see the latest in materials and finishes which eliminates you dating the project before you begin. Now you are ready to sit down with your professional and discuss your project.

    Have fun!

    Patricia Davis Brown

  • Mary Kennedy Thompson @ Mr. Rooter Plumbing 04/01/11

    Homeowners can make a professional’s job easier by doing a number of things. This is what we recommend:

    1. Set clear expectations, such as a timeline and budget.
    2. Explain your vision of the project and your desired end result.
    3. Select all custom ordered items early, so you have them before the professional starts.
    4. Clear the area of any items that would slow down the job, and protect your valuables so they are not damaged during the project.
    5. Have the funds available when stage payments are due. (This prevents delays.)
    6. Keep family pets in mind as well. Do they need a different place to stay and for how long?
    7. Communicate with the contractor at all times.

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